Until Apple open up the Apple TV for third party apps and therefore making media players like the brilliant CineXPlayer or flex:player available, you have to convert files not supported natively by your iOS devices to a format Apple is happy with.

Handbrake is a great app and is often highlighted as one of the best free applications available for Mac OS X. Handbrake is feature rich allowing you to rip your DVD collection or convert existing files and includes many output formats. However, it is a bit of a hassle if you want to convert multiple files in one go. There’s no quick and easy way to apply a conversion setting to multiple files – you have to browse, select then add to the queue one at a time.

As an alternative you can use inbuilt Mac OS X functions that are part of QuickTime Player, and with Automator and Folder Actions you can carry out file conversions simply by moving or copying source files to a pre-configured folder.

As QuickTime Player is used to process the file conversion you need to make sure that it’ll playback the original files you want to convert. Check you can open them ok and if not see http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3526 for available QuickTime plugins. (You’ll probably by ok with just DivX for Mac).

Convert using Finder menus

To test simply right-click on a file(s) you want to convert and select Encode Selected Video Files.

Select the quality settings, destination and whether you want to delete the source file after conversion then click Continue. (Remember the output quality won’t magically improve if the source file is poor, so there’s no point selecting 1080p when converting low-resolution mobile phone videos or old home movies).

You can then copy this file to iTunes for streaming to Apple TV or synching to you iOS devices.

Automate conversion

Outlined below is how you can automate this process by assigning a simple Automator script to a folder which would then convert any video file copied into it to iTunes/iOS ready .m4v format.

(I’m using Mountain Lion but similar functionality is available in previous versions though the naming conventions have changed slightly).

  • Create the folder you want to use to convert files
  • Launch Automator and from the Wizard or File-New menu select Folder Action as the type of document you want to create

  • Select the folder to apply the Folder Action script to

  • From the library select Movies and drag Encode Media to the workflow pane on the right then configure the setting options you require

  • Next select Music from the library and drag Import Files into iTunes to the workflow. Select appropriate playlist setting (will need to create one before starting Automator if you want to use a one you’ve already setup).

  • Click File-Save and enter an appropriate name

Now if you right-click on the folder and select Folder Actions Setup you will see your new script in the library and it will be attached to the folder.

Any supported video files you copy into the folder will be converted and imported into iTunes automatically – you should see a spinning cog icon on the Menu Bar while files are being processed.