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Four Ways to Compress to H.264 with Elgato's Turbo.264
Pages: 1, 2

Method #1: Use Turbo.264 with EyeTV to Go from Tuner to TV

Most Elgato EyeTV tuners record video using the raw MPEG-2 transport streams they pick up from the cable company and from over-the-air transmissions. This video cannot be played back directly on iPods or Apple TV. You need to convert the video to H.264 to make it compatible with these devices. EyeTV works seamlessly with Turbo.264 to create a PVR bridge that brings your recorded video to your iPod or Apple TV in the fastest possible way.

When you tell EyeTV to record a TV show, you can also direct it to compress that video to either AppleTV or iPod format after recording and automatically add it to your iTunes library. Once the program records and compresses, it appears on your device after the next sync, and you don't have to perform any further work. Here's how to make this happen.

  1. Add a scheduled show. In EyeTV, select any show in the Program Guide, and click the light red schedule indicator. The indicator turns bright red, and the scheduled recording appears in your Schedules list.
  2. Edit the Schedule request. In the Schedules list, select the recording you wish to export and right-click (control-click) its name. Choose Edit Schedule from the contextual pop-up menu. A Schedule Info window opens.
  3. Request the export. In the Schedule Info window (Figure 4), choose either iPod or Apple TV from the Export to: pop-up. Optionally, select an iTunes playlist to add the recording to. Click OK. EyeTV updates your schedule request.
  4. Wait. EyeTV will automatically record the show you requested at the time you requested it. After recording, it will use the Turbo.264 to compress your video to the format you selected and add the compressed version to iTunes. This data will then transfer to your iPod or Apple TV during the next sync, assuming you've set up your video playlists to sync this way.

When EyeTV detects a Turbo.264 unit on your system, it automatically exports using the T.264, rather than using QuickTime. (You can tell because the export bars turn red instead of blue.) The export speeds up significantly, an important feature when you're recording more than one show in a single evening. It still takes time. If you want to watch your recorded shows right away, either buy a TiVo or hook up your computer to your TV so you can watch them directly as they record using EyeTV.

set up an Export to request
Figure 4: You must set up an "Export to" request for each recording that you schedule in EyeTV. Select from iPod or Apple TV, and choose an optional iTunes Playlist to add your recording to.

Method #2: Rip DVDs with Turbo.264

Elgato does not provide a decrypting component in its Turbo.264 software. That means, for the most part, you cannot use it to directly rip your personal DVD collection to a form you can use on your iPod or Apple TV. Fortunately, there is a simple and easy way around this. To save you a lot of work, let me jump right to the punch line. You don't need to rip first and compress later (using a program like Mac The Ripper), instead you can bypass the whole rip-then-compress-process by using the fabulous FairMount tool from Metakine.

FairMount (Figure 5) is part of the MetaKine DVDRemaster download. It allows you to insert a DVD into your Macintosh and treat it as if it were not encrypted. The utility forwards the DVD data to the Videolan Client (VLC) Media Player (which must be installed for FairMount to work) and uses VLC to decrypt the data. The DVD appears on your desktop, and you can open it, play it, and rip it as if it were unencrypted.

Note: Please limit your use of FairMount and the information in this article to ripping your own DVDs for your own personal use.

FairMount allows you to mount encrypted DVDs
Figure 5: FairMount allows you to mount encrypted DVDs and use them as if they were unencrypted.

To perform the compression, open the DVD icon on your desktop, select a VOB file from the VIDEO_TS folder, and drag it into the standalone Turbo.264 application (Figure 6). In two or three hours for most commercial DVDs, you'll have converted the data to an iPod or Apple TV friendly format. This is especially great for trips.

using FairMount
Figure 6: To rip and convert a DVD using FairMount, just drag a VOB file from the DVD into the Turbo.264 software and compress it.

Method #3: Compress Directly from iMovie

If you author your own videos, you'll be pleased to discover that you can export using Turbo.264 directly from iMovie and Final Cut. That means the distance between your home video camera and your friends and family's Apple TVs just got a lot shorter. Here are the steps you need to take in iMovie to produce H.264 video.

  1. Open the Export dialog. Choose File -> Export (Command-Shift-E). The Export dialog appears.
  2. Choose QuickTime. Click the QuickTime icon at the top of the dialog.
  3. Select Expert Settings. Choose this option from the Compress Movie for: pop-up menu, and then click Share (Figure 7).
  4. iMovie Expert settings
    Figure 7: In iMovie, share your movie using Expert settings to access the Turbo.264 options.

  5. Choose an Elgato Turbo.264 option from the Export options. Select from iPod, Apple TV, and PSP.
  6. Specify a name and location. Enter the name of your new movie and the location where you want to save it, and then click Save. iMovie will export your video using the Turbo.264.

Method #4: Massage Your Video Formats

Although the iPod and Apple TV live in an H.264 world, many of our friends and colleagues live in the WMV and AVI-centric Windows world. The Turbo.264 software can make your life a lot easier when you want to view material you've received in these formats on your Apple TV or iPod. Here's how:

The Turbo.264 compressor will convert practically any video you can open and play back in QuickTime. So, to make QuickTime speak the most "international tongues," you need to install two key items: Perian and Flip4Mac. Perian is the self-described Swiss Army knife of QuickTime components. It's free and open source and provides QuickTime components that play back most popular media types including AVI, DivX, and Xvid. Flip4Mac is the free QuickTime component that provides WMV playback.

By installing these two components, you allow QuickTime to access and read the widest range of video formats. And once QuickTime can read them, Turbo.264 can convert them, either directly, by exporting from QuickTime Player or by dropping them into the Turbo.264 standalone compression application. Not only will you be able to convert a wide range of video formats, the Turbo.264 allows you to convert them fast. You'll be able to place shift and time shift these videos, playing them back on the Apple device of your choice.


In this article, you saw several ways to use the Turbo.264 to move video to an iPod/Apple TV-friendly format: by recording your own shows, by ripping DVDs, by compressing your video compositions from your favorite editor, and by converting files you've received from friends and colleagues. The Turbo.264 allows you to leverage each of these video sources to produce H.264 video quickly and simply. Elgato's Turbo.264 video compression co-processor frees up your Mac's CPU, speeds up your video conversions, and provides an inexpensive way to get your video into H.264 format. Sure, there are trade-offs, but for a $100 gadget, it can save you a lot of time and let you focus on the most important part of video: watching and enjoying it in the place you choose.

Erica Sadun has written, co-written, and contributed to almost two dozen books about technology, particularly in the areas of programming, digital video, and digital photography.

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