Sunday, March 23, 2008

TiVoToGo, Part 5

In this TiVoToGo Basics series I've been looking at how to transfer TV programs that have been recorded on a TiVo digital video recorder to a Mac (or PC) and then export them to an Apple TV.

There are several reasons why it isn't as easy as one might hope.

One of the reasons has been the difficulty of editing the video to remove parts you don't want to keep, such as extraneous material prior to or following the actual show, or commercials interspersed through the show.

Now the folks who make Toast 8 Titanium have issued a new release, Toast 9 Titanium, currently $79.99, that improves things. Toast is an all-around disc burning application in which you can do such things as create a DVD. The Roxio folks who make Toast have also been designated by TiVo, Inc., as the go-to guys for TiVoToGo on the Mac.

Toast (along with TiVo Desktop software for Mac OS X) allows you to use TiVo Transfer, part of the Toast software suite, to copy programs from the TiVo to your Mac and store them as .tivo files, which can then be played on the Mac in Toast Video Player. Or they can be transcoded (format-converted) and exported by Toast as (among other formats) MPEG-4/H.264 files suitable for iTunes, iPod, iPhone and/or Apple TV. See my earlier TiVoToGo posts for more details on that.

Going the Roxio route will not, however, let you edit the files at any point in the transfer/conversion process. Until Toast 9, that is.

Now in Toast 9 you can drag a .tivo file into the Toast window when it is in Convert Video Files mode:

(To see this and other movie files in this post presented in larger versions, click on the respective movie player to have the movie play in QuickTime Player.)

You can click on the Edit button, and in the resulting dialog click Edit again. That starts Toast Video Player in its Editor mode. There is initially a delay for "Updating":

Then you see the .tivo file presented with editing controls superimposed. You use these controls to place markers around the portions of the file you want to remove.

Alas, I find this process clumsy and imprecise. Some of the buttons, menu commands and keyboard shortcuts that are supposed to let you zero in on precise video frames at which to locate markers don't seem to work as intended. You just have to do the best you can.

Once the portions to be removed are bracketed with markers, you select Invert Markers from a pop-up menu. That causes the markers to be replaced with ones bracketing the portions you want to keep. Then you choose Save from the File menu. That saves the edit markers so Toast itself can use them when it converts and exports the file.

You can then quit Toast Video Player.

Here is a movie showing all that:

Now you're ready to do the actual export of the video file from Toast. Click on the OK button in the dialog, then click on the big red button in the main Toast window. That window shrinks to show just a progress bar, then displays ... another dialog.

This one allows you to choose which device will play the exported file. Among the choices of Apple hardware are Apple TV, iPhone/iPod Touch, and Video iPod. You can also choose from a list of popular video game systems such as PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, mobile devices such as BlackBerry or Treo, or basic file formats such as MPEG-4 or H.264.

In the same Convert dialog you can (sometimes) choose what quality the video output should be compressed with. For example, if your device is Apple TV, your quality choices are Automatic, High, and Fastest. I'm currently using Automatic with good results for Apple TV.

Finally, you can choose where the converted output file should be put. I usually put it on the Desktop.

Once you have made your three choices, you click the Convert button. The dialog box goes away, and you can follow the progress of the conversion by means of the progress bar. (Be forewarned. If you are converting a TV program of substantial length, the conversion takes several hours. Once it is done, the main Toast window reappears.)

Here is a movie of that last part:

Notice that there is a message displayed in the Convert dialog when the source file to be exported is a .tivo file: "Your video will be exported at 480x360 resolution, the maximum size allowed by TiVo." One of the drawbacks of using Toast 9 to export TiVo files is that there is as yet no known way to get around this limitation on output resolution.

In Toast 8 there was a workaround for a similar limitation on resolution. See TiVoToGo, Part 2 for more about that. But Toast 8 didn't allow you to edit the source video before exporting it for Apple TV, or whatever other device you have in mind.

Fortunately, when you install Toast 9, it leaves Toast 8 alone, so you can still use it. You do have to redo the Terminal command mentioned in TiVoToGo, Part 2 if you want to override Toast 8's default limitations on exported file formats and resolutions. Once you do that, you can go back to using Toast 8 for material that you don't want downrezzed.

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