Here’s Why Apple Will Fail at Original Video Content

Apple has launched a number of projects creating original video content – apparently, “TV” series for now – but there is already some sand in the works. As MacRumor reports, show runner Bryan Fuller, who was slated to run Apple’s Amazing Stories series, has left the project.

Fuller is said to have wanted to turn “Amazing Stories” into a Black Mirror-style show, while Apple is aiming for a more family friendly series.

This is why Apple will fail. “Family friendly” TV series don’t do very well today, at least not with critics. There are plenty of such series on TV, cable, and on Netflix and Amazon, but they aren’t the ones that get the mentions in the press about “the golden age of television.” It’s the series like The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and others, that get noticed, not because they are not family friendly, but because the broke barriers and went places that others didn’t dare. Of course, with something like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, these daring elements have been taken to excess, becoming parodies of themselves, but if Apple thinks they can do a Disney and have any presence in original series content, I can’t see that it will go very far.

It’s interesting how Apple has no problem selling and renting movies and TV series that are not family friendly, but draws the line at putting the company’s name on such content. What’s the difference? You’re selling the stuff either way. If you really don’t want sex and violence – as they prohibit in apps they sell – then stop selling it.

To be fair, I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence, and I gave up on Game of Thrones early on, and tried, really tried, to stick with The Walking Dead for a while, but couldn’t go on. (I’m a fan of that sort of post-apocalyptic thing; like Stephen King’s The Stand.)

This said, there’s no reason why excellent TV can’t be family friendly. But in today’s television climate, it’s difficult. West Wing is one of the best series ever on TV (IMHO), and it was a network show. Friday Night Lights was a brilliant series, that ran on a network. And Downton Abbey was far from controversial. There are plenty of comedy series that are family friendly. But to push the envelope, there needs to be daring topics, ones that may have some swear words and some tits, and, well, some violence. Black Mirror, House of Cards, Westworld, Homeland, True Detective; all these current and recent series would not pass on US network TV.

But if Apple draws the line at family friendly TV, they will miss out on the next big series; the next Game of Thrones, True Detective, or Breaking Bad. Let’s face it, Reese Witherspoon will not be part of cutting-edge series drama.

Will Apple Provide Upgrades to 4K iTunes Store Movies?

In today’s Apple event, the company will likely announce a new 4K Apple TV, as well as some 4K content on the iTunes Store. I wonder if Apple will provide upgrades to movies from HD to 4K, similar to how they upgraded from older 128 kbps audio files with DRM to the iTunes Plus format (256 kbps sans DRM). This would provide powerful motivation for people with existing movie collections to purchase the 4K Apple TV, after which they’d be more inclined to pay the price for higher quality movies.

This said, Apple did not do this when they moved from SD to HD movies, some years ago. So while history suggests that they may not offer these upgrades, it would make sense from a marketing point of view. More later today.

Update: Apple is offering free upgrades to 4K versions of purchased movies.

How to Merge or Combine .mv4 Video Files

A reader wrote in asking if I knew how to merge video files. He, like me, has ripped the BBC Shakespeare video box set. These films, of all of Shakespeare’s plays, were made in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While they are not uniformly interesting, many of them are very good. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Some of the plays span multiple discs; this is the case for Othello, Richard III, and a couple of other plays. I’d never bothered to try to figure out how to splice them together, but it does make my video library a bit inconsistent.

Thanks to this article by Bruno Define, I was able to join videos very quickly. This involves a few simple commands in Terminal, using the built-in video tool ffmpeg.

(If you don’t have ffmpeg installed, this article explains how to install it.)

You need to run a command for each of the video files to have ffmpeg convert the files from .m4v to .ts (MPEG transport stream). You then use ffmpeg to concatenate the files.

So, for my Richard III, in two parts, I run the following commands:


ffmpeg -i "Richard III part 1.m4v" -c copy -bsf:v h264_mp4toannexb "part1.ts"
ffmpeg -i "Richard III part 2.m4v" -c copy -bsf:v h264_mp4toannexb "part2.ts"

An easy way to run these commands is to type the first part – ffmpeg -i – drag a file to the Terminal window from the Finder, then copy and paste the second part of each command above.

You run each command separately; Terminal spits out some output, and it will convert each file in less than a minute. Note that these commands, as written, save the output files to the root level of your home folder.

You now have two files, part1.ts and part2.ts. To join them, run this command:


ffmpeg -i concat:"part1.ts|part2.ts" -c copy -bsf:a aac_adtstoasc "Richard III.m4v"

Again, this is fairly quick; ffmpeg essentially reads the files, and rewrites a joined file. There is no transcoding at all; no loss of quality.

Check the resulting file. When you’re sure it’s okay, delete the .ts files you created in the first steps.

iFlicks 2.4 review: A valuable tool for adding valuable metadata to digital video files

If you’ve read my articles on ripping DVDs with Handbrake, or ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays with MakeMKV and Handbrake, then you’ll probably want to add the files you’ve created to your iTunes library. When you do this, you’ll need to enter a lot of metadata so you can identify the files. Depending on how much metadata you want with your movies and TV series, this can take quite some time.

iFlicks 2 is designed to make this step painless and efficient. It looks up your video files in several online databases, and adds metadata and artwork to them. It can also then put the files into iTunes. And if you have videos in a format that iTunes doesn’t handle, iFlicks can covert your files to an Apple-compatible format.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

The Next Track, Episode #37 – Ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays, with Rob Griffiths

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxMac writer Rob Griffiths tells us how to efficiently rip DVDs and Blu-Rays.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #37 – Ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays, with Rob Griffiths.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

How to Rip Blu-Ray Discs on a Mac

My friend and podcast co-host Rob Griffiths has published a great how-to guide to ripping Blu-Ray discs on a Mac. It’s a bit of a complex process, because you need to use a few different pieces of software. But if you – like Rob and I – like to have all our videos in digital form, you’ll want to check out this workflow. It’s efficient, and results in excellent quality videos.

For his example, he uses the recently released Blu-Ray of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet, which he got to see live when he visited me earlier this year. You might like this film, if you like Shakespeare.

Turn a Mac mini into a media server with Plex

With the arrival of the fourth-generation Apple TV, I found myself trying out the Plex media server, and I realized that using Plex is one of the best ways to watch media on the Apple TV.

You can install the Plex server software on a variety of devices: your Mac, a PC, a NAS (network attached storage device), and more. (Heck, you could even set it up on a Raspberry Pi.)

It’s advantageous that Plex’s server be always on, so you can start watching your movies and TV shows without having to boot your Mac. If you have a large media collection, you may want to use a Mac as a dedicated device to run Plex. The Mac mini is a perfect candidate for this. Plex doesn’t need a lot of horsepower to manage and stream your media, unless it transcodes video. (If you do have a lot of videos that need transcoding, a NAS might not be a good fit for Plex.)

In this article, I’m going to tell you how you can set up a Mac mini as a dedicated Plex server. You can, of course, use that Mac mini for other things, such as using it as a file server, or for Time Machine backups.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

How to Rip DVDs and Add Them to Your iTunes Library

While you may get your movies and TV shows digitally, you probably still have a DVD collection. You can certainly watch these DVDs the usual way, with a DVD player, but wouldn’t it be great to add them to your iTunes library, so you can sync them to your iPad or iPhone, and watch them anywhere? Ripping DVDs on a Mac is simple; it takes a bit more time than ripping CDs, but it’s not much more difficult.

iTunes can’t do this, of course, since ripping DVDs involve a gray area of copyright law. Fair use suggests that you should be able to rip them for personal use, but in some countries this is patently illegal. I won’t deal with those issues here. If you feel that it’s right to rip DVDs you own, then read on to find out how.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

Play Videos in Separate Windows in iTunes

A fried said on Twitter yesterday that he couldn’t figure out how to get a video to play in its own window from iTunes. He was playing a video and wanted to do something in another part of iTunes, and couldn’t find out how to do it.

Video controls, in iTunes, are poorly designed. They’re hidden in contextual menus (though the main setting used to be in the preferences). And the friend in question, while he is quite technically adept, simply didn’t think of right-clicking.

First, if your video is playing full-screen, and you want to move it to its own window, right-click on it and you’ll see this menu:

Video full screen

As you can see, you can just choose Play Video in Separate Window, or Play Video in iTunes Window. In the latter case, the video shows up in iTunes, but the iTunes toolbar is still visible.

If you’re playing a video in a separate window and you want to change where it’s playing, right-click and you’ll see this menu:

Video itunes window

As you can see, it offers options to switch to the iTunes window, or full screen, but also lets you adjust the size of the standalone window. (Which you can also do by dragging one of its corners.)

So, these options are well-hidden, but if you need them, just right-click.

(Serious bonus points to anyone who can guess what the videos are that I used for my screenshots. They are music videos, but very, very obscure ones…)

How To Organize Videos in iTunes

Organizing videos in iTunes can be confusing. You can’t simply add a video to your iTunes library and expect it to end up where you want it; in most cases, you need to manually change a tag to get it sorted in the right location.

iTunes doesn’t have a Videos library. It has a Movies library, a TV Shows library, and it also stores Music Videos. So when you add a video to your iTunes library, you need to know where you want it to be stored so you can find it easily on your computer, on your Apple TV, or when syncing your iOS devices.

When you select the Movies library in iTunes, you see the following navigation bar:

Videos nav bar

You may not see all of these items. If you don’t currently have any rented movies in your iTunes library, you won’t see the second section. If you don’t have any videos that are considered Home Videos, you won’t see that either.

The navigation bar for the TV Shows library is much simpler:

Tv shows nav bar

When you purchase videos from the iTunes Store, iTunes knows whether they are movies, TV shows or music videos and sorts them accordingly. In most cases, you’ll never need to change these categories for iTunes Store purchases. But when you add your own videos – either videos you’ve shot with your iPhone or camera, or DVDs you’ve ripped – iTunes considers these to be Home Videos. In some ways this makes sense; Apple doesn’t really think about ripping DVDs, because this is a legal gray area, but it is something that lots of people do.

Read more