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How to Keep Your iTunes Video Library Organized

How to Keep Your iTunes Video Library Organized

    Sometimes, I think I’m way too anal about some things. According to some of the comments on my previous posts, you agree. But nothing beats how much of a Nazi I am when it comes to my iTunes library.

    Sure, I know the clamor is coming; iTunes sucks, use (insert alternative software here) instead. I’m on a Mac as I write this, I own an iPhone and an Apple TV and a few other Macs are planted here and there around the house. So it just makes plain sense for me to use iTunes.

    But I hate the hoops you have to jump through to keep your iTunes video library in a decent state.

    It used to be that I had to save my AVI movies as “pretend” MP4 files, or create separate reference files that just masqueraded as MP4s when they actually pointed to the original AVI. That was pretty bad, especially since the latter option created a bit of a mess in my folder structure and used up more space.

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    Then I got my iPhone, and then later on my Apple TV, and both of these only run MOVs and MP4s. You can hack the Apple TV and jailbreak the iPhone, but I’m too lazy to play with the iPhone’s innards (“What! You’re a Lifehack writer!” I hear you say) and I tried the Apple TV hacks and didn’t think the system was smooth or integrated enough.

    So, the level of complexity in keeping a workable, networkable iTunes library together just got much greater. And we haven’t even spoken about music, though admittedly that does a much better job of organizing itself and it’s possible to fix simple things without relying on a script.

    There are a few things that are important to having a functional and organized iTunes video library:

    • The files are correctly named.
    • The files are in well-organized folder structures, not straggled around the hard drive.
    • The file metadata is correct; the file actual name and the file’s title in iTunes aren’t the same thing and what works for one doesn’t work for the other.
    • The file works across all devices I want it to work across.

    Before I import television shows in particular, I go into Preferences and tell iTunes not to make a copy of the file when it imports it. I manually go into the iTunes folder structure and create a folder for the show inside the actual iTunes TV Shows folder. Otherwise, when iTunes imports, it’ll make a copy in the movies folder. That’s not a well-organized folder structure! Part of the process we’ll be using actually fixes this automatically, but as I said, I can be strange about maintaining my library and you might want to skip this step (if you’re following along the whole way).

    When it comes to movies, though, this isn’t so important, and if you like the way iTunes organizes music in folders you’ll want to turn it back on when you’re done (at the end of the whole process, that is, not just after you’ve created the new folder).

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    Before adding the files to iTunes, I go through and check the file names. For movies, I just want the title, nothing more or less. But for TV shows, I usually adopt a structure such as this:

    Show – Episode Name – Season/Episode

    So, that might be:

    The Office – An American Workplace – S01E01

    It can be hard to keep a TV series in order, especially when they’re long (like Stargate!). So if your iTunes database corrupts, you’re going to want a clear title that tells you everything.

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    Once your television show is in the right folder, drag the file into iTunes. The iTunes Movies pane is pretty shocking at handling TV Shows, which is why there’s a separate pane for them. But Apple doesn’t let you change the video type from movie to TV show manually. You have to use the Set Video Kind of Selected AppleScript for iTunes.

    This AppleScript lets you set four things:

    • Whether the video is a movie, television show, or music video,
    • The show name,
    • Season number,
    • Episode number start.

    This is great because you can import a whole season of television shows at once, select them in the movies pane, set them as a TV show, set the show name and season number, and then you just enter the episode number of the earliest episode in the series and it orders the rest for you.

    When you set the file as a TV show, it will move that file into the TV Shows folder structure automatically.

    But what do you do when the file is not an iTunes compatible file? You’ve got a few options.

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    1. Go into QuickTime, go to File > Save As, and save a reference movie. It will point to the original video, but iTunes will treat it as though it’s an MOV or MP4 file. However, your Apple TV will not play it, and nor will your iPhone.
    2. Use the Drop to Make M4V Movies AppleScript. You can drop a bunch of videos onto this droplet and it’ll convert them all to M4V format, save them to your Movies folder, and then add them to iTunes. It requires QuickTime Pro, though.
    3. Get Handbrake, convert your stuff manually, and drop it into iTunes.

    Once the file is converted and in iTunes, it’s a matter of using the Set Video Kind AppleScript to sort them into the right places.

    And finally, I like to have metadata filled out nicely, mainly for the sake of my Apple TV—if I’m flicking through all ten seasons of Stargate SG-1 I want to have the description of each episode there, as it’s easy to get lost! There was an app I once tried that automatically converted videos in a “drop box” folder to an iTunes compatible format, put it in your library, and then automatically searched IMDB for all the metadata and filled it in. I didn’t like the app, but that was a great idea.

    Now, I just make a quick trip to IMDB and fill in the episode descriptions—it’s quick and easy since they provide them in the season listing—but I’m definitely looking out for a quick way to fill these fields in automatically without using that conversion software!

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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