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Sharing Video Between Computers

Sharing vide content can be a little bit trickier because video content can be stored on a Mac in several different ways, each of which can be accessed using Front Row. You might have video stored in your iTunes library—including video you’ve added to sync to a video iPod, video podcasts, or video content purchased from the iTunes Store. You might also have video stored in your iPhoto library if you have a digital camera that can record video. Finally, you might have video files stored elsewhere on your computer. These video files can come from any number of sources, such as downloads from the Internet, video captured from a DVD, or video that you have imported from a digital camcorder and edited in iMovie.

The simplest way to share video between computers is to use the same iTunes-sharing feature that you use to share music. Video that is purchased via the iTunes Music Store or that is added to your iTunes library is shared along with music. It is even separated out and listed under Front Row’s video section. One advantage of this method is that it provides an integrated environment for sharing all your music video content. It also integrates well with Front Row by displaying video playlists (if you’ve created them) and by organizing video by type (movie, TV shows, music videos). Another advantage is that iTunes can be installed on virtually any Mac purchased in the past five years, as well as on Windows PCs. This gives you an easy way to provide video to any computer throughout your house regardless of platform and without needing to worry about setting up file sharing.

You can also store video as video files on your hard drive in a folder that is shared on your home network. This approach has pros and cons. For some, this approach is more manageable than using the shared iTunes library because it allows movies to simply be downloaded or copied to that folder and shared without the extra step of loading them into iTunes. It also allows you to share or watch video without needing to have iTunes running and to use alternate applications to watch video other than iTunes or Front Row.

More importantly, there are video file formats that iTunes will not let you import. Windows Media and Divx files, although they can be played from QuickTime Player and Front Row (as well as third-party video players) if you have installed the appropriate codecs (see Part 1 of this series) cannot be imported into iTunes. If you have video in a format that iTunes will not allow and you want to shared it with multiple computers, you need to do so from a shared folder.

There are two problems with using a dedicated folder for video rather than using iTunes. First, when iTunes shares content among multiple computers, it does so using streaming technology – this means that over wireless connections, video playback is generally good (although it may be difficult to jump forward while watching video). Using a shared folder, QuickTime will try to access the file in real-time, which can result in jumpy playback over slow network connections. This may not be an issue if you have a 100MB or Gigabit wired home network. However, even with Airport Extreme or other 802.11g wireless networks, you may experience jerky video using this method even if you have a relatively strong signal.

Another difficulty with using a dedicated folder is that Front Row checks only the Movies folder of the currently-logged-in user and any available iTunes libraries for video. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, you can place an alias to other folders (including shared network folders) into your Movies folder to allow access to other locations. Needless to say, this also requires the extra step of mounting the network folder before you can access it from a remote computer. This step can be worked around by setting the shared folder as a login item using the Accounts pane in System Preferences.

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