Managing my Old Home Movies

I’m finally getting a handle on my old home movies. Between 3 different tools I’m making them much more useful than they used to be. The tools I’m using are:

  • Handbrake — for transcoding old MPEG 2 files into more modern h.264 encoded video files
  • MetaX — for assigning metadata that iTunes will pick up
  • iTunes — for organising and watching them. Mainly because I want to put them on my iPad, AppleTV, etc.

The End Result

I now have things like this in iTunes:

It has a TV show called “Snow 2005” that has 11 “episodes”. They’re 11 bits of video I shot when the kids and dogs were playing in a lot of snow. This makes it easy to see them in iTunes, play individual ones, and push them to an Apple device, like my iPhone, AppleTV, or iPad.

Here’s how I created and organized these bits of video.

The Legacy

I owned two generations of DVD Cams from Hitachi. I was actually quite pleased with them at the time and I blogged about them (here and here). I always thought I was progressive because they didn’t write to any sort of videotape or anything. With a bit of effort I was able to get already-compressed MPEG files out of them. Eventually I realised that transfering multiple gigs of MPEG data over USB 1.1 was really slow. I started shooting to DVD-R because it was long-term stable, made for good archiving, and I could pop it into a friend’s DVD player or my own DVD drive and it would work. It was definitely faster to rip a DVD that my camcorder made than to transfer over USB.

Today, I have all these MPEG files that aren’t that easy to use. They don’t store any metadata (so you can’t record—in the file—when it was shot or anything like that). And they can’t be put onto an Apple device easily. The other problem with these cameras is that they recorded interlaced video. It looks ugly. So my goals then are:

  1. Convert MPEG-2 video (like what’s on a DVD) to h.264, deinterlacing while I’m at it
  2. Apply metadata tags
  3. Play on my AppleTV or iDevices
  4. Automate this as much as possible

Converting from MPEG-2

The first step is simply to get Handbrake and select the AppleTV preset. However, I need deinterlacing to be turned on all the time, and the standard AppleTV preset doesn’t do that. So I make a preset that is based on AppleTV, but has that turned on:

  1. Select the AppleTV preset
  2. Open “Picture Settings”
  3. Move the option from “decomb” to “deinterlace”
  4. Change the “deinterlace” option from “none” to “slow” (you could also choose “fast”)
  5. Choose File → New Preset (⌘N)
  6. Name it. (I call it “AppleTV deinterlaced”, duh)

It is worth mentioning that all my legacy videos are 640×480, 30fps. The AppleTV preset is fine because I don’t have to worry about resizing my video to fit the capabilities of my first generation AppleTV. Now I go to a folder where I have all my videos. I choose the folder (not an individual movie file). I also make a destination folder where all the m4v files will go. I choose “add all titles to queue”, as shown below.

Then I click “Start” and let it do its thing. Eventually I “put down that cocktail” and my Handbrake queue is done.

Adding the Metadata

So now I have a folder full of M4V files that have my video in them. I fire up MetaX and start adding metadata. The first thing I do is set a bunch of metadata tags to be the same on all the files.

  • Movie type is “TV Show”
  • Artist, Album Artist, and Album are all set to “Snow 2005”
  • Rating is set to TV-Y7
  • Genre is set to “Family”
  • On Video → TV Tags, TV Show is set to “Snow 2005” and Season is set to “1” (seems that iTunes only accepts numbers as valid Seasons)
  • On Advanced, Advisory is set to “Clean”

The main things I wanted to set were the Rating and the Advisory. Because I have kids, I like to turn on the settings that prevent the kids from watching shows that are rated for older ages or that have explicit lyrics. This makes sure home videos never trip those restrictions.

The only manual thing I have to do, though, is take a look at each bit of video and figure out what I want to use for the “episode’s” title. When you think about it, there’s no way around this bit. After all, this is one of the key things I’ve been trying to do: put some metadata in so that I’d know what was in each movie. So I click on each movie file individually, and update its title. If I care, I can also assign an episode number to each one individually. That way they can be sorted on episode number. Then I click on Write and let the cow do its thing.

After that, I just drag all the M4V files into iTunes and I’m done.

In iTunes, it looks like this:

Making It Easy

Now that it’s done, I just go to iTunes and sync with my various devices. If I want to have all the episodes of a specific video series in my device, I just tell it to sync the episodes of that show.