Apple’s iPhone and iPad are considered to be really picky when it comes to the type of video formats they play. And rightfully so. The iOS family of devices, that include the iPhone, iPad and the iPod touch, support only a few video formats and refuse to play anything else. In fact, iTunes itself refuses to sync any file that it knows will not play on the iOS device.
If you download a lot of movies from the Internet, this might be a problem for you since most of those movies are stored in the Divx format to save space and bandwidth and Apple’s devices don’t support playing Divx or most other popular formats.
The only way to play such a file on an iOS device is by converting it to a supported format. We’ve written about how to convert video files earlier using the open source ffmpeg and WinFF. If you’re a geek and are comfortable using the command line, by all means use those methods. You’ll have the maximum flexibility and ffmpeg is an excellent and reliable piece of software.
If you’re not a geek and would rather have a nice GUI to handle the conversion, fret not ! I’m going to tell you about exactly the thing you need.
The developers of Handbrake describe it as a multi platform, multithreaded video transcoder available for Mac OS X, Linux or Windows. Which, in simple English, means that it is a video conversion utility available for the three major platforms that exist. I’m using Handbrake on my Mac OS X machine but the instructions for Windows or Linux should be similar and you will be able to follow along.
The first step is to, if it wasn’t obvious, download and install Handbrake.
When you launch Handbrake, you will be presented with a file open dialogue box. Select the file that you want to transcode (convert).
Handbrake will automatically fill in the Destination path for you but if you want to store the converted file in a different path, select that using the Browse button.
Now, there are two kinds of conversion that you can do. The first is to create a file, specifically encoded for the device you want to run it on, for example and iPod or an iPad and the second method is to create a generic file that’ll run on almost any iOS device. I’ll take you through both methods.
Create a device specific file
This is the easiest method, just select the Apple device that you want to encode the video file for from the Apple drop down in the sidebar and Handbrake will preselect the best settings for that device. Hit Start and you’re done!
Create a generic file
To convert the file to a format that can run on any iOS device, make sure the Format selected is “MP4” and video codec “H.264”.
From the Audio tab, make sure the Track and Codec are MP3 or AAC.
This really should take care of everything. Press the Start button and Handbrake will get to work immediately. Video conversion is a CPU intensive task and depending on the capabilities of your machine and the size of the file you’re converting, anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours or more. Get a cup of coffee, listen to some music and relax a little.