How to Extract Short Films from iTunes Extras

This is a quick tip, but somewhat delightful, so I’m sharing it here on this blog.  Credit to DJ Patil for goading me to write this up.

iTunes Extras

Recently, Apple debuted a new feature at the iTunes Store.  When you buy certain movies, typically the more expensive HD versions, you also get the “iTunes Extras”.  The iTunes Extras are basically “everything else” that comes packaged on Blu-Ray and DVD discs: deleted scenes, trailers, exposés on the making of the film, and for certain films (like Pixar movies), short films.

Free the Short Films!

There is a small problem with this system, however.  When you sync your iPod, iPhone or iPad with the library, you don’t get the iTunes Extras.  When you connect with the AppleTV, you don’t see the iTunes Extras.

More importantly, you don’t really want to carry around gigabytes of the extras.  I just don’t need to see “Making Of” clips that often.

Fortunately, it turns out to be an easy problem to solve.

Open the Package

Cracking open the iTunes Extras turns out to be trivial.  In fact, it’s not even cracking – it’s like finding the little red string on a wheel of cheese that makes it trivial to remove the wax covering.  Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the iTunes Extras file in iTunes, and “right click” or “control-click” the file.
  2. Select “Show in Finder” from the menu
  3. You will now see the folder for the movie in your iTunes Library.  There will be a file selected with an “ITE” extension.
  4. “Right click” or “control click” the file.
  5. Select “Show Package Contents” from the menu
  6. You will see a folder inside called “videos”.  In that folder, you will see all the “M4V” files that are the video extras, including the short films
  7. Just copy these files to your desktop.  I use the “Option Drag”, where I hold the option key down, and drag the file to my desktop.  This makes a copy of it on the desktop.
  8. Add the movie to your iTunes, just like any other video.  You’ll have to add the artwork and fix the title, but then you have your short film, separate and synchable, just like any other movie.

You see, the Mac OS Finder has a trick that it inherited from NeXTStep: you can take any folder, mark it a “package”, and the Finder displays it as if it were a single file.  In fact, all the applications on the Mac are delivered this way.  *.app files are really packages (directories) of content, wrapped so that you can click on them as if they are a single file.

The iTunes Extra file is a just a package, and the video files are inside.  More importantly, they are all just “M4V” files, which are MPEG 4 video files that are copy protected with the iTunes DRM.  So they largely work like the main video that you bought off iTunes.

It’s a little extra work to get the correct title, year and cover art on the file, but a quick cut & paste from Google can solve that.

Hope this delights at least one other person out there.  It certainly delighted me this weekend as I was able to free the “Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation” short film from the new distribution of Cars 2 in HD on iTunes.

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