For many weeks, if not months, I fought iTunes – and finally I won. And now that I know the trick, I’m more than embarrassed, that I didn’t come up with this weeks, if not months, earlier.
But let’s do this chronologically:
I always thought that iTunes, even though it has many annoying flaws, is a great application to organize your stuff. Media files, that is.
In 2009 no one should have to care about folder structures and that sort of stuff himself. And iTunes does that pretty well (and with the update to iTunes 9 even more cleanly).
That’s why I let iTunes handle everything. I have a playlist called „new music“ in which I throw -who would have guessed?- all my new music. iTunes then automagically copies those files into it’s own folder structure and puts the songs up into the media library.
The same goes for movies and tv shows (if the video files are in the correct format, of course).
And here comes the problem: with a growing library, I eventually ran out of harddisk space and tried many, many things in order to convince iTunes, to save my movies on external disk 1, my tv shows on external disk 2 and keep my music on the internal disk.
1. Folder Aliases come to mind and somehow work as long as one moves the files manually.
2. I tried soft and hard links on system level (I switched from Linux) but iTunes would simply ignore those and create another folder on the internal harddisk to store my video files in.
3. I mounted an external harddrive directly to /…/iTunes Media/Movies in the hope, that iTunes would put the movies there. Nope, wouldn’t work.
4. I tried adding the video files to the library the „old way“ and then moved them manually to the external harddisk. Which would result in iTunes asking me where the file is when I tried to play it. I had to tell iTunes the new location and everything worked fine. Still, this is pretty annoying if you have a collection of several 100 video files.
5. I bought VideoDrive (about 15€, should be something around $20). A software that uses Quicktime7 to do the following magic trick: it leaves to original files untouched on the external harddisk and creates a little „reference file“, about 4 megs, for every video. In that reference file it stores the original location of the video and some metadata („cover art“, name, synopsis, plot, … all fetched from amazon and/or IMDb). Than it gives those reference files for iTunes to import. iTunes does so willingly. The result: you have your video files in iTunes, without having the actual video files on the same harddisk.
However, you will not be able to use those video files with „Remote“ (iPhone App to remote control iTunes). Nor will you be able to put those videos onto your iPhone or iPod. You won’t even be able to play those video files on another computer which has access to your shared library.
6. The creators of VideoDrive thought about this and gave their software the import method called „Copy videos in a compatible container“ which results in two things: the reference files from above and a conversion of all your video files into .mov container files.
That gives you all the freedoms you would need. Still, this is kind of a dirty trick and I’m pretty sure that this setup will some day explode right in front of me.
Well, today, I had a major breakthrough!
But before I give away the trick, here’s the little annoyance you still will have to accept: you’ll have to convert all your video files into an „iTunes compatible format“. Namely: .mov, .mp4 or .m4v (which, as far as I know, is just another extension for the mp4 format).
Use the converter/encoder of your choice. I used to VideoDrive again to do the job. More precisely: to copy the video files into an iTunes compatible container (.mov) but I did not let it create any reference files this time.
This results in nothing but the .mov files the external harddisk right next to the originals (.avi). After a quick check, I moved the .avi files into the trash…
Now the magic happens!
Select all those video files, hold down the option key (until the end of the trick) and drag all the selected files over to iTunes with the mouse. Done.
iTunes will now check the files and do some internal magic and after a few seconds (or minutes – depending on the quantity of files you selected) will show those files under „Movies“ in the library.
Should the videos you moved to iTunes be episodes of a tv show, select all episodes, hit command+i and under „Options“ select the media type „tv show“. iTunes will again work for some time and then present those files correctly under „TV Shows“.
The truly wonderful thing: NOTHING gets copied to the internal harddrive. Everything stays in it’s place and still you have what you wanted:
1. The videos are in iTunes
2. You can share them using the „Shared Library“ feature
3. You can start playing them using the „Remote“ app on your iPhone or iPod Touch
4. You can put the files onto your iPhone or iPod
See? That was easy, wasn’t it?