VideoDrive: Review and Giveaway

LogoOrganizing digital videos isn’t easy. The vast majority of music files have been in MP3 format since the digital music explosion, but videos are a different story: MP4, H.264, DiVx, Xvid, WMV, M4V, MOV, AVI containers. When you download a movie, you never really know what to expect, and neither does iTunes, which only plays a limited number of video file types. So users who download movie files are forced to use QuickTime or third-party software to convert them to another format, which is always a lengthy process. Fortunately, though, there is an alternative:

VideoDrive can stick just about any video into iTunes without the hour-long re-encoding process. Any video that can be played in QuickTime (and that’s pretty much anything, thanks to MacApper’s handy “Play Almost Any Video File On Your Mac” guide) can be added to your iTunes library within seconds. The application can even fill in metadata and cover art automatically using online databases to retrieve the information.

Simply select video files from VideoDrive’s interface, or drag a file onto the app’s dock icon, and the software goes to work. For iTunes-compatible codecs like MP4, M4V and MOV, VideoDrive fills in the movie type (movie or TV show), description, genre, year and art, and adds it to your library. For those pesky AVIs, VideoDrive quickly builds a small MOV video container that is placed in iTunes, linking to the original video file. Once linked, you can feel free to rename or move the original AVI file, and thanks to the wonders of OS X, iTunes will have no problems finding it. However, you must keep the original on your hard drive in order for iTunes to access the movie.

In reality, everything about VideoDrive can be accomplished manually: creating movie containers in QuickTime, filling in metadata, finding album artwork and adding to iTunes (with a nice little Growl notification when everything is done). Even its re-encoding feature hands the file off to QuickTime to do the heavy lifting. But the all-in-one convenience may be worth the price tag for some.

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While VideoDrive does save a ton of time by doing just about everything for you (and even provides a nifty option to add processed videos to a playlist), it doesn’t do anything flawlessly. It’s good at pulling all the relevant information from IMDB to properly label a movie based only on the file’s title (and some of the ones I tested were pretty messy). When it comes to TV shows, though, it seems to have more trouble. Episode titles have to be filled in manually, and date info is rarely accurate. But even with these shortcomings, it saves a decent chunk of time, leaving you having to just fill in a few things later.

Cover art fetching is one of VideoDrive’s most attractive features. While iTunes features built-in album art fetching for music, I’m left scouring the Web to find images for my videos. It’s really a shame that this feature comes up short. VideoDrive grabs a few relevant images from Amazon, allowing you to flip through and choose the best one, however the picture quality is usually very poor. The low quality film posters don’t do the beauty of CoverFlow justice, forcing me back on my journey through Google for decent quality covers and dragging them onto the VideoDrive window.

Screenshot

“In some cases, the cover art is not of great quality,” says the lead developer for Aroona Software. “We are currently looking to additional/alternative sources for covers (e.g., Get Video Artwork) that offer better quality, but no decisions have been made. However, adding new sources can happen quite rapidly.” A nifty feature confirmed for version 1.5, which will be available Thursday, is the ability to add metadata and cover art to videos already imported into iTunes using VideoDrive, the developer says. Hopefully they also fix the irritating bug that opens QuickTime whenever I quit VideoDrive.

While I like the idea behind VideoDrive, I’ll be sticking to iSquint for conversion (an app that is in many ways a better encoder than Apple’s QuickTime), and manually fill in my tags and art. I keep all my media on my MacBook’s internal hard drive, and it’s no mystery that notebook computers don’t have unlimited storage space. Converting videos in H.264 can shave off anywhere from a quarter to half the file size with little quality reduction, and so I’ll try to save space any way I can. Sure, this way takes much longer, but you get a smaller, more compatible file in the end.

With VideoDrive, incompatible videos that were processed with the container method can only be played in iTunes, Front Row and QuickTime and cannot be transferred to an iPod, iPhone or Apple TV. But if hard drive space isn’t a problem, and if you only plan to watch the movies on your Mac, VideoDrive is a great option for anyone who downloads a lot of videos and wants to get them into iTunes in practically no time.

Aroona Software has given MacApper three licenses to give to our readers! If you want to enter the giveaway, comment on this review with a feature you would like to see implemented in VideoDrive. The giveaway will end on May 7th. And remember, if you don't win, VideoDrive costs $14.99.

Comments

43 Responses to “VideoDrive: Review and Giveaway”

  1. Joe Doherty on April 30th, 2008 6:52 am

    It would be nice if a feature was implemented to save AVI/DivX files inside a MOV container and import them to iTunes. It would eliminate the need to keep a separate file hanging around your hard drive and allow only the one in iTunes to be saved.

  2. Jason on April 30th, 2008 6:54 am

    I’d like to see a built-in backup function to Amazon S3 or the like.

  3. Tom on April 30th, 2008 7:17 am

    @ Joe Doherty: that feature is already in VideoDrive: the third import option does exactly what you describe.

  4. bisley on April 30th, 2008 7:20 am

    A must-have feature for me It’s the automatic import videos from an especific folder. Even more, a further option that let filter by extension.

  5. Mark on April 30th, 2008 7:30 am

    I have tried VideoDrive to add my TV-Shows, and the metadata was all filled in correctly. The year indicates when the first season was aired, genre and description were accurate. There is indeed no separate metadata for each episode yet but for me this is not an issue.

  6. Hagar06 on April 30th, 2008 7:47 am

    Thank you for pointing out this great tool! My top 3 feature requests:
    - Individual metadata for TV Shows episodes
    - Support for Folder Actions in Mac OS X (when a video arrives, VideoDrive is triggered)
    - Silent modus: VideoDrive adds videos in the background and a growl notification alerts when it’s finished

  7. Caz on April 30th, 2008 7:52 am

    Pretty cool App and for $15, not a bad price.

  8. Joe Doherty on April 30th, 2008 8:40 am

    @ Tom

    Thank you, I must have overlooked it.

  9. sytek on April 30th, 2008 9:37 am

    I’d like a watch folder option that automatically imports files downloaded to these folders.

  10. Nightstrike on April 30th, 2008 9:52 am

    Maybe a way to convert Video_TS files into iTunes?

    That would be cool. You could just get rid of the menus and stuff and just see the video.

  11. Janko Lauterbach on April 30th, 2008 10:06 am

    I’d like the option to convert the Movie with VLC, i know a few movies that i cannot watch in Quicktime, but nearly everything goes with VLC…
    If that’s possible… :)

    but very nice app!

  12. Thomas on April 30th, 2008 11:11 am

    Very cool app!!! I could not wait and purchased it already. I have all my videos on an external drive and watch them with VLC, basically because I am too lazy to organize them (rename, find metadata, hunt for covers) but this tool does it all!

    The amazing thing is: my file names are full of junk, but VideoDrive identified all of them correctly. Overall, I was very happy with those results!

    The quality of the cover art is not so bad as mentioned in the review. Ok, their resolution is not that high, but for 90% their appearance in cover flow and front row was more than acceptable.

    I feel I have a whole new video collection now :-) I even rediscovered some old videos. yes I’m very happy with it!

  13. Joshua on April 30th, 2008 11:28 am

    I have not so much a feature request as a question. When you create a MOV-container pointer to an AVI file, what happens when you try to sync that video to your iPod?

    (As Tom points out, one could probably get around the situation by just converting the AVI/DivX to MOV rather than using a MOV that points to another file, but I’m curious what happens if you use the other method.)

  14. Colby G on April 30th, 2008 11:29 am

    Individual metadata for tv episodes would be good.

  15. MaJoR on April 30th, 2008 3:16 pm

    Nice! I have tons of movies that i have to save to computer and i always have to save it to itunes so this app is just perfect for this.

  16. Tom on April 30th, 2008 6:18 pm

    @ Joshua

    iPods can only play QuickTime and MPEG-4 videos, and this tool (or no other tool in the world) will change that.

    If you import an incompatible videos in iTunes with VideoDrive, you can sync it to iPod if either you convert it in iTunes or you import it with the VideoDrive option “convert to iPod video”.

    VideoDrive offers 5 different import options, each with its advantages. Have a look at their support page

  17. Abubaker Shamlan on April 30th, 2008 7:43 pm

    I think XGrid should be an option in VideoDrive

  18. Allen on April 30th, 2008 8:25 pm

    I think some type of syncing with Delicious Library would be cool and timesaving, to boot.

  19. Asheeba on May 1st, 2008 9:27 am

    Possibly a batch importing feature would be nice (especially if one has a whole series). Maybe some integration with google image search for better video cover art too! What a great piece of software!

  20. Tom on May 1st, 2008 10:32 am

    @ Asheeba

    VideoDrive has batch processing features: you can import all your videos at once if you want to. Also, if you have for instance 25 episodes of one show, VideoDrive will ask you about the metadata only once and figure out the numbering by itself…

  21. ErichD on May 2nd, 2008 12:21 pm

    I’d love the ability to add feeds, so that this could encode/import the files from a specific media outlet as they get pushed out to me, eliminating my need to take several steps.

    The option to integrate with Miro would be nice…

  22. Joe Turner on May 2nd, 2008 1:01 pm

    I would like to see major Hazel support, so when I put something in a folder, it does its thing without me bothering it

  23. Mike_360 on May 3rd, 2008 6:31 am

    A new version of VideoDrive has been released on their site: you can now add metadata to videos already in iTunes, it fills in TV Show episode titles and descriptions, and it fixed the bug where QT would start when Videodrive quits. I haven’t tried the TV show metadata thing but it looks promising

  24. Maco Hui on May 3rd, 2008 7:20 am

    Does VideoDrive import DVDs Directly into itune?

    other functions are very nice!!

  25. PM on May 3rd, 2008 4:50 pm

    More editing options. Rezise video screan will be nice.

  26. Nick c on May 4th, 2008 6:54 am

    Wow, finally an easy way to get all my various video files into itunes.
    I would like some sort of way to automatically convert downloaded video files and add them to itunes. (Hazel support?)

  27. Arthus Erea on May 4th, 2008 1:31 pm

    I’d like for VideoDrive to scan a folder and automatically add any video files it finds.

  28. Maria on May 6th, 2008 4:19 pm

    A readme file or user’s guide along with the download would be helpful. It won’t run on my computer because growl isn’t installed?

    A watched folder is a great idea.

  29. dai on May 7th, 2008 4:39 am

    It is seen a very powerful tool.
    I think that it can enjoy movie further more by using this application.

  30. perfume on May 7th, 2008 6:33 am

    It was a very convenient application.
    The price is not bad either.
    “VideoDrive” was added to my want list just now.

  31. sorethroat on May 7th, 2008 6:45 am

    This looks like just what I need for management of movie file!
    and the price is saying – c’mon!

  32. dai1976 on May 7th, 2008 6:55 am

    This app is awesome.Necessary a lot of functions for me are provided.

  33. dt on May 7th, 2008 7:20 am

    Even without this application, it is likely not to embarrass it.
    It can enjoy the movie further more with the application.

  34. glassguy on May 11th, 2008 11:26 pm

    I’m a little late to the party, but this appears to be a great app. The conversion seems to work properly and the converted avi movies work within itunes, but Apple TV still rejects the sync. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  35. Mike_360 on May 12th, 2008 5:23 am

    @ glassguy: it depends on the import setting if you will be able to sync to iPod or AppleTV. If you check the supports page (Question 3) you will see a table with all available options:

  36. VideoDrive Giveaway Results | MacApper on May 18th, 2008 7:01 am

    [...] month I reviewed VideoDrive, an application for quickly adding just about any movie file into your iTunes library. [...]

  37. Mike_360 on July 19th, 2008 3:38 pm

    VideoDrive nows supports SRT subtitles in Leopard Front Row (no more black screen when subtitles kick in), and hot folders! Great additions!

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