How to export a video file to an iPad

or – how old is “QuickTime Player”, that shipped in 2012 with Mountain Lion?!

Recently, we had a poster at a meeting. We had an iPad, and we wanted to show off a video of our data. The video was on a Macbook. It was .mov format- because we had edited it in iMovie. We wanted to show the video on the iPad. It took us 3 hours (starting at midnight, giving up at 1.30, starting again at 7.30) to work it out! I figure giving the lowdown here might save someone, say, about 2 hours 45 minutes.

As far as I understand, the iPad avoids playing anything that needs software decoding, to save battery. I don’t know where I got this idea, I don’t have an iPad, but it makes a lot of sense – it’s why iDevices don’t play Flash.

We tried and we tried, various formats, pushing them to Dropbox, putting them into iTunes on the Macbook and trying to force them down the USB cable. They never played (or they looked like an 8-bit video game – that was direct export from iMovie).

Quicktime Player can do it, but the option is bizarre. We tried to export to iTunes (makes sense, right – then you could sync it to the iPad). You can export to a device (doesn’t seem to work). But you can export as “iPhone 3gs and iPod touch”.  The dialog mentions the iPad, but in terms of iPhones, this is more than 4 years old! Then you get an m4v version (presumably this means h264 encoding) that plays quite nicely on the iPad – i.e. via Dropbox syncing.
3gs copy
That is the secret. But what I don’t understand – how does this fit in with “it just works” ? Given that the routine needed to output this format, as required by the iPad, is present on every single Mac from the last 4-5 years, how come iTunes can’t do this on the fly when you try to push a video there? Why do I have to hunt for this misleadingly labelled option –  does it work with any modern iDevices? I would guess not. Why should I expect to find it in a program that (from it’s name) has no author functionality?

I suppose Apple knows that no one really uses Quicktime Player any more, and that’s why it’s not updated?


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