Taggin’ with Louis C.K.

17 December 2011
Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater

Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater. Click to enlarge.

I just got on this bandwagon. Louis C.K. is doing something pretty special with this special. I bought it, expecting to download an SD 640 x 360 video file, probably in H.264. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were two sizes available, 720p and a just-under-NTSC 800 x 448 SD version, both in an iTunes-friendly H.264/AAC format. I downloaded both. They were not prepared for iTunes, so I figured this was a perfect opportunity to create a tutorial on the subject.

The two files will become what I call a “HD•SD” package, which is an iTunes Store standard that includes a 720 HD file and an SD file. They appear as one item in iTunes with a HD•SD badge:

Appearance in iTunes

Appearance in iTunes

Mr C.K. was canny enough to provide an actual DVD label on his site, so I didn’t have to cobble together art. I downloaded the PDF, cropped it, resized it, added a little black at the bottom to get my 1000 x 1500 pixel ratio, and saved it as a new file. You can download it from here.

We then open both files in Subler. Edit one, then copy the tags to the other. I’ll start with the HD version. Click the Other Settings tab:

Editing, Stage 1

Editing, Stage 1

Change the Media Kind to Movie. Because this is the HD version, check the HD Video checkbox.

Click the Artwork tab and drag in your edited artwork file:

Editing, Stage 2

Editing, Stage 2.

Finally, we fill out the tags. Special notes:

  • All the data for the tags came from Louis’ site and the DVD label. You can download a PDF from here that contains all the data for the below tags.
  • The Artist, Album Artist and Studio are all the same: the name of the studio, in this case, Pig Newton, Inc.
  • I like to put the encoding tool in the Comments tag so that I can use playlists to find videos encoded with HandBrake 0.9.5 (you can’t use the separate Encoding Tool tag as a criterion). Interestingly enough, Encoding Tool was the only tag these files originally had, and the value was HandBrake 0.9.5, so Mr. C.K. uses the same tool that I do!
  • I’ve used the Australian rating that I guessed applied, which is MA15+. Choose the appropriate rating for your country.
  • The tag contentID is a unique code that the two files must share. iTunes sees this code and knows that it must bundle the two files together. I use the date, followed by a sequential number, so for the first set that I tag on 17 December 2011, it becomes 2011121701. The second set of two will become 2011121702, etc.
Editing, Stage 3

Editing, Stage 3. Click to enlarge.

Do the same process for the SD version, except you won’t check the HD Video checkbox. Select All of the tags in the Metadata tab, copy and paste into the other window. Save both and drag them into iTunes where they will be filed appropriately.

I tested the files, too. The HD version works on the old Apple TV, the Apple TV 2 and the iPad (and will also work on the iPhone). The SD version will not sync to a Classic, unfortunately, but given that I never watch movies on my Classic, it’s no great loss. You’ll use the SD version on your iPhone or iPad to save space.

I hope this is useful to all who buy the special and is my contribution (other than payment) to Mr. Louis C.K.’s grand experiment.


TV Rotation Technique Redux: the “Blue Dot” Technique

17 February 2011
TV Show with Blue Dots

More obscure TV: The Micallef P(r)ogram(me), with unwatched episodes indicated by blue dots

A lot has changed in the Apple TV space since I first wrote my TV Rotation Technique. A friend of mine got the new Apple TV and started to manage his TV shows by “the blue dot”, the indicator that iTunes uses to indicate that an episode has not yet been played. On the new Apple TV, you see every single episode and he uses the blue dot to tell which episode is next to watch in sequence. Once he’s finished all episodes, he selects them in iTunes, right-clicks and selects “Mark as Unwatched”. Then he starts again.

I use the old Apple TV for watching TV shows, for 3 reasons:

  • I sync only the content I choose, which isolates only the next few episodes to watch. This way, they can either be watched or unwatched, and I only ever see the next few in sequence, as per my TV Rotation Technique.
  • The new Apple TV displays every season in the TV Shows menu, making it a mammoth list. The old Apple TV displays only the shows, then all the seasons within the show in a submenu. I prefer this as the menus aren’t as long, especially as it’s not showing every show, every season, every episode.
  • The new Apple TV randomly chooses one of the many different pieces of episode artwork that I apply to the individual episodes and uses that for every episode. Given the work I put into those, that’s annoying.

I’ve started to trial my friend’s Blue Dot technique. It has certain merits. It’s no more effort to maintain than is mine–less, in fact, considering it’s easier to find a TV show in the TV Shows library than it is to burrow down through my playlist folders to the specific playlist. It’s more obvious. It overcomes the problem of having cycled through seasons 1 and 2 two times, then you add season 3 and have to tweak the Plays is less then X criterion in my playlists. You don’t have to use playlists.

Not that I have a real use for it, but I’ve been obsessed with collecting and retaining what I call “audit data”, which is data relating to the playback of files, i.e., Date Last Played and Plays. This is not used in Blue Dot, although I do use it in my technique. I notice that marking episodes as new does not clear or otherwise modify the Date Last Played, so that’s given me a little more confidence to trial it.

The technique is very simple. For new Apple TVs, add content, which is unplayed, then play it. Once all episodes are played, select them in iTunes, right-click and select Mark as New. Begin watching again from the first blue-dotted episode. This also applies to old Apple TVs where you’re streaming everything from the computer.

For old Apple TVs, or even iDevices, where you are syncing only certain content, choose a number of episodes to sync based on how much storage you have. I’ve chosen 10 from all shows. Set the setting like so:

TV Shows Sync Setting

TV Shows Sync Setting (Click to enlarge)

Now you’ll get 10 unwatched episodes, from as early as possible in the season sequence, from every TV show. In my Micallef P(r)ogram(me) example above, episodes 4-7 of series 1 and 1-6 of series 2 currently reside on my Apple TV.

If you’ve watched a series and you don’t want it to reappear in the Unwatched Episodes view in the Apple TV or on the Apple TV at all, simply don’t blue-dot it until you’re ready to watch it again.

I’ll be trialling this, mostly because I’ve used my old technique for so long that I’m used to it, but I see it as inevitable that it will be an easier method. Sync options certainly have evolved since I started working on this problem.


iTunes LP for Apple TV

11 September 2009

Norah Jones: Come Away with Me: iTunes LP

I like the new LP format. It consists of a new file type (.itlp) that contains everything but the songs and some of the videos. I bought the Norah Jones. In iTunes, the album appears as a number of items. The first is the iTunes LP file, running at 175Mb. This contains the interface and it links to the songs and two of the videos. The rest are the songs of the album, plus, in this case, two videos. You can play the songs and videos in iTunes, independent of the LP interface. These are what are synced to your iPod or Apple TV. To view it in LP mode, you double-click the LP item.

The LP interface is much like a DVD, with clickable links. All the text is large, like it is with a DVD, intended to be read from across a room on a large display. It seems a no-brainer for Apple TV to support this in LP mode, but as of last night, there was no software update. This would also apply to movies with extras. It’s a virtual DVD. I’m hoping we see this on Apple TV soon.


Overlooked New Feature in Apple TV 2.3.1

4 March 2009

The Americans would not have noticed this. There is a new feature of Apple TV 2.3.1 that is of interest to iTunes users outside the US: ratings badges.

Ratings have always worked on the Apple TV for parental controls, allowing parents to prevent youngsters from watching certain content, but until now there were never proper badges to reflect the ratings of another country. Early on, the Apple TV would look at the rating, e.g. MA15+, and write it out in the system font. Later, this disappeared for ratings that didn’t match US ones, namely G and PG.

Now there are proper ratings for all Australian movie and TV ratings. The US G and PG are still substituted, and the Australian ratings are nothing more than the text of the code in a box, but they are now represented on screen. I would have preferred the proper symbols though.


Movie Magic

14 August 2008

Six weeks after the introduction of TV shows to the Australian iTunes store, movies (both buy and rent) have appeared. I was eager to get home and experience the movie section of the iTunes Store on my Apple TV but there was nothing in the Movies menu other than Trailers and My Movies. I did everything I could think of: I restarted, checked for updates and changed to a different country’s iTunes Store and then back to Australia. None of this gave me the extra menu items. I rang AppleCare and they said that this support will come in the form of a software update, due soon. Until then, I have to use the less-comfortable (have to sit up in a chair) and less-glamorous iTunes approach. Here’s the first movie I’ve ever downloaded from iTunes:

Downloading iTunes Movie

That’s going to take some time, and I don’t have a lousy connection. I’ll be interested to see just how long it takes. I’m also keen to dissect the file in Lostify to learn all its tagging secrets.

So finally Apple TV is vindicated in Australia with not only a massive $120-$130 discount as of today, but also movies in iTunes. The price drop says two things to me: 1) a bid for market penetration, backed by a real reason to use the device and 2) update sooner rather than later. Over the last two years, January has been “Apple TV Season”, but I now suspect that the next model may debut during iPod season next month.


Apple TV Update Coming Down the Pipe

10 July 2008

The Remote application for iPhone/Touch got me to thinking: what if there were an Apple TV update? I just checked and I’m downloading it as I write. I’m anticipating support for Remote and possibly ratings icons for countries other than the US in the Movies and TV Shows menus.

Update: Yes, Remote support is included, as well as MobileMe photo support, replacing .Mac. It’s version 2.1.

What puzzles me is no Australian TV and movie rating icons. We’ve got TV shows now, so it doesn’t make sense.

So just a small update but the Remote is going to be cool.


Remote for iPhone/Touch: Most Likely a Killer App

10 July 2008

Remote for iPhone/iPod Touch

I’d heard about this for a couple of weeks but I’ve just installed iTunes 7.7 and downloaded Apple’s Remote application from the Apps Store. I of course use Apple TV, so an iTunes remote is brilliant but not for me. I was flabbergasted to read on the app’s page that it can “Control the music on iTunes or Apple TV“. How unexpected and seriously cool is this? I’ll have to wait until I can upgrade my Touch, which I am guessing will be tomorrow, so that I can play with this.