Sometime halfway through dental school, a friend turned me on to the world of digital movies and the ol’
.mkv container. I spent the better part of 6 months continually perfecting my iTunes media collection—all pirated—using applications like Subler to remux the
.m4v's with artwork and metadata.
At the time, I had it in my head that doing it this way would yield better results than what I could get from the iTunes Store. Truly, though, there are few situations when 20 Mbps bitrate translates to a significantly better encode than 8 Mbps.
Even Don Melton—the guy whose Handbrake-powered scripts have become the de facto standard for transcoding hard copy content to digital—even he would agree that sourcing digital media through iTunes is not only the easiest way to obtain digital media, it might as well be the standard bearer for quality encodes:
Before using transcode-video.sh or any manual transcoding system, consider these four alternatives:
- Buy or rent videos from online services like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. Check “Can I Stream.It?” to see if what you want to watch is available.
- Upside: Often cheaper than buying physical media like Blu-ray Discs and DVDs.
- Upside: Much easier to store and catalog than physical media.
- Upside: Usually playable on mobile devices.
I came to agree with Don Melton sometime after finishing school and after I started working. Since then, the iTunes Store has been my go-to for digital media. Instead of worrying about source of the pirated
.mkv, it’s a whole lot easier and quicker to just buy it on iTunes. More importantly, though: it is the right thing to do.
I made a promise to myself that once I was making money instead of borrowing it from the government, I would make a genuine effort to quit torrenting/downloading digital media and start paying for it instead.
So in a moment of self-righteous fervor several months ago, I purged
allmost all of the pirated content in my iTunes library (~200 movies, ~20 TV series, and lots of albums) and repurchased many of the must-have titles I had before the purge. There are a lot I have left to re-purchase, but I can do that little by little over the rest of my life.
Why tell this story? Because every once in a while, I can’t find what I want on the iTunes Store. Or, even when I can find it on the Store, I’m not happy with the metadata.
Specifically, I sometimes wish movies and music albums had different artwork. That’s where Ben Dodson comes in. I stumbled on his website a few years back, and it is the absolute best place to find artwork for everything in the iTunes Store, be it apps, music, movies, TV Shows—you name it. If I decide that I don’t like the artwork iTunes has for a particular album, I can just go to Dodson’s site, search for the album in question, and then apply that to the files from within the iTunes browser.
Although Dodson’s utility can access plenty of other media types, only iTunes music purchases are DRM-free. iTunes Movies are not DRM-free, so I can’t really use Dodson’s utility for movies and TV Shows. Still, his resource is invaluable, and it has a permanent place in my Bookmarks Bar in Safari for that very reason.
In doing so, I also morally reconciled myself with keeping a few pirated medias. For instance, some iTunes versions of the media I wanted was less than desirable. So what did I do? I bought the less than desirable versions, deleted them, and pirated the version I wanted. I feel okay with that. ↩
Once I started actually paying for movies, I had to think twice when contemplating a new addition to my collection. When I was pirating movies, I wouldn’t hesitate to download even the most terrible B-movie, just to have it. But some of those B-movies cost $15 on the iTunes Store. While fifteen bucks isn’t exactly a large sum of money, it’s certainly not chump change either—it’s a long way towards a meal out to eat with Allison! (And I love going out to eat 🍴) ↩