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iDentify review – a great metadata tagger for Mac OS

Ripping your own TV shows and movies can be a pain. Once you’ve actually ripped the content you’ve bought to disk & spent time encoding it, you’ll often find that you want to add the “meta data” so that it the description, name, artwork, etc are stored within the video file. This goes doubly so for users of Apple products who want to have their videos nicely organized in iTunes in a pretty way that translates nicely to their iPod/iPad/iPhone/AppleTV, etc.

In the days-of-old (well.. a couple years ago), MetaX was the go-to solution for meta-data tagging. Unfortunately, development was abandoned and thus, it’s common to look for alternatives. I peaked into a few and narrowed it down to an “iDentify vs iFlicks” thing. iDentify was free ($10 for additional unlocked features), and iFlicks was $20 and had a free trial.

iFlicks is more of an all-in-one solution, designed to recode your files to be compatible with whatever iOS devices you’re planning to use, adding meta-data in the process. iDentify on the other hand just does (and focuses on) the metadata bit. If you’ve got a large video library that might-or-might-not be compatible with whatever iOS devices you’re using, iFlicks is probably a good simple solution to get all your videos encoded and tagged at the same time. On the other hand, if you’re like me… since I’d already spent hours tweaking my Handbrake encodes & just needed the metadata, iDentify’s worth a look. (it’s worth mentioning that if you loved MetaX, others have tried to recreate the project in an updated fashion – check out MetaZ (MacUpdate site) if interested).

So, I grabbed iDentify. The free version passed my 5-minute “will it probably work?” test, so I popped onto the Apple store and spent $10 on the full version (gotta support these developers, after all). Let’s take a look.

 

Open iDentify, hit “Add Files”, select the files you want to add meta-data to, and you’ll see your file list. In my case, I was adding Season 1 of “24”. You’ll noticed that I’d already named all the files completely (including the __AM – __PM for each episode) beforehand – you shouldn’t need to go that far, though having S__E__ in the file name is probably mandatory so that it actually knows what to look up.

It will automatically begin scanning a movieDB and TVDB for the metadata (and artwork), though if a scan fails for some reason you can select the file(s) and try again. A green checkmark means it was successful, while a red X means it wasn’t. Note that if some TV episodes refuse to find information, you may want to try turning off one of the TV databases in the preferences (turning off TagChimp and relying on TVDB instead fixed an issue for me).

Click the “Edit Tags” button along the top, and you’ll see the details it found:

(click images for larger view)

Above, you’ll see the General, Cast/Crew, and Artwork tabs. This data was filled by the data that iDentify scraped.  Take a quick peak to make sure all the info looks correct. You can zip through all the files by hitting the “next” button.

You’ll notice in the 1st tab, it will detect if the content was in HD720 or HD1080 and flag it appropriately. It does this based on the resolution of your video file. More about this later.

If you want to change the artwork in the case of a TV series where you have multiple episodes, you’re best to select all of the files first, hit “Edit” and then change the artwork – it should then apply to all of them. You could manually do it 1-at-a-time, but it’s much more time consuming. I was content with the default artwork.

Once you’ve finished checking (and/or tweaking), hit “Done Editing” to head back to the main window. If all is well, you can hit “Save Files” to add the metadata to your videos.

 

However, before we do that, on to the preferences…

 

(again, click for larger images)

Ideally, you should visit the preferences at the very beginning (before you even load any files), since many of these will affect the scan.

The 1st section (General) could really use some in-program notes/documentation.

I assume that “Use Smart Period Replacement” refers to some of the more picky TV Shows and Movies. An example would be “The O.C.” which is known to wreak havoc with a number of scanners. As far as a scanner is concerned, a dot (.) could mean a few things. Maybe you used dots instead of spaces in your filename, maybe it’s part of the actual name, or… well, who knows? If a scanner guesses wrong, it won’t find the series in the database. Smart Period Replacment is likely there to address those edge-cases.

“Use iTunes Friendly File Extensions” is fairly self-explanatory. iTunes is pretty picky – it doesn’t like .AVI for example. Presumably, this setting limits extensions to .mp4 or .m4v (possibly .mov as well), so that iTunes is willing to at least look at the file.

The remainder you can figure out. It’s worth noting that if you have iDentify automatically add to iTunes (only available in the paid version), whether or not to copy the file into the iTunes media folder (or just add to the library, using the original file location) is something determined by your iTunes preferences setting.

 

The 2nd selection (File Naming) allows you to auto-rename the files to be more descriptive.

It’s often a good idea to use this in order to have the file name be descriptive. For one, allowing the program to change your “Seinfeld S03E01.m4v” to “Seinfeld – S03E01 – The Note.m4v” makes it easier if you’re ever searching your files for that particular episode name.  Second, consistent file names are always good – if you’re ever using a scanner (like Plex), if they’re all named the exact same way they’ll typically either all work or all fail and you won’t run into as many “why is episode 4 missing from the list?” issues. Third, when it comes to movies, having the release year is pretty important. Crash (1996) is a different movie from Crash (2004). And if you ever import these movies into something like Plex, it’ll want to know which one you’re talking about.

One down side to the auto-renaming is that iDentify has a fixed method of dealing with a colon (:). You can’t have a colon in a filename, so it will replace any colon with 2 asterisk (**). That’s fine for OS X, but if you ever transfer the files to a Windows machine, it’s going to hate having a * in the file name. In addition, the preferred method for something like Plex is to use dashes (-) instead of colons (:).

It would be really nice if iDentify let you choose the character to use to replace a colon.

Section 3 (Lookup) is beautifully self-explanatory. I didn’t screenshot the tab for each scanner, but they’re quite simple.

It’s worth noting that on my original scan, a few episodes would fail to find information until I disabled the TagChimp scanner. If you have issues scanning a TV episode, try using just TVDB or just TagChimp.

 

Section 4 (Advanced) is pretty self-explanatory too, but I’ll go into a few details:

Optimize Files After Tagging – if you’re running into issues where the video chokes/stutters during playback after you’ve added the metadata, this can keep that from happening. I’ve read a couple cases of it alleviating video stutter for people using Plex.

Automatically set HD at this minimum resolution – the HD720 and HD1080 I’d mentioned iDentify automatically tagging earlier… this is where it’s “decided”. You can only use this in the pay-version (it’s greyed-out otherwise). The defaults are accurate for most sources, but if you ended up with a non-standard resolution, you can do some tweaking here to get it to show what you’d like it to show.

 

Conclusion

iDentify is a great little meta-data app. Even the free version is solid – while you don’t get all the features, it’s not really crippled. Chances are, if you’re spending $10 on the pay version, you’re doing it more to support the developer than you are to say… save yourself spending 10 seconds plopping your video into iTunes. And since the developer hasn’t gone and asked for some outrageous price, even the casual user can probably justify plunking down the money.

An additional benefit the app provides is the “renaming” bit of things. Really, once you’ve done your encoding, iDentify pretty much does all the rest.

That said, while the program is great at what it does, keep in mind that the program’s pretty small in scale. It’s not going to organize all your content into Series/Season folders. It’s not a management system, so you don’t get the same media interface you do with something like Plex. If your videos aren’t already iPod/iPad/AppleTV/iTunes/etc compatible, it won’t help you there. It’ll let you easily pump metadata into your videos, and nicely name them, filling in a gap that many of us who self-encode have.

 

I would like to see an option to change the semi-colon replacement (:) to something other than an asterisk (**), and perhaps a little bit more detail given in some of the preference options. Beyond that, the interface isn’t as pretty as a number of other programs, but functionally, iDentify is sound. Once I’ve finished my Handbrake encodes and sorted my stuff into folders, this does the rest for me.

Product links:

iDentify – AMH Software (Mac App Store)
iDentity (developer’s site – contains links to free version)

iFlicks – Jendrik Bertram (Mac App Store)

  • Tim

    Great post. I have bought and used several apps for my iTunes files conversion as well as metadata over the years … In my opinion Handbrake and Identify are not only the best “one trick ponies” but they seem to be the only ones that don’t crash on me. It’s probably worth noting that I have over 30,000 songs and 2,500 HD movies on my iTunes media server and I usually throw a large chunk at a particular app, so crashing is understandable yet frustrating … especially if you paid money for it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent 30 minutes or longer searching through my shared iTunes movie library on AppleTv looking for something to watch to only end up with a Headache. By the time you actually have a file in iTunes its definitely worth the extra effort to dump ’em all in Identify. It will literally handle thousands of files at a time if in the proper format. I have been unsuccessful getting .mov files into the app, however I have been successful manually changing .mov to .mp4 and it immediately accepted the file … I haven’t run into any playback issues doing this, but I’ve done it on a hand full of files. When I first downloaded Identify I did run into a problem with it crashing repeatedly when sending both movie and tv shows files into it at the same time … tag chimp was the issue. I emailed the developer and he responded within 24 hours to disable tag chimp in Preferences. It has not crashed since and i’ve put some hefty loads on its task list. I enable tag chimp when working only with tv shows as it seems to be fine when it recognizes the data its trying to match, however it does seem not like movie titles. I believe there is a current update pending in the Mac App store to fix this issue. Conclusion, searching for media through the remote app or on Apple TV is no longer a chore and a billions times more enjoyable thanks to this little gem.