This chapter is about managing your iTunes library content — everything from choosing the appropriate audio encoding format for your songs, to organizing your photos into libraries for easier synchronization with your iPad, iPod, or iPhone, to preparing videos for use on your iPad, iPod, or iPhone. I also describe how to use your iPod classic to transfer high-resolution photos to another computer or to make a backup of your photos in their original resolutions.
As you discover more about digital audio technology, you find that you have more decisions to make about your music than you previously thought. Formats for recording sound have changed considerably from brittle 78-rpm records of the early 1920s and the scratchy 45-rpm and 33-rpm records of the mid-1900s to today’s CDs. Consumers had to be on the alert then, as you do now, for formats that die off as better ones come along. Think of the ill-fated 8-track cartridge or the legendary quadraphonic LP. You want your digital music to last forever, yet still play at high quality — and not get stuck with technology that doesn’t evolve with the times.
This chapter is here to help you make those decisions. The encoding format and settings that you choose for importing music when ripping a CD affect sound quality and the space the music occupies in your iPad, iPod, iPhone, and computer hard drive. The format and settings you choose might also affect whether the music files can play on other types of players and computers. In this bonus chapter, I explain which music encoding and compression formats to use for higher quality as well as which ones to use for cramming more songs on your iPad, iPod, iPhone, and computer.
Decoding Audio Encoding
When importing music, you might be tempted to trade quality for space — which means you’re willing to accept average sound quality in order to fit more songs on your hard drive, iPad, iPod, and iPhone. This choice might make you happy today, but what about tomorrow, when iPads, iPods, and iPhones — and computer hard drives — double or triple in capacity?
On the other hand, you might be very picky about the sound quality. With an eye toward future generations of devices and hard drives, maybe you decide to trade space for quality, importing music at the highest-possible quality settings and then converting copies on-the-fly to lower-quality, space-saving versions for your iPad, iPod, and iPhone. Of course, you use more hard drive space for the higher-quality imported music than for average-quality music.
If you want your audio files to take up less space, you have to compress the audio. (For “compress” here, think “throw away information.”) In technospeak, such compression methods are lossy (the opposite of lossless). AAC and MP3 encoding formats compress the sound via lossy methods. Lossy compression algorithms reduce the sound quality by throwing away information to make the file smaller, so you lose information and some quality in the process.
Comparatively, the Apple Lossless encoder compresses sound files without any loss in quality or information, but the resulting file is nearly as large as the uncompressed version. The main reason to use Apple Lossless is to maintain quality for burning CDs while also playing the songs on your iPad, iPod, or iPhone. Apple Lossless, and the AIFF and WAV encoders that don’t compress the sound at all, are the best choices when burning CDs.
With lossy compression formats, such as MP3 or AAC, the amount of compression depends on the bit rate that you choose as well as the encoding format and other options. Bit rate determines how many bits (of digital music information) can travel during playback in a given second. Measured in kilobits per second (Kbps), a higher bit rate such as 320 Kbps offers higher quality than a bit rate of 192 Kbps because the sound isn’t compressed as much. Thus, the resulting sound file is larger, taking up more space.
Remember: Using more compression (a lower bit rate) means that the files are smaller, but the sound quality is poorer. Using less compression (a higher bit rate) means that the sound is higher in quality, but the files are larger. Here’s the deal: You can trade quality for space and have more music of lower quality, or you can trade space for quality and have less music of higher quality.
Power consumption in your iPad, iPod, or iPhone is also an issue to keep in mind when making compression choices. Playing larger files takes more power because the hard drive inside an older iPod, or the flash drive in current iPad, iPod, and iPhone models, has to refresh its memory buffers frequently to process information as the song plays. You might even hear hiccups in the sound on older iPod models.
My suggestions for encoding format and importing preferences for ripping CDs are mostly subjective. Your listening pleasure depends entirely on your taste and how the song was recorded. Some people can hear qualitative differences that others don’t hear or don’t care about. Some people can also tolerate a lower-quality sound in exchange for the convenience of carrying more music with them. And sometimes the recording is so primitive-sounding that you can get away with using lower-quality settings to save more space.
I prefer a higher-quality sound, and I typically don’t use the lower-quality settings for encoders except for voice recordings and music recorded in ancient times (cough: before 1960). (Older recordings are already low in quality, so you don’t hear that much of a difference when they’re compressed.) Only you can know what works best for you, so try encoding at different settings and listen to the results before deciding.
Choosing an iTunes encoding format
iTunes gives you a choice of encoders. This choice is perhaps the most important one to make before starting to rip music CDs and building your library. Here, I leapfrog years of technospeak about digital music file formats and get right to the ones that you need to know.
Choose iTunes>Preferences (Mac) or Edit>Preferences (Windows), click the General tab (if it is not already selected), and then click the Import Settings button to see the import settings. You can choose one of five encoders from the Import Using pop-up menu:
AAC: All music purchased from the iTunes Store comes in MPEG-4 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format. (MPEG — the Moving Picture Experts Group — is a committee that establishes compression standards for video and audio.) AAC is a higher-quality format than MP3 at the same bit rate, meaning that AAC at 128 Kbps is higher quality than MP3 at 128 Kbps. I recommend using AAC for most import operations — except when ripping your CDs to burn new audio CDs (see AIFF, WAV, or Apple Lossless) or to burn a new MP3 CD (see MP3 later in this list).
I think AAC offers the best trade-off of space and quality for iPad, iPod, and iPhone use. It’s suitable for burning to an audio CD (although not as good as AIFF or Apple Lossless), and it’s fine for playing songs from a hard drive. However, it is not suitable for burning MP3 CDs, and may not be suitable for players other than iPods.
AIFF: Audio Interchange File Format is the standard digital format for uncompressed sound on a Mac. It provides the highest sound quality you can get from an audio CD. Similar to the WAV format for Windows, AIFF uses the original Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) algorithm required for compliance with audio CDs.
Use AIFF if you plan to burn songs onto an audio CD or to edit the songs with a digital sound-editing program. Mac-based sound-editing programs import and export AIFF files, and you can edit and save in AIFF format repeatedly with absolutely no loss in quality. The downside is that AIFF files take up lots of space — 10MB per minute — because they’re uncompressed. Don’t use AIFF for songs that you want to play on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone — use Apple Lossless, AAC, or MP3 instead.
Apple Lossless: The Apple Lossless format is a compromise between the lower-quality encoding of AAC or MP3 (which results in smaller file sizes) and the large file sizes of uncompressed, high-quality AIFF or WAV. Apple Lossless provides CD-quality sound in a file size that’s about 60 to 70 percent of the size of an AIFF or WAV file. The virtue of Apple Lossless is that you can use it for songs that you intend to burn onto audio CDs and for playing on your iPad, iPod, or iPhone. The files are just small enough that they don’t hiccup on playback, but they’re still much larger than their MP3 or AAC counterparts.
Using the Apple Lossless format is the most efficient method of storing the highest-quality versions of your songs. You can burn the songs to CD without any quality loss and still play them on your iPad, iPod, or iPhone. You can’t store as many songs in the same amount of space as with AAC or MP3, but the songs that you do store have the highest-possible sound quality.
MP3: The MPEG-1, Audio Layer 3 format (also known as MP3) is supported by most computers, many DVD players, and some CD players. Use the MP3 format for songs that you intend to use with MP3 players other than your iPad, iPod, or iPhone (which also play MP3 songs, obviously). Or, use MP3 with applications that support MP3 or when burning to an MP3 CD. (AIFF, WAV, or Apple Lossless formats are better for regular audio CDs in my opinion, but you can burn audio CDs with MP3-formatted songs as well.) The MP3 format offers quite a few compression and quality settings, so you can fine-tune the format, sacrificing space while improving sound quality.
WAV: The Waveform format is a digital audio standard that Windows PCs can understand and manipulate. Like AIFF, WAV is uncompressed and provides the highest sound quality. Similar to AIFF on a Mac, WAV uses the original PCM algorithm required for compliance with audio CDs.
Use WAV if you plan to burn a song to an audio CD or use the song with Windows-based digital sound-editing programs, which import and export WAV files. (AIFF and WAV files are the same, except that AIFF works with Mac applications and WAV works with Windows applications.) WAV files take up lots of space — 10MB per minute — because they’re uncompressed. Don’t use WAV for songs that you want to play on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone — use Apple Lossless, AAC, or MP3 instead.
Tech tips: If you want to share your music with someone who uses an MP3 device not made by Apple, you can import or convert songs using the MP3 format. You can also use the higher-quality AAC format to produce files for iPad, iPod, iPhone, and other MP3 players that support AAC — and these files are either the same size as their MP3 counterparts but higher in quality, or the same quality but smaller in size.
Although the Apple-supported AAC format offers far better compression and quality than MP3 format (at the same bit rates), the MP3 format is used more because it’s supported by other players and software programs. Sticking with AAC or Apple Lossless might make you feel like your songs are stuck inside iTunes with the MP3 blues again. However, with iTunes and your iPad, iPod, or iPhone, you can mix and match these formats as you please.
For the best possible quality, consider not using compression at all (like with AIFF or WAV) or using Apple Lossless. You can import music at the highest quality, burn it to audio CDs, and then convert it to a lesser-quality format for use on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone. If you use Apple Lossless, the songs play well on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone, but take up much more space than AAC or MP3 versions. I describe how to convert music in the section “Converting Songs to a Different Encoding Format in iTunes,” later in this chapter.
You can use higher bit-rate settings and lossless encoding formats (such as Apple Lossless) for your tunes, and still squeeze them onto an iPad, iPod, or iPhone by converting them on-the-fly to 128-kbps AAC files while syncing. The songs are not changed in your iTunes library. To do this, follow these steps:
- Connect your iPad, iPod, or iPhone.
- Click the iPad, iPod, or iPhone button that appears in the upper-right corner of the iTunes window.
- Click the Summary tab to show the Summary page sync options.
- Select the Convert Higher Bit Rate Songs to 128 kbps AAC option.
The first time you sync all your music, the conversion may take a long time. After that, each sync operation makes only minor changes, so conversion does not take as long.
Manic Compression is a Frustrating Mess
Every person hears the effects of compression differently. You might not hear any problem with a compressed song that someone else says is tinny or lacking in depth. However, too much compression can be a bad thing. Further compressing an AAC or MP3 file (which has already been compressed once) reduces the sound quality significantly. The compressed file is essentially locked into that quality and can’t be uncompressed or re-compressed into a higher-quality setting.
The lossy-style compression of the MP3 and AAC formats loses information each time you compress, which means that if you compress something already compressed, you lose even more information. This is bad. Don’t compress something that’s already been compressed by a lossy method unless you have to.
For example, iTunes in Windows can convert unprotected Windows Media Audio (WMA) files to the AAC format, but the conversion includes another lossy compression step to AAC, lessening the quality because most WMA files were already compressed with a lossy method. If you have the CD of the music, you’re better off ripping the music again from the CD directly into the AAC format. An alternative is to convert from the WMA Lossless format in Windows. The Windows version of iTunes correctly converts WMA Lossless files into Apple Lossless with no loss of information or quality.
MP3 and AAC use two basic lossy methods to compress audio:
Removing inaudible frequencies: The compression removes what you supposedly can’t hear (although this subject is up for debate). For example, if a background singer’s warble is totally drowned out by the intensity of a rhythm guitar chord, the compression algorithm loses the singer’s sound while maintaining the guitar’s sound.
Removing less important signals: Within the spectrum of sound frequencies, some frequencies are considered to be less important in terms of rendering fidelity, and most people can’t hear some frequencies. Removing specific frequencies is likely to be less damaging to your music than other types of compression, depending on how you hear things. In fact, your dog might stop getting agitated at songs that contain ultra-high frequencies that only dogs can hear (such as the ending of “Day in the Life” by The Beatles).
The Apple Lossless format doesn’t use a lossy method, which is why it’s called lossless — information isn’t thrown away. Even though Lossless compresses to about 60-70 percent of the original sound file, that’s not enough of a reduction in space for most people; MP3 and AAC compress sound files to about 10 percent of the original size.
Selecting Import Settings
AAC and MP3 formats compress sound at different quality settings. iTunes lets you set the bit rate for importing, which determines the audio quality. You need to use a higher bit rate (such as 192 Kbps or 320 Kbps) for higher quality, which — all together now! — increases the file size.
Variable Bit Rate (VBR) encoding is a technique that varies the number of bits used to store the music, depending on the complexity of the sound. Although the quality of VBR is endlessly debated, it’s useful when set to the highest setting because VBR can encode at up to the maximum bit rate of 320 Kbps in those rare cases where the sound requires it, but it keeps the majority of the sound at a lower bit rate.
iTunes also lets you control the sample rate during importing, which is the number of times per second the sound waveform is captured digitally (sampled). Higher sample rates yield higher-quality sound and large file sizes. However, never use a higher sample rate than the rate used for the source. CDs use a 44.100-kHz rate, so choosing a higher rate is unnecessary unless you convert a song that was recorded from Digital Audio Tape (DAT), DVD, or directly onto the computer at a high sample rate, and you want to keep that sample rate.
Another setting to consider during importing is the Channel choice. Stereo, which offers two channels of music for left and right speakers, is the norm for music. However, mono — monaural or single-channel — was the norm for pop records before the mid-1960s. (Phil Spector was known for his high-quality monaural recordings before becoming infamous for other things. And early Rolling Stones records are also recorded in mono.) Monaural recordings take up half the space of stereo recordings when digitized. Most likely, you want to keep stereo recordings in stereo and mono recordings in mono.
Changing Encoding Formats and Settings
You might want to change your import settings before ripping CDs, depending on the type of music, the source of the recording, or other factors, such as whether you plan to copy the songs to your iPad, iPod, or iPhone, or to burn an audio or MP3 CD. Encoding formats offer general quality settings, but you can also customize the formats and change those settings to your liking. You can also convert songs to another format, as I describe in the later section “Converting Songs to a Different Encoding Format in iTunes.”
To change your encoding format and settings, and other importing preferences before ripping an audio CD or converting a file in iTunes, follow these steps:
- Choose iTunes>Preferences (Mac) or Edit>Preferences (Windows), click the General tab and then click the Import Settings button. The import settings appear, allowing you to make changes to the encoding format and its settings.
- From the Import Using pop-up menu, choose the encoding format that you want to convert the song into and then select the settings for that format. The Setting pop-up menu differs, depending on your choice of encoder from the Import Using pop-up menu. See the sections on each encoding format later in this chapter for details on settings.
- Click the OK button to accept your changes.
After changing your importing preferences — and until you change them again –iTunes uses these preferences whenever it imports or converts songs.
AAC, MP3, AIFF, and WAV format settings can be customized. The Apple Lossless encoder is automatic and offers no custom settings.
Changing AAC Settings
The AAC format is the one I prefer for most types of music — except songs that I intend to burn to an audio CD or an MP3 CD.
The Setting pop-up menu for the AAC encoding format offers the Custom choice along with three preset choices: High Quality (128-Kbps stereo), iTunes Plus (256-Kbps stereo), and Spoken Podcast (64-Kbps stereo). The Spoken Podcast setting is useful for converting podcasts exported from GarageBand (or a similar audio-editing application) into iTunes. I recommend using the highest-quality preset, iTunes Plus, for most music you rip from CDs, or the Custom option to set a higher bit rate. To set a higher bit rate or other options, choose Custom from the Setting pop-up menu to see the AAC Encoder dialog.
The Custom settings for AAC give you the following options:
Stereo Bit Rate: This pop-up menu allows you to select the bit rate, which is measured in kilobits per second (Kbps). Using a higher bit rate gives you higher quality but also increases file size. The highest-quality setting for this format is 320 Kbps; 256 Kbps, considered higher quality, is the bit rate for the unprotected iTunes Plus songs that Apple provides in the iTunes store.
Sample Rate: This pop-up menu enables you to select the sample rate, which is the number of times per second that the sound waveform is captured digitally (sampled). Higher sample rates yield higher-quality sound and larger file sizes. However, never use a higher sample rate than the rate used for the source. CDs use a 44.1-kilohertz (kHz) rate; DVDs use a 48kHz rate.
Use Variable Bit Rate Encoding (VBR): This option helps keep down file size, but quality might be affected. VBR varies the number of bits used to store the music depending on the complexity of the sound. iTunes encodes up to the maximum bit rate of 320 Kbps in sections of songs where the sound is complex enough to require a high bit rate. Meanwhile, iTunes keeps the rest of the song at a lower bit rate to save file space. The lower limit is set by the rate that you choose from the Stereo Bit Rate pop-up menu. If you chose the VBR option, the highest rate you can set (which is the lower limit of VBR) is 256 Kbps, and other rates that don’t work with VBR are grayed out.
Use High Efficiency Encoding (HE): High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC) is a lossy data compression method for AAC that is optimized for low bit-rate audio, such as streaming audio.
Channels: From this pop-up menu, you can choose how you want music to play through the speakers: in stereo or in mono. Stereo, which offers two channels of music for left and right speakers, is the standard for music. Monaural (mono) offers only one channel but takes up half the space of stereo recordings when digitized. If the recording is in stereo, don’t choose mono because you lose part of the sound. (You might lose vocals or guitar riffs, depending on the recording.) Select Auto to have iTunes use the appropriate setting for the music.
Optimize for Voice: This option filters the sound to favor the human voice. Podcasters can use this option to convert audio recordings into a podcast format that’s optimal for iTunes.
Tip: I recommend choosing the highest bit rate (320 Kbps) from the Stereo Bit Rate pop-up menu, leaving VBR, HE, and voice optimization off, and leaving the other two pop-up menus set to Auto.
Changing MP3 Settings
I prefer using AAC for music that I play on my iPad, my various iPods, and my iPhone, but as of this writing, quite a few MP3 players still don’t support AAC. The iPad, iPod, and iPhone support both AAC and MP3 formats, so you can use MP3 to make sure your songs play on everything. You might want to use MP3 encoding for other reasons, such as acquiring more control over the compression parameters and gaining compatibility with other applications and players that support MP3.
The MP3 encoding format offers the Custom choice and three preset choices for the Setting pop-up menu on the Importing preferences tab:
Good Quality (128 Kbps): This bit rate is certainly fine for audio books, comedy records, and scratchy records. You might even want to use a lower bit rate for voice recordings.
High Quality (160 Kbps): Most people consider this bit rate high enough for most popular music, but I go higher for my music.
Higher Quality (192 Kbps): This bit rate is high enough for just about all types of music.
Custom: To fine-tune MP3 encoder settings, select Custom. Customizing your MP3 settings increases the sound quality and keeps the file size small.
The MP3 encoder offers many choices in its custom settings dialog:
Stereo Bit Rate: This pop-up’s menu choices are measured in Kbps. Choosing a higher bit rate gives you higher quality but also increases file size. The most common bit rate for MP3 files that you find on the Web is 128 Kbps. Lower bit rates are more appropriate for voice recordings or sound effects. I recommend at least 192 Kbps for most music. I use 320 Kbps, the maximum setting, for songs that I play on my iPad, iPod, and iPhone.
Use Variable Bit Rate Encoding (VBR): This option helps keep down file size, but quality might be affected. VBR varies the number of bits used to store the music depending on the complexity of the sound. For MP3, the VBR option includes a Quality pop-up menu right below the option. If you choose Highest from the Quality pop-up menu for VBR, iTunes encodes up to the maximum bit rate of 320 Kbps in sections of songs where the sound is complex enough to require a high bit rate. Meanwhile, iTunes keeps the rest of the song at a lower bit rate to save file space. The lower limit is set by the rate that you choose from the Stereo Bit Rate pop-up menu. Some audiophiles swear by VBR, but others don’t ever use it. I use it only when importing at low bit rates, and I set VBR to its highest-quality setting. Your iPad, iPod, or iPhone can play VBR-encoded MP3 music, but other MP3 players might not support VBR.
Sample Rate: From this pop-up menu, you can choose the sample rate (how many times per second the sound waveform is captured digitally). Higher sample rates yield higher-quality sound and larger file sizes. However, never use a higher sample rate than the rate used for the source. For example, CDs use a 44.1-kHz rate, while DVDs use the higher 48kHz rate. Use the higher rate for audio that you intend to use with iDVD on a Mac (or similar DVD-burning application in Windows) to create a DVD.
Channels: From this pop-up menu, choose how you want music to play through the speakers: in stereo or in mono. Stereo, which offers two channels of music for left and right speakers, is the standard for music. Mono recordings take up half the space of stereo recordings when digitized. Choose Auto to have iTunes use the appropriate setting for the music.
Stereo Mode: From this pop-up menu, choose Normal or Joint Stereo. Normal mode is just what you think it is — normal stereo. Choose the Joint Stereo setting to make the file smaller by removing information that’s identical in both channels of a stereo recording, using only one channel for that information while the other channel carries unique information. At bit rates of 128 Kbps and lower, this mode can actually improve the sound quality. However, I typically don’t use Joint Stereo mode when using a high-quality bit rate.
Smart Encoding Adjustments: Selecting this option tells iTunes to analyze your MP3 encoding settings and music source, changing your settings as needed to maximize the quality of the encoded files.
Filter Frequencies below 10 Hz: Selecting this option filters low frequencies. Frequencies lower than 10 hertz (Hz) are difficult to hear, and most people don’t notice that they’re missing. Filtering inaudible frequencies helps reduce the file size with little or no perceived loss in quality. However, I think that selecting this option and removing the low frequencies detract from the overall feeling of the music; thus, I prefer not to filter frequencies.
Changing AIFF and WAV Settings
I recommend using AIFF, WAV, or Apple Lossless for songs from audio CDs that you intend to burn or edit with a sound editing program (such as GarageBand on a Mac). You get the best possible quality with these formats because the music isn’t compressed with a lossy algorithm. The Apple Lossless format (which is automatic and offers no settings to change) reduces the file size to about 60 to 70 percent of the AIFF or WAV versions. However, AIFF or WAV files are preferable for use with digital sound-editing programs, and they offer settings that you can change, such as the number of channels (stereo or mono) and the sampling rate.
Although AIFF and WAV formats have technical differences, here’s the only major difference in storing and playing music: AIFF is the standard for Macs and their applications, and WAV is the standard for PCs and their applications.
AIFF- and WAV-encoded files take up huge amounts of space (about 10MB per minute). Although you can play these file types on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone, they take up way too much space and battery power to be convenient for playback on these devices. You can handle these large files on your computer by adding another storage device or by backing up portions of your music library onto other media, such as DVD-R (which can hold 4.38GB). The high quality of AIFF- and WAV-encoded files ensures an excellent listening experience through a home stereo. However, if multiple hard drives and backup scenarios sound like unwanted hassles, use the AAC or MP3 formats to compress files so that they take up less space.
The AIFF and WAV encoder settings dialogs offer similar pop-up menus for Sample Rate (the number of times per second the sound waveform is captured digitally, or sampled), Sample Size (the size of the captured sample, which can be 8 bits for lower quality or 16 bits for higher quality), and Channels (Mono or Stereo). If you choose Auto for all three, iTunes automatically detects the proper sample rate, size, and channels from the source. If you choose a specific setting — such as Stereo, from the Channels pop-up menu — iTunes imports the music in stereo, regardless of the source. Audio CDs typically sample at a rate of 44.1 kHz, with a sample size of 16 bits, and with stereo channels.
The Sample Rate pop-up menu for AIFF and WAV offers more choices than AAC, down to a very low sample rate of 8 kHz, which is suitable only for voice recordings.
Importing Voice and Sound Effects in iTunes
Audio books from Audible and from the iTunes Store are available in a special format that doesn’t require any further compression. However, you can also import audio books, spoken-word titles, comedy CDs, and other voice recordings in MP3 format (and also in the unprotected WMA format using the Windows version of iTunes).
If the recording has any music or requires close listening to stereo channels (such as a Firesign Theatre or Monty Python CD), treat the entire recording as music and skip this section. (“Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Sorry! Everything you know is wrong!”)
By fine-tuning the import settings for voice recordings and sound effects, you can save a significant amount of space without reducing quality. I recommend the following settings, depending on your choice of encoding format:
AAC: AAC allows you to get away with an even lower bit rate than MP3 to achieve the same quality, thereby saving more space. I recommend using a bit rate as low as 80 Kbps for sound effects and voice recordings. Use the Optimize for Voice option to filter the sound to favor the human voice.
MP3: Use a low bit rate (such as 96 Kbps). You might also want to reduce the sample rate to 22.05 kHz for voice recordings. You should filter frequencies lower than 10 Hz because voice recordings don’t need such frequencies.
Converting Songs to a Different Encoding Format in iTunes
Converting a song from one format to another is useful if you want to use one format for one purpose (such as burning the song to a CD) and a second format for another task (such as playing the song on your iPod). Changing formats is also useful for converting uncompressed songs or podcasts that were created in GarageBand (or a similar audio-editing application) and exported or copied to iTunes.
Converting a song from one compressed format to another is possible (say, from AAC to MP3), but you might not like the results. When you convert a compressed file to another compressed format, you’re compressing further an already-compressed file, further reducing the quality of the sound (see “Manic compression is a Frustrating Mess” earlier in this chapter for details). You get the best results by starting with an uncompressed song that was imported in AIFF or WAV format and then converting that song to compressed AAC or MP3 format.
Tip: You can tell the format of a song by selecting it, choosing File>Get Info, and then clicking the Summary tab. You can also add the Kind column, which indicates the format for each song so that it is always visible — under the Songs tab choose View>View Options and turn on the Kind column option, or right-click a column header and choose Kind from the contextual menu. You might want to keep track of formats by creating version-specific playlists — say, a CD-AIFF-version playlist and an iPod-MP3-version playlist.
To convert a song to a different encoding format, follow these steps:
- Choose iTunes>Preferences (Mac) or Edit>Preferences (Windows), click the General tab and then click the Import Settings button. The import settings appear, allowing you to make changes to the encoding format and its settings.
- From the Import Using pop-up menu, choose the new encoding format you want the song to be in after conversion.
- In the Encoder dialog that appears, select the settings for that encoder. For example, if you’re converting songs in the AIFF format to the MP3 format, choose MP3 Encoder from the Import Using pop-up menu and then select the settings that you want in the MP3 Encoder dialog that appears.
- Click the OK button to accept the settings for your chosen format, and click OK to accept your iTunes preferences changes.
- In the iTunes window, select the song(s) that you want to convert and then choose File>Create New Version>Create format Version. The encoding format that you chose in Step 2 (MP3, AAC, AIFF, Lossless, or WAV) appears in place of format on the menu, as in “Create AAC Version” or “Create MP3 Version.”
When the conversion is complete, a new version of the song appears in your iTunes library (with the same artist and song name, so it’s easy to find). iTunes doesn’t delete the original version — both are stored in your music library.
Tip: If you convert songs obtained from the Internet, you might find MP3 songs with bit rates as low as 128 Kbps. Choosing a higher stereo bit rate doesn’t improve the quality — it only wastes space.
Organizing Photos on Your Computer
Using a computer to organize and archive all your digital photos makes sense. You can organize massive quantities of photos in a photo library on your computer. You can also add keywords, titles, dates, and film roll information to each photo automatically, which helps make locating a particular photo very easy. Keep the photos you like and delete the ones you don’t like. If you have a color printer, obtaining extra prints is as easy as using the Print command. You can even e-mail the photos to a service for high-quality prints.
Photo library software, such as iPhoto (on a Mac) or Adobe Photoshop Elements (on a Windows PC or Mac), can organize any number of photos, limited only by available hard drive space. At an average size of 2MB per photo (many photos occupy less space), you can store 10,000 photos on a 20GB hard drive. Of course, you can expand a photo library over multiple hard drives or create multiple libraries. The number of digital photos that you can manage has no practical limit.
Most importantly, you can take your photos with you, safely tucked into your iPad, iPod, or iPhone, and even display them on your TV with Apple TV. On a Mac, you can use iPhoto to import photos into your computer and organize them into albums. You can then use iTunes to transfer photos and photo albums automatically from your iPhoto library to your iPad, iPod, or iPhone.
On a Windows PC, you can use Adobe Photoshop Elements to import photos into your computer and organize your photos into collections. You can then use iTunes to transfer photos automatically from your Photoshop Elements library. Note that if you use other photo-editing programs, you can still update your iPad, iPod, or iPhone with the photos, but such programs may not let you synchronize your photo collections automatically with your iPad, iPod, or iPhone.
After you import the photos, your photo application stores them in its photo library and displays them. For example, when iPhoto finishes importing, it displays a small image for each photo in the photo library in the Last Import section. These small versions of your images are called thumbnails.
You’ve probably seen photo albums with plastic sleeves for holding photographic prints. A digital photo album is similar in concept but holds digital photo files instead of prints. In both cases, an album is simply a way of organizing photos and placing them in a proper sequence. You select the photos from your photo library and arrange them in the order you want. iPhoto uses album as its term; earlier versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Album called the album a collection. I use the term album for both.
You can use photo albums to assemble photos from special events (say, a vacation) or to display a particular subject (such as your favorite nature photos). If you have more photos in your library than what you want to put on your iPad, iPod, or iPhone, consider organizing albums specifically for transfer to the these devices and for automatic updating. The order that your photos appear in the album is important because it defines the order of photos in a slide show. You can also use albums to organize photos for a slide show, QuickTime movie, or Web page.
You can make as many albums as you like, comprising any images from your photo library. Because the albums are lists of images, they don’t use disk space by copying the images. Instead, the actual image files remain in the photo library. Similar to an iTunes playlist, a photo album is a reference list of photos in your library. You can include the same photo in several albums without making multiple copies of the photo and wasting disk space.
Transferring Full-Resolution Images to an iPod nano or iPod classic
Picture quality with a digital camera is measured by the number of pixels — specific points of information in a picture, also known as the image resolution. Digital cameras are described by the image resolution in millions of pixels, or megapixels (MP). Higher megapixel counts usually result in better images. For example, a 2MP camera produces good 4-dp x 6-dp prints and acceptable 8-dp x 10-dp prints. A 3MP camera produces very good 4-dp x 6-dp prints and magazine-quality 8-dp x 10-dp prints. A 5MP camera produces good-quality 10-dp x 14-dp prints, and so on.
Your iPad, iPod, and iPhone don’t need full photo resolution to display photos well — not even for display on televisions or with video projectors, which are far lower in resolution than prints. Certainly, the tiny iPod nano display doesn’t need high resolution in the photos that it displays. And the higher the resolution, the more space the photo takes. So, during iTunes synchronization to an iPad, iPod, or iPhone, the photos are optimized for video display to save space.
If you intend to use your iPod nano or iPod classic to transfer images to another computer or to make a backup of them in their original resolution, you can set an option to include full-resolution versions of the images. You need to enable your iPod nano or iPod classic as a hard drive first, as I describe in Bonus Chapter 4. Then follow the instructions for syncing photos to your iPad, iPod, or iPhone (see iPod and iTunes For Dummies). On the Photos sync options page, select the Include Full-Resolution Photos option. This option copies full-resolution photos into the Photos folder of your iPod nano or iPod classic.
To transfer the photos from the iPod’s Photos folder to another computer, first enable the iPod as a hard drive (as I describe in Bonus Chapter 4) and then drag the files directly from the iPod Photos folder to the computer’s hard drive.
Preparing Videos for iTunes, iPads, iPods, and iPhones
To play your own videos on your iPad, iPod, or iPhone, first bring the video file into iTunes.
To bring a video file into iTunes, simply drag it into the iTunes window or over the iTunes icon, or choose File>Add to Library and choose a file or a folder. After you add the video to your iTunes library, you can play it just like the videos you buy from the iTunes Store.
iTunes accepts a number of different video file formats, including QuickTime MOV and MPG files as well as files in the MPEG-4 format, including MPEG-4 files encoded with the H.264 compression standard. These are typical export options in a number of video-editing programs. H.264, also known as MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding), offers significantly greater compression than the current MPEG-4 ASP (Advanced Simple Profile) standard, and provides near-DVD quality at under 1 megabits per second, which makes it useful for wireless Internet connections, iPods, and iPhones.
The QuickTime video technology includes a collection of digital video file formats that offer many choices for quality, compression, picture size, and playback format. Because iTunes uses QuickTime, it can play video formats that some iPods won’t, such as AVI files, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, and even MPEG-4 videos in which the aspect ratio or bit rate isn’t compatible with fifth-generation or later iPods that play video. iTunes won’t transfer such videos to these iPods — it skips them during the synchronization process.
Only two formats — standard MPEG-4 and H.264-encoded MPEG — play on iPods and iPhones. Here’s the difference between the two:
H.264 encoding for MPEG-4 is better for displaying on an iPod or iPhone. You can set your video image size to 320 x 240 pixels with a data rate up to 768 Kbps and a frame rate up to 30 frames per second (fps). Although it might not look as good as Standard MPEG-4 encoding on a television, most people don’t notice the difference, and the file size is usually smaller.
Standard MPEG-4 is better for displaying on a television connected to your iPod or iPhone, or to an Apple TV or iPad. You can set your image size to 480 x 480 pixels with a data rate up to 2.5 Mbps and a frame rate up to 30 fps. Although it might not look as good as H.264 on the iPod or iPhone display, it looks better on a television or an iPad.
Use your video-editing program to save or export a video project as a video file before you bring it into iTunes to play or synchronize it with your iPad, iPod, or iPhone.
You can also set the data rate, image size, and frame rate, which control the picture and audio quality. However, explaining all these digital video settings is beyond the scope of this chapter. If you use iMovie on a Mac, you can choose iTunes as an export option from the Share menu.
iTunes provides options for converting videos in the iTunes library into a format that looks better when you play them on an iPod or iPhone display, or into a format that looks better on an iPad and on televisions connected to Apple TV.
To convert a video for use with an iPad, iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV, select the video in the Movies section of your iTunes library and then choose File>Create New Version>Create iPod or iPhone Version, or File>Create New Version>Create iPad or Apple TV Version.
The selected videos are automatically copied when you convert them, leaving the originals intact. If you choose Create iPod or iPhone Version, the copies are converted to H.264 at a width of 320 pixels. If you choose Create iPad or Apple TV Version, the copies are converted to H.264 encoding up to 1,280 x 720 pixels, depending on your source material.
Warning: Videos converted using Create iPad or Apple TV Version may not be compatible with iPods and iPhones. If you want to convert a video that works on all these devices, and you don’t want to create two copies of the video, choose Create iPod or iPhone Version instead. However, picture quality won’t be as good on an iPad or on the television connected to your Apple TV.