30 Days of AppleTV – Day 16

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So…that Visual Hub thing everyone has been telling me to try…

I tried it last night.

Holy Crap.

Two hours of video converted in 20:29.

21 hours of video converted in 149:32.

Visual Hub is the big brother to iSquint, and WELL WORTH the $23.32. I am blown away at how blazingly fast this thing works, and I seriously can’t recommend it enough. If you have an AppleTV, and you have video you want to play on it that is in another codec, you need this program.

Click Here to get Visual Hub.

Now, for content downloaded from iTunes, I have to say that I’m really enjoying the multi-pass way of doing things. I wish more shows were set up this way. It’s a good value, and I like having new content almost daily that I can have waiting on me when I get up in the morning.

As much as I hate to just rant about Visual Hub, I am incredibily impressed with the speed of this application, and I think those of you thinking about hacking into your AppleTV, might be served better by just downloading this thing instead. It’s so damn quick, there’s almost no reason to crack your AppleTV open.

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Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo is a technology enthusiast and digital strategist with a fervent passion for Apple products and the innovative technologies that orbit them. With a background in computer science and a decade of experience in app development and digital marketing, Kossi brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to the Apple Gazette team.

14 thoughts on “30 Days of AppleTV – Day 16

  1. I’ve posted about VisualHub every time TV was mentioned, it seems, and I’m sure you see why. It’s not only fast, it’s simple and understandable.

  2. Someone on my forum was trying to tell me about MP4Converter. Downloaded it today to try and man is it confusing. Not only that but the quality of the converted product pales in comparison to what I get from VH.

  3. What kind of mac do you have? On my (old) iMac G4, Visual hub took about 2 hours to convert a test iMovie DV project to a 2 minute apple tv compatible mpeg-4 H.264 video.

    At an hour per minute of iMovie footage I’m not getting my home movies converted right now. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. I’d feed better about that than the idea that I need a newer, faster, mac.


  4. @Neven –

    Thanks to you too. All you guys suggesting it again and again is why I finally tried it.

    @Brad –

    2.0 Intel Dual Core Ghz Macbook Pro with 2 Gigs of Ram

  5. @Michael,

    Ok. That’s either amazing or impossible. So, if I do the math right, you reported that you converted a 2 hour video (120 min) in ~20 minutes wall time. Is that right?

    And I converted 2 minutes of video (2 min) in ~ 2 hours (120 minutes) wall time on my G4 iMac.

    My ratio is 1 min video : 60 min wall time
    Your ratio is 6 min video : 1 min wall time
    which equates to 360 min video : 60 min wall time

    So it appears that your Macbook Pro is 360x faster than my iMac G4. Is that really right or is my math incorrect?

    If so, you might have made my justifying an upgrade much easier.

  6. You’ll get 3 main oppositions to using VH:

    1) It’s just an ffmpeg wrapper, why pay for just a GUI? Which it is, and its main benefit to using CLI ffmpeg is it makes large batch conversions easy to queue up, and its profiles save you the time of figuring out the ffmpeg settings for yourself. For instance, it’s great for converting to finicky players like the TiVo Series2.

    2) Conversion is bad. The purests will tell you that converting from lossy to lossy format is ‘A very bad thing'(tm). Which it is. It’s particularly bad when converting for HDTV, where the quality loss is more noticable than if you are converting for SDTV. It all depends on what your acceptable quality is. You may also find that some questionable quality sources are ok on a hacked AppleTV with the original codec, but conversion adds enough loss that converting to an AppleTV/iTunes format becomes unacceptable to you. And wait until you get your first audio sync issue… watching lips move out of sync is very distracting! (VH seems to use async 50 by default, which you can change to async 1 in the advanced (don’t touch) settings, but I’ve had one time so far where I couldn’t get a good audio sync with VH).

    3) Conversion is wasted time. Sure, on your particluar Mac, 20:29 minutes may be average. On an old G4, you’re talking more along the lines of 200-400 minutes. Both are unacceptable to the purests who will mention that having the right codecs and not converting takes zero time. Also, by not converting, you can avoid needing to upgrade to a $2499+ Mac Pro, and invest that into a giant HDTV + AppleTV, which may be a relevant consideration for some.

    As for me, I’m happy with my $23 invested in VH. I’m more a casual viewer than a purest or archiver, so anything that isn’t distractingly bad is fine with me and my SDTV.

    But I understand that there are many folks out there that don’t see it that way, and for the most part, those are going to be the folks who bought HDTV’s (and AppleTV) because they want high quality, and VH conversion isn’t going to be good enough for them.

  7. @Brad –

    Those are the real numbers. I was blown away. 2 hours of video. 20:29. It was two separate hour long files, if that makes a difference.

    @T –

    I see your points, and I agree that some people will argue those same things but I don’t have much use for that argument from them for the following reasons.

    1) the files that most people are converting already have some degradation of quality on them. I have yet to get a file encoded with Divx that didn’t have some pixilation in it.

    2) If you’re looking for the highest quality video…AppleTV ain’t it. Right now AppleTV is barely above SD at its best…and well below it at its worst.

    And I do agree that on an older, slower machine, conversion takes too much time…I wouldn’t recommend that anyone running an old machine do the conversions unless they just really wanted to…but I wouldn’t suggest they hack the AppleTV either (it’s just not my thing)…I’d tell them to buy a $30 Divx enabled DVD player from wal-mart and burn CDs full of content.

  8. @Brad

    Not sure where your numbers come from. I have a 1.5ghz powerbook G4 and I can take 5 min of DV video and encode them in less that a minute to h.264. I regularly take Divx and convert them to DVD with VH in about 2.5 hours. This is for a 1 hour show typically.

    I agree but I personally have never been able to use ffmpeg to any functional degree. I am also not a purist when it comes to quality. If it’s watch-able and the audio is synced up then I am a happy camper.

  9. @Michael
    Do you, by any chance, have any comparable numbers on a MacBook rather than a MacBook Pro? I’m interested in whether or not this is CPU driver or GPU driven as that is a main difference in these two systems.

    I understand your concerns. However, they don’t really apply to my situation.
    The biggest reason that I bought the apple tv is to view photo slideshows (from iPhoto) and home movies (from iMovie) on the big screen TV. Right now I either have to burn the iMovie files to dvd via iDVD (on a 1x superdrive… again slow) or convert them to Apple TV format via Export (slow too). The only way I can see to avoid this is if Apple updates the Apple TV to natively play DV formatted iMovie files. But it’s not a quality issue. I’m only expecting DV Cam file quality.

    I’m not viewing Divx files or anything else. I have a 56″ DLP TV and view HD content on it via my cable and DVR. I also get very good quality for movies from my Oppo 971 upconverting DVD player. So I don’t really depend on Apple TV for any of that content.

    I will mention that the one Oscar winning short film I bought from the iTunes store for $2 was surprisingly good quality. Very close to regular DVD and definitely better than a show like Battlestar Galactica via analog cable upconversion.

    Thanks for your numbers. I’m going to try and run another experiment at home on the conversion and see if my numbers are consistent.
    The one variable I can think of is the media’s location on an external firewire 400 disk. I tend to think of that as quite fast, but perhaps the conversion was disk bound rather than cpu bound. So I’ll try the files on my internal drive too.

  10. @Brad –

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any numbers for a regular Macbook.

    If anyone reading this has a Macbook and Visual Hub, and wants to run the tests, it would be very much appreciated.

  11. @ Brad

    Yes, bring it on to the internal. Files I had tried to convert that were on an external took an excruciating amount of time. The FireWire/USB is a real bottle neck when trying to do video conversion.

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