Set custom Album Art for video content in iTunes

Chalk this up in the "things I probably should have known but didn’t figure out until about 5 minutes ago" category. As I decided to take a break from work, I stared blankly at my iTunes Movies & TV Shows playlists which have grown into a considerable collection of movies and 5-star sitcoms – so large in fact that I am considering picking-up one of those external 1TB USB / Firewire drives which continue to fall down in prices – I’m already pushing my current 1.5TB.

iTunes without accurate Album Art for movies

Those that use the same video habits of allowing iTunes to manage libraries are undoubtedly familiar of the fact that iTunes – in regards to video content added outside of the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) – lacks Album Art (Cover) which results in iTunes displaying the opening studio credit. I don’t know, maybe everyone else enjoys seeing the Miramax’s, Paramount’s, and Fox’s, but I don’t.

iTunes without accurate Album Art for movies

In preparation for the arrival of the Apple TV, as well as my continued streaming content hanits via iTunes to computers throughout the house, I make it a regular habit to convert DVD’s into smaller, more manageable, MP4 files. Additionally, rather than manually managing my audio & video library, I trust in iTunes’ ability to break down the content directory by artist and album. In the case of video content, movies & TV shows. In iTunes I trust.

Set Poster Frame optionSo how do you choose what frame of a movie or television show is shown as the Album Art for a file? Simple. The next time you’re watching a movie, take note of any familiar scenes which [as a whole] are reminiscent of the entire film. Once you’ve identified a frame, quickly pause the movie, right-click or CTRL+click on the video window, and select "Set Poster Frame". The new Poster Frame will then become your Album Art for the currently opened film making it oh so much easier to browse through video collections without having to actually read through titles.

An honorable virtual pat on the back for iTunes. The simple audio & video player has managed to provide just the right amount of control and organization to keep my library running smoothly without sucking every resource out of my machine. I now know that if I am ever bedridden for 15 straight days, I’ll have enough video content to keep me entertained from start to end.

Is video file conversion to MP4 for you? Maybe not. You don’t have to convert video files in order to play them through iTunes or Front Row. If you check out Breathe new life into OS X Front Row, you’ll find a number of tips helping manage your own library without having to convert files.

A shout-out to readers, what video files are making their way into your iTunes? My current television favorites include LOST, Prison Break, 24, and Dirt. If you don’t use iTunes, what video manager are you using for entertainment?

Related services or software used in relation to the above post: Amazon, Netflix, Mediafork, MacTheRipper, iTunes, VisualHub, and Disk Utility.

Discuss - 18 Comments

  1. Glenn Wolsey says:

    Nice little article Derek, this will be helpful as I’ve just started the long task of ripping my DVD collection to my Mac for quick access.

  2. zzap says:

    Hmm, great article. Really helpful. I need to get another external HDD myself… this one is running out of space.

  3. Eli says:

    I’m loving the fact that iTunes 7 allows you to add from multiple sources while retaining the old file locations.

  4. Phil Bowell says:

    Never knew you could do that. I prefere to find a picture of the DVD cover and set that as the album artwork instead!

    • Tim Lucas says:

      True, but did you know if you do this, the entire movie must be recopied to the apple tv box? nascence!!

  5. Eli says:

    What is your software of choice for converting existing movies (.AVI) to MP4? Is there a significant size difference?

  6. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”43590″]Never knew you could do that. I prefere to find a picture of the DVD cover and set that as the album artwork instead![/quote]

    I considering using actual DVD covers but it seemed so "boring" in comparison. I think there is definitely value in selecting a specific theme memorable in your eyes especially when browsing lazily from the couch 😉

    [quote comment=”43599″]What is your software of choice for converting existing movies (.AVI) to MP4? Is there a significant size difference?[/quote]

    I’m going to have to convert a file. Basically, the mentality I have is one that doesn’t take note of how large files actually get. *Going to convert a few episodes…*

  7. ADDMonkey says:

    It’s Ugly Betty and Lost right here, man!

  8. […] those things that you didn’t really know about, but feel stupid about after for now knowing. Set album art for videos in iTunes. Thanks to Derek for making me feel more stupid today. He asked, and I shall too: Wha videos are […]

  9. […] I found a quick iTunes tip explaining how to set custom Album Art. In this post, Derek makes reference to something I’d […]

  10. Eli says:

    In very round numbers, I’m getting 15% size reduction for half-hour shows converting AVI to MP4. I posted a quickie detailing my findings, maybe you care to add some insight?

  11. Glenn Wolsey says:

    Derek, I assume you’ve used HandBrake to import the DVD’s onto your Mac. When you pull a movie into iTunes, how do you convert it to work with the iPod/Apple TV?

    I currently import movies to my Mac with HandBrake using H.264, full resolution, and 1500kbps. How should I be adding these to iTunes? Dragging them into the Movies section, right clicking, and “covert selection for iPod”?

  12. Derek says:

    Glenn, I’m leaving them as is. If iTunes can play the movies, Apple TV, for the most part, will. From the Specs: Video formats supported: H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): 640 by 480, 30 fps, LC version of Baseline Profile; 320 by 240, 30 fps, Baseline profile up to Level 1.3; 1280 by 720, 24 fps, Progressive Main Profile. MPEG-4: 640 by 480, 30 fps, Simple Profile.

  13. Todd says:

    Let’s not forget instant handbrake. It allows you to rip a dvd into an iPod readable movie file with just a few clicks. It’s still in beta, but I haven’t had any complaints so far. If anyone’s interested.. you can get it at

  14. Derek says:

    Jon, something that I’ve looked into… And something I will definitely share if I find a solution.

  15. Jon says:

    Hi there. if you come across a way to embed a custom artwork like a dvd cover in a .MOV file, do update us. It’s driving me nuts. I do want to put movie posters so that i can use coverflow to browse my collection, but all my files are in .AVI so i have to do the .MOV reference file route to show in itunes. If anyone knows how to insert a custom artwork into a .MOV file without converting it to MP4, do give us a shout 🙂

  16. Todd says:

    Thanks for the movie tip in itunes……………awesome!

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