Movie Conversion Workflow Nov 27 2013

I have been using an old Mac mini running iTunes as a back-end for my Apple TV for a few months now. And ever since I set it up, I've been loooking for the easiest way to send movies from the web to my Mac mini for importing. I have finally found a good combination of tools to make it all happen.

My requirements were that I wanted to send a link from Safari on my laptop to the Mac mini, and from there everything be automated. I would prefer to stick to the most Mac-friendly solution, but I wasn't above just writing everything as a series of bash scripts. My spouse would also be using this, so it had to support multiple systems sending the files. And it should be easily reproduceable so that I can re-format and get everything up and running again in no time.

The two main applications I'm using are SpeedTao for downloading, and iFlicks for conversion. The two are glued together with a Automator Workflow which is available for download.

SpeedTao

This is a simple download manager which provides the ability to start remote downloads through Dropbox. It is still in beta, but works well for my purposes. Install it onto both Macs. To get the remote download to work, go into Preferences and sign into Dropbox.

Personal Computer

I set it up to default to remote downloads. Great feature.

SpeedTao

You may also wish to set Remote Download Requests to Reject for any of your personal computers.

Server

On the Mac mini server I setup to accept downloads, and to always be awake. You should also setup SpeedTao to open at login from your Dock.

iFlicks

This application is fantastic and worth every penny. But better than that, after I got this setup they released a new version and are giving away version 1 for free. Both are available in the Mac App store, or from iflicksapp.com. If you buy version 2 you don't need the Automator Workflow at all, it can watch folders and trigger events automatically.

I've setup iFlicks to convert all movies to Apple TV / iPad format, add the output to iTunes, and throw away the original.

iFlicks

Note that this will cause significantly more files to be converted than if you just selected iTunes compatible; even if they would already play on the Apple TV. But it also provides more consistant results and ensures the best chance of the movie playing.

Folder Action

At this point we have SpeedTao downloading our files for us to the Downloads folder, and iFlicks is ready to convert them. We just have to get the movies from one to the other.

Download the Automator Workflow and unzip it. When you open the workflow file you'll be asked if you want to open it or just install it. If you would like to change the folder from Downloads open it, and change the folder at the top. Otherwise, just click install.

Here is a screenshot of the workflow if you want to just recreate it. It will act on MOV, AVI, M4V, MP4, and MKV files.

AutomatorWorkflow

Usage

So now if you would like to watch legally obtained movies from the internet on your Apple TV you can do so very easily.

For instance, I would like to watch this 1983 TV show Bits and Bytes, available for download from archive.org.

Episode_01_Getting_Started

I just right click on the link and select Download with SpeedTao or Download to Remote Mac.

Download

It will send the URL to the server via Dropbox.

SpeedTaoRequesting

The server will begin downloading it.

SpeedTaoDownloading

Then convert it.

iFlicksConverting

Just that simple!

- Matthew