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Converting Videos for the AppleTV 2nd gen.

apple tv
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License by Brian E. Ford

You’ve got your shiny new AppleTV, played around with it. Found you can watch all those great TED videos via its Pod­cast menu. And finally you start stream­ing all those videos from your desk­top com­puter. Well, for many of them it works well, but some just won’t play. Your AppleTV seems to start play­ing, but sud­denly stops while stat­ing “An error occurred load­ing this con­tent. Try again later”.

First of all, when this hap­pens to you, go to Pref­er­ences and set “Dig­i­tal Audio” to “ON” (default is AUTO). That will enable pass-through of Dolby Dig­i­tal (AC3) encoded sound to your TV or receiver. AppleTV often can’t detect if your attached device is capa­ble of decod­ing AC3. It then defaults to off and rejects any con­tent (video) that only includes AC3 sound and no other tracks encoded as AAC or MP3. Obvi­ously, this only works if your TV or receiver is able to han­dle Dolby Dig­i­tal encoded sound.

Now for the encod­ing part of it. Say you have some nice video made with a cam­corder or some stuff ripped from a DVD or Blu-Ray and want to encode it to a for­mat com­pat­i­ble to AppleTV. Just fol­low these sim­ple steps (taken from Hand­brake forums):

  1. Get Hand­brake
    Down­load the lat­est nightly build.

  2. Open your video in Hand­brake (use the Source but­ton)

  3. Select the iPad pre­set (open pre­sets drawer with Toogle Pre­sets but­ton)

  4. Adjust Video set­tings
    Accord­ing to your raw mate­r­ial you might want to adjust the Rate Fac­tor (RF) in the video tab. The rate fac­tor adjusts your encoded video for qual­ity vs size. Handbrake’s devel­op­ers rec­om­mend rate fac­tors between 19 and 22 for SD sources (Stan­dard Def­i­n­i­tion; i.e. DVD orig­i­nated) and 21 to 25 for HD sources (High Def­i­n­i­tion; i.e. Blu-Ray orig­i­nated). if you don’t care for iPad com­pat­i­bil­ity you can also set Fram­er­ate (FPS) to “Same as source”. That will allow fram­er­ates beyond stan­dard NTSC 29.97. It’s very uncom­mon though. If you’re unsure, leave it alone.

  5. Pic­ture Set­tings

    Open “Pic­ture Set­tings” (but­ton on top) and set “Decomb” and “Det­elecine” to “Default”.

  6. Audio Tracks

    On the Audio tab select the audio tracks you want to have in your encoded video. AppleTV can pass Dolby Dig­i­tal (AC3) to a con­nected TV or receiver that is capa­ble of decod­ing it. If you do have Dolby Dig­i­tal enable equip­ment, it’s a good idea to add audio tracks as “AC3 Passthru”, that means Hand­brake will just take the orig­i­nal audio track from your source and pass it to the encoded video. That will give you great sound. If you don’t have Dolby Dig­i­tal enabled equip­ment or you want the encoded video to be playable on an iPad, you have to add audio tracks as AAC (On a Mac use “AAC (Core­Au­dio)” set­ting.). That will cre­ate an AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) encoded mix­down of your audio track to Dolby Sur­round. Dolby Sur­round is in fact a Stereo audio track with a clev­erly embed­ded rear chan­nel that is playable on any device. It’s not as great as Dolby Dig­i­tal, but works well on less capa­ble equip­ment. If you have any DTS audio tracks, you’ll have to recode them to AC3 or AAC respec­tiv­ley by set­ting “Codec” respec­tively. You can also add a mix of AC3 and AAC encoded audio tracks, mak­ing your encoded video playable on more devices with great sound.

  7. Don’t touch Sub­ti­tles and Advanced tabs!

  8. Cre­ate Chap­ter mark­ers
    Check the “Cre­ate chap­ter mark­ers” box on the “Chap­ters” tab. That will cre­ate chap­ters mark­ers for any exist­ing chap­ters in your raw mate­r­ial. If you like to, you can also name those chapters.

  9. Encode it
    Now just hit the “Add to Queue” but­ton to add your video to the encod­ing queue. Then hit start. Hand­brake will now start to encode your video. And as you added it to the encod­ing queue, you can just start over and con­fig­ure and add another video to the queue.

  10. Have fun!

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