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.


iPhone Supports Better-than-iPod Video Quality

10 September 2009

In versions of iTunes prior to 9, videos that are compatible with a device have been displayed with black text, incompatible with grey. In iTunes 9, I was looking at the TV settings for the iPhone and noticed that all of my TV shows appeared in black. I’ve ripped all my DVDs as 768 x 576 (4:3) or 1024 x 576 anamorphic (16:9), 2500Kbps H.264, 160Kbps AAC. Up to this point, I was never able to sync a file greater than iPod resolution.

To my delight and surprise, these PAL-derived monsters synced across and played. Here’s one from Arrested Development, ripped from a Region 4 PAL DVD:

iPhone Settings Panel, Showing Compatible TV Show<br>Click to enlarge

iPhone Settings Panel, Showing Compatible TV Show

This is the only 720 HD TV show I have, Dollhouse. It’s a rip from a TV broadcast. The iPhone wouldn’t accept it:

iPhone Settings Panel, Showing Incompatible HD TV Show

iPhone Settings Panel, Showing Incompatible HD TV Show

Next I tested an iPod Classic, the true standard. Despite the apparent compatibility (black text), it wouldn’t sync anything above iPod standard:

iPod Settings Panel, Showing Incompatible TV Show

iPod Settings Panel, Showing Incompatible TV Show

What does it mean? It means less work when preparing DVD content. I can now rip one version of movies, TV shows and music videos, as long as I sync to an iPhone (and presumably, an iPod Touch). This is a pretty major step forward. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to sync 720 HD.

Where to Put iPhone 3GS Videos?

3 July 2009
Thunder Jet at Rest

Thunder Jet at Rest

Recently I strode the streets to test the new camera and ended up with some video. I’m a Flickr user and upload from iPhoto ’09. However, iPhoto would not upload the videos, which was entirely unexpected. That left the problem of what to do with them. As a quick fix, I copied them to the desktop and used the browser to upload them.

In terms of storage, iPhoto is a good place to keep videos, as they are downloaded with still photos from a still camera. You can tag them like photos. However, there are some disadvantages to storing them here. You can’t edit them. If you go into editing mode, the videos will be skipped. To play them, you double-click and that opens QuickTime Player. Here you can edit them to some degree.

Given that you can’t edit or upload video from iPhoto, I think it’s a better idea to store them in iMovie. iPhone video is in the H.264 format, which is imported into iMovie without modification. There you get all the benefits of the movie-editing controls and the storage in the iMovie library is very similar to that of iPhoto.

Using the iPhone as a GPS in iPhoto ’09

2 February 2009
At the Bus Stop

iPhone GPS Test: A Flickr Photo Set

I’ve posted about this before, but what I failed to mention back then was the GPS data could not be embedded in a non-iPhone photo in iPhoto ’08, so the original photo (which usually looked bad, because it was taken just for the GPS info) would have to sit in the library. It didn’t really help, so I deleted them.

Now, of course, iPhoto ’09 has embraced GPS data and the iPhone has potentially become useful again as a GPS source. To test this, I set out yesterday with two cameras, the iPhone and a Sony DSC-U30, which is a tiny camera about the same volume and weight as the iPhone. The two cameras were a pretty good match–both 2 megapixel with similar fixed focal length, both using the JPEG format.

I took a photo of the same scene from the exact same standing location using both cameras, firstly the iPhone and then the Sony. Unlike my earlier experiment, this time I intended each version to be a “keeper”. I wanted to try to reproduce the same visual look for each. Here are the results.

To tag a non-GPS photo with the GPS location in iPhoto ’09, import the photos from both iPhone and camera and merge the two resultant Events. Find and select both photos, then click the info button on one of them. Click the location field and the New Place… menu item. This will open the map. Optionally, move the iPhone’s pin if you’re not satisfied with its accuracy, then click the Assign to Photo button. Even if you didn’t move the pin, this is necessary. Then close the Get Info dialog. Both photos will now have the same GPS tag. At this point, if you’re just using the iPhone as a GPS source and don’t want to keep the photo, delete the iPhone version.


This will not be viable if your camera is somewhat large, like an SLR. You have to juggle both cameras. If you use a holster like I do, then it is easy to put the iPhone away quickly to devote your handling to the other camera.

If you have to move around quickly, like shooting sports, then this won’t be usable either.

The best solution is to use a camera that has a built-in GPS or a camera that has a GPS attachment that writes directly to the file. Next best is to use a GPS tracker that records where you are over time and can be used to merge the GPS data with the photos. This is the path I am researching at the moment. The iPhone, however, does provide an experience that is surprisingly less clunky than I expected and will do in a pinch. Read the rest of this entry »

Squaring Up Your Album Art

21 October 2008

For some time, iTunes has preferred square art. I first noticed this when the iTunes Store went live here in Australia. iTunes Store versions of landscape art would be modified to be square. In some cases, they appeared to be using a square cover from perhaps a vinyl single, in other cases, the artwork was chopped.

As a CD collector, I get a number of landscape covers in the form of CD singles, digipaks and slipcased jewel cases. About two years ago I began to produce square versions of landscape covers. If I want to be intellectual about what I do with my scanning, I would call myself a “reproduction artist”, “translating the artist’s vision from CD cover to digital image form”. I do try to reproduce, as accurately as possible, the full image and colour balance of the original. That means I scan the full landscape cover, for purists. However, given Apple’s products’ propensity to favour square art has led me to modify the landscapes into additional square forms. The iPod will either crop a landscape cover or add white bars to top and bottom. The iPhone will add the unsightly bars:

AC/DC • Black Ice Landscape Artwork on iPhone

AC/DC • Black Ice Landscape Artwork on iPhone

If possible, I merely crop either side down from 1130 x 1000 to 1000 x 1000. In some cases, this would crop text, so the elements need to be reworked. Here I’ve scanned the digipak version of ’74 Jailbreak:

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Digipak Landscape) (Click to enlarge)

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Digipak Landscape) (Click to enlarge)

To create this square version, I cropped the left side and shrank the artist name and title slightly to fit:

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Square Version) (Click to enlarge)

AC/DC • '74 Jailbreak (Square Version) (Click to enlarge)

This is a somewhat complex cover. In most cases, you can just crop. I also refer to images on the internet to get an idea of what to modify in order to achieve a square shape. Luckily, a lot of titles still come out on vinyl, and of course they are square.

So with a little artistic licence, I can create artwork that is optimised for iTunes, iPod, iPhone and Apple TV. I post both versions on my album art site.

Refreshing Photos on iPod/iPhone

20 October 2008

After shooting at Sculpture By the Sea, I had three batches of photos: iPhone, card 1 and 2. I downloaded the first card into iPhoto, then synced my iPhone. My settings call for the last 5 iPhoto events to be synced to the iPhone. iTunes dutifully did so. These, however, were the raw files and not edited. Some hours later, after having downloaded the iPhone photos and the ones from the second card and fully editing all the photos, I synced the iPhone again to refresh it. iTunes did not re-optimise the photos, so I still had the old, unedited versions. No amount of deletion of photos and resyncing will change this.

You have to delete the optimised photos that iTunes created. iPhoto ’08 is my source of photos for the iPhone, so this procedure is specific to this application.

Make sure that iPhoto is closed. Navigate to your Pictures folder. Right-click the iPhoto Library icon and select Show Package Contents. Delete the contents of the iPod Photo Cache folder. Resync in iTunes and iTunes will optimise the photos again and you’ll have the latest versions. Note that if you’re using an earlier version of iPhoto, this folder may be in a folder called iPhoto Library or similar. Earlier versions didn’t package all the files and folders into one icon.

Moral of the story is to try to download and edit all your photos before you sync your iPod/iPhone, but this is a fix if you don’t.

Uses of the iPhone for Photo Management

20 October 2008

I don’t often talk about photos but have been experimenting with a use of the iPhone for photo management. I have a nice camera that takes good photos, but it doesn’t have GPS. When I was at Sculpture By the Sea yesterday, I began each shoot of a particular work with a photo from the iPhone. The purpose of this photo was to record two pieces of information: the GPS coordinates and the number marker so that I could look up that work in the catalogue for tagging the photo in iPhoto. I wanted to avoid this marker in any photo I took with the camera but still needed to know what it was. Here are the two photos:

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (iPhone Version)

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (iPhone Version) (Click to enlarge)

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (Camera Version)

“On the Beach” (Tim Kyle) (Camera Version) (Click to enlarge)

I didn’t bother with aesthetics for the iPhone photo such as composition, as it was performing a strictly documentary role. As a result, all of them looked awful except for this one, which was passable. I found it easy to pull the iPhone out for the reference shot, partly because I keep mine in a holster, and partly because I took about 10 photos of each piece, so I wasn’t handling both cameras all the time. I can see that this won’t always work, but it’s a way to add GPS data to your photos if you don’t have one built in. The camera in the iPhone is unsophisticated but I find it great for two purposes. Firstly, quick and dirty recording of data, such as the above, and things I see such as DVDs I want to buy. Quality is of no concern with this usage. The other usage is aesthetic art, which is a challenge given the limitations, but no less worthwhile for it. If you can get an aesthetically pleasing photo with the iPhone, you’ve really achieved something.