iFlicks 2

heroI’ve just recently decided to make the switch from Kodi on my Home Theatre PC to AppleTV 3. Clearly, we’re an Apple household and the Kodi HTPC was a bit of an odd-one-out as it was running Mythbuntu. I’d been considering the switch on power usage grounds (the Apple TV uses a measly 1.5Watts of electricity – and around 0.7Watts when idle, which is somewhere close to 30 to 60 times less than the HTPC and then Kodi had a crash and ate all my hard work with customizations and the wife had a bit of a meltdown…

But Apple TV doesn’t play MKV files natively (and definitely doesn’t support AVI) as all the files have to be stored in iTunes on a Mac. This means I have terabytes of movies, TV Shows and Home Videos to convert from MKV/AVI format. Plus, all the metadata is in Kodi format .nfo files which are completely irrelevant to iTunes. I’ve spent ages customizing my library with all the information from online sources making the library work for me and I really didn’t want to lose all that.

I tried a number of solutions before settling on iFlicks 2 (VideoDrive came the closest and I’ll review that later, with solutions such as WonderShare Video Converter Ultimate looking like a decent option too). Handbrake and iDentity would’ve worked but didn’t provide an automated solution by any stretch of the imagination, and bulk imports were quite difficult with HandBrake and iDentity (and it was very slow).

iFlicks 2 meets all my requirements. It supports bulk operations, it looks up the metadata online (I think from themoviedb.com and thetvdb.com) and is extremely intelligent in it’s lookup plus it operates on bulk imports. So, lets look at it a little closer;

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 19.17.17iFlicks 2 Preferences are the place to start here – and iFlicks keeps this as simple as possible. It offers a number of presets for the video conversions and my requirements are pretty simple – keep my video at the same resolution and quality as they previously were but make them iTunes compatible. Being iTunes compatible means they’re Apple TV 3 compatible too. And the bonus with this preset is that if the file is an MKV then it probably just needs a bit of tweaking rather than a full recode – which is extremely fast. In the screenshot to the right you’ll notice that I haven’t checked the ‘Optimize for Streaming’ choice, as the iFlicks 2 website support FAQ suggests this isn’t necessary for over the LAN streaming to an Apple TV and it causes the whole file to be rewritten again, adding time to the conversion that in my case isn’t necessary.

iFlicks 2 will automatically add the converted video file to iTunes – although in my case I have de-selected that option as I am converting on one machine with iTunes on a separate machine and iFlicks is putting the converted file into the ‘Automatically Add To iTunes’ folder instead. This works well (although I found with ‘Optimise for streaming’ set on, each file was being added to iTunes twice). You can also set the file to be deleted once converted – useful if you’re low on disk space or converting onto the same disk. The final two options are localisation options – and the ratings options I didn’t find in any of the alternatives at all. This option allows you to choose which countries ratings to look up for your movies and shows.

Watch Folders are supported so that if a video appears in a folder that iFlicks has been told to watch then conversion begins automatically – very handy if you’re using any kind of automation such as a DVR shared on the network or SickBeard or similar utility. Having said that, I couldn’t get iFlicks to actually pick up any of the files in my Watch Folder but I haven’t played with it too much in that respect yet so I’m probably doing something wrong.

One of iFlicks 2’s strongest features is the Rules you can apply to movies. iFlicks 2 will apply rules to your conversions at 3 distinct stages during the process. The first is when the file is loaded, and it comes with 3 pre-defined rules here which are to apply the necessary tags for HD-720, HD-1080 and to rename the file into proper format for season and episode. After Metadata Download and after Processing can also have rules applied to them and these can be built in processes, or you can call your own personal AppleScripts to ‘post-process’ the converted files.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 19.32.28Converting the files is as simple as dragging and dropping your chosen files from Finder onto the main window (see right – click the image for a larger, clearer version). iFlicks will automatically attempt to look up the metadata for your video file based on its filename and this is extremely intelligent and has found about 98% of files I’ve thrown at it. So long as your file is named appropriately there’s no reason it should fail – unless no-one has put the data into the online sources in the first place. And this is an area that iFlicks 2 absolutely excels when compared to the competition – if it’s unsure that it’s found a match, but has various options it thinks it could be, it’ll popup a ‘search’ box which gives you the option to edit the video title and type (ie, movie, tv show) and it will show you a list of the options it’s already found, enabling you to choose the one you want to use. This aspect of iFlicks 2 is without doubt the best part of the whole software.

Conversion of the files into an iTunes compatible format varies between fast and extremely fast. MKV files often already contain iTunes compatible H.264 video tracks, they just need to be rejigged, so this should be extremely quick – and is. But I’ve also found converting AVIs to be extremely quick (not AS quick, but still way quicker than HandBrake).

iFlicks 2 will also lookup chapter markers and include them (or use ones that are already in the original file), as well as of course downloading Movie or TV Show artwork (and give you the option to change it if you don’t like the particular one it’s chosen).

All in all, iFlicks 2 is everything I ever wanted Kodi to do (and to be fair it mostly did) with it’s scrapers – with some additional benefits, such as running as a GUI on Mac, with (and this is a big winner) a GUI way of choosing which data to look up and being able to correct it easily without the need to write complicated XML .nfo files (something my wife and mother-in-law were never going to learn!)

Support from the author has been superb and very swift. This is one of the only apps to date on ReviewMacSoftware that has a 10/10 rating. This product is worth every cent if you’re manipulating movie or TV Shows onto your Apple TV via iTunes, I seriously cannot recommend it high enough.

Further Information can be found at http://www.iflicksapp.com/en

Downloads are via the Mac App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/app/id731062389?mt=12

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