The Perfect Portable Movie Machine

Plenty of companies are seeking to grab a share of the digital entertainment device market, but there is still no device name as recognizable or popular as the iPod. The iPod started out as a digital music player, but Apple added features to newer versions—primarily video capability—that brought it to the attention of a much wider audience. Eventually, they incorporated iPod's capabilities into a device that shook the electronics world—the iPhone.

As popular as the ifPod had become, adding it to a cellular phone took portable digital entefrtainment to a whole new level. One may occasionally leave home without their iPod, but almost no one leaves their cell phone behind.

The iPhone is a great music player, but it also excels at video. Its large 3.5-inch diagonal color screen with full VGA resolution provides a better viewing experience than its smaller brethren, and its high-capacity storage drive (8 GB and 16 GB versions available) lets you keep several full-length movies onboard. You can purchase or rent movies through iTunes, but you can also convert your own video DVDs to play on the iPhone.


Use iTunes to sync videosf

Available for Macs or PCs, iTunes is the desktop component responsible for managing your media and syncing it to your 
iPhone or iPod touch. You can download it from Apple's Web site ( Once installed, iTunes provides the user with a host of sync options and ways to keep your music, podcasts, and videos organized for easy listening or viewing. You can rip music from a CD or download it from the iTunes online store. Additionally, the iTunes store allows you to purchase and download podcasts and videos. More titles are added on a regular basis.

Screenshot of iTunes on PC "Movies" synchingOnce you've signed up for an iTunes account, purchasing media content is a simple affair. Simply open iTunes on your computer and click on the "iTunes Store" icon in the left pane. Once opened, select the media type you wish to download. There are options to browse, search by genre, and other ways to locate the music or movies you want. Once the file is located, click on the "Buy" button. You can also set up iTunes to allow "one-click" purchases. You're iPhone or iPod touch doesn't have to be connected to your computer to purchase media; it will be downloaded upon the next sync.

You can add movie files already on
your computer to your iTunes Library.


The iPhone is limited to videofs in the H.264 and MPEG-4 formats. If you already have videos in these formats loaded to your home computer—ones that you didn't purchase from iTunes—you can add them to your iTunes library and sync them with your device. To do this, follow these steps:


  1. Open iTunes
  2. Select "File"
  3. From the menu items select "Add File to Library" (You can use CTRL+O as a shortcut). 

  4. Browse for the file you wish to add by clicking on the drop down arrow next to the "Look in" box at the top to the dialog box that appears.
  5. Select the video file (or files) you wish to add, then click "Open." Remember: The files must be iPod or iPhone compatible.

If you have several compatible video files in a folder on your computer, you can add the entire folder of video files at once.

  1. You can add an entire folder to your LibraryAgain, select "File"
  2. From the menu list, select "Add Folder to Library."
  3. The folder browser looks a bit different. Once you locate the folder you wish to add, simply select it and click "OK."
  4. The videos within the folder will be added to your iTunes library which can then be synced to your iPhone.


Converting video files

If you have videos on your computer that are saved in non-
iPhone-friendly formats, there are a number of free programs that will efficiently convert the videos for you. I have been using the Jodix Free iPod Video Converter ( on my PC for over a year now and have been extremely happy with the results. It readily converts DVD/VCD and AVI, MPEG, WMV, RM, RMVB, DivX, ASF, and VOB formats for iPod use. It allows you to select the resolution so your video quality can be adjusted to the iPhone's capabilities. You can set it up to convert several videos at once and do something else while it does its work. It is one of my most recommended freeware applications. (Available for Windows)


Jodix Free iPod Video Converter allows you to convert
existing video files (and DVDs) to an iPod-friendly format


 Another free option is Videora's series of converter programs 
( They have versions that convert videos for the iPhone, iPod touch, and other iPods. They are similar to the Jodix product and readily convert AVI, DivX, Xvid, FLV, x264, VOB, MPEG, and DVDs, and also let you convert YouTube videos. (Available for Windows)

There are plenty of other options available—a search on Google for "Free iPhone (or iPod) Video Converter" reveals about 865,000 related sites. Make sure you check out what others are saying about an application before loading it to your computer. Some sites rate programs and/or list the number of downloads. Needless to say, the highest rated and most popular programs are usually worth looking at.


Ripping DVD movies

Although the freeware mentioned above offers some DVD conversion options, I wanted to mention a few applications that do a better job.

One converter that has received plenty of positive comments on various forums is HandBrake ( HandBrake is an open-source, DVD to MPEG-4 converter. This application may seem a bit overwhelming to beginners because it has numerous audio and video options to set. Fortunately, there are many sites (such as that have step-by-step guides on ripping DVDs using this software. (Available for the Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows)

One of the best DVD ripping programs available is Cucusoft's DVD to iPod Converter ( Although this is not a freeware product, its simple user interface and other features make it well worth the $29.95. Simply slip the DVD into the slot, start the application, and let it do the rest. Setup is minimal and Cucusoft eliminates most of the guesswork. (Available for Windows)

Screenshot of PQ DVDI've also been using PQ DVD Converter for iPod 
(, which claims to be 400% faster than other solutions. Although the "other solutions" are not named, I can attest to the fact that this converter does make quick work of most DVDs. Again, this is not freeware, but it's definitely worth the $29.95 price tag. This product has been a Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine Best Software Awards winner for four years running, and anyone who uses it will quickly see why. Before getting my iPhone, I was using this product to convert videos for my Windows Mobile Pocket PC with outstanding results. One of my favorite features is its ability to adjust the video and sound quality so the output file is the exact size I specify, which can be a real space saver on a packed iPhone. You can also create a video that has DVD video and sound quality. I cannot recommend PQ DVD enough. (Available for Windows)

PQ DVD allows you to adjust
image and sound quality to fit
a specific size.


Go for the one you like the best

There are a staggering number of video conversion programs available, and this review looks at a few of the programs I have used and with which I have had good results. If you want to save money, check out the freeware programs available. The commercial apps usually provide you with more options and serve up a simpler and easier-to-use interface. Most commercial apps offer a free trial option, so download it and make sure it's the right program for you before you purchase it.

A little research will reveal lots of options. My advice: Find the one with the user interface and feature set you like the best, and ignore the price. If it's free, great! If it's a commercial program, it won't cost you very much. �


iPhone Video Specs

The iPhone supports video formats encoded using the MPEG-4 and H.264 codecs. H.264 videos support up to 1.5 Mbps and MPEG-4 videos support up to 2.5 Mbps. Video files encoded in these formats will end with .m4v, .mp4 or .mov file extensions. Some files with the .mov file extension can be easily formatted for the iPhone using iTunes. Simply open iTunes, go to your Movies library, right click on the desired file, and select "Convert Selection for iPod" from the pop-up menu. H.264 and MPEG-4 are open-standard formats (non-proprietary to Apple), but they are not the most common video formats in use today. Fortunately, video conversion programs are available to translate the more common formats into iPhone-compatible videos.

The iPhone does have other limitations. Unlike the original iPod, the iPhone does not allow the user to simply attach the device to a television or home entertainment system using A/V cables in order to view movies on the television. Audio/video docks and accessories are available for this, but not all of them work with the iPhone. Make sure you check the package for the "Made for iPhone" label.

How to rip DVD movies and copy them to your iPhone or iPod touch
October 2008 (Premier Issue)
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