Quickie: Apple TV and Aperture

Posted on February 14, 2008. Filed under: Apple, Media, Photography |

Some quick notes on the Apple TV and Aperture.

The Apple TV syncs with Aperture 1.x and presumably 2 as well (insert obligatory and off-topic Aperture 2 drool here). This is a wonderful thing, and has found significant use in our house since we bought an Apple TV a few weeks back.

That having been said, there are a few peculiarities with the Aperture – Apple TV system which need to be worked around.

First, the Apple TV version 1.1 would only sync albums from Aperture. That is, all photos in the library would sync over (they are in the “Library” album), but instead of seeing each project, I instead see a list of each album. This includes “smart albums” as well as hand-picked albums. Generally, I didn’t create albums unless they were required, so the vast majority of photos were only accessible in the high-level smart albums (2008, 2007, * or better, *****, etc). The workaround for me was to go into projects, select all the photos in the project, and create a new album (inside the project) from the selection (command-L), which in turn got named identically to the project itself.

Now, though, Apple TV 2.0 came out yesterday and changed all this. Now, projects and albums sync across. This at first seemed like a good thing, until I spent over a minute trying to scroll through the list of projects to get to the latest set of pictures (all the way at the bottom!).

The next gripe is related to the above (which would have become an issue if I had completed my make-an-album-per-project task in any case): the hierarchy of folders and projects completely disappears in the Apple TV. Instead of a neatly organized tree of collapsible folders, where “2007 > 12 December > 25 – Christmas Morning” is at most 3 clicks away, I get “25 – Christmas Morning” near the bottom of a thousands-of-lines-long list. The list is so long that it seems the Apple TV begins to question my motives when scrolling through it: holding down the “down” button on the remote gradually accelerates the scrolling up to full speed; eventually, though, it “stutters” and starts going one page at a time with each page taking around a quarter second. To get through the whole list in reasonable time, I have to hold the button until it hits this stuttering phase, then release and hold again until it gets to the end. A list longer than 25 elements is completely unmanageable. We know this from web design, despite the fact that places still put country names or abbreviations in a drop-down list and US state names in a similar list.

The third gripe is the order inside the projects. On our hike this weekend we had three cameras going. In Aperture, there is the slight annoyance of each of their timestamps being off by seconds to minutes, but at least similar spots appear neaar each other in the overall “story” of the hike. On the Apple TV, through, the pictures are ordered not by timestamp but instead by filename! So, the IMG_* pictures and the P* pictures and the IMG_* with different sequence location all end up not intermixed, but sequential. Instead of a story of our hike taken with multiple cameras, we have a story of our hike from my camera, then another story of our hike from my wife’s camera (which changed hands a few times), then another story of our hike from the extra pocket camera (which also changed hands a few times). This doesn’t fit, at all, with how I’d like to display the pictures. I believe albums are strictly ordered, although I’ll have to confirm that, but then if I have albums and projects, then the “last event” will always show up in the list twice, and the list will be twice as long, etc!

Suggestion 1: Any list appearing on the screen should be start-letter-indexed (or more intelligently indexed) if the “full list” is > 50 items long. That means clicking on “Artists” on my box would lead to a new page with “A” through “Z” and “0” through “9” as options, each of which would lead to the artists starting with that particular letter/number.

Suggestion 2: Any source hierarchy should be preserved. That goes for playlists as well as for Aperture albums. Display only the “top level” options in the hierarchy, and descending into each of those display only the “next level”. This might fall under the same rule as above: ignore the hierarchy (but do display it) if the number of options beneath the current level is less than 50 (for instance, clicking on “2008” would yield “01 January : 01 New Year’s Day”, “02 February : 10 Hidden Falls Hike” amongst others, but “2007” would yield “01 January”, “02 February”, etc).

Suggestion 3: Oh, by the way, do the above on the iPod too!

Suggestion 4: Offer sorting options on every screen. At the very least, this should appear in the Settings for the area. This should be screen-sensitive, so images may be sorted by file name, date stamp, etc (forward or reverse), and movies may be sorted by title, release date, etc.

Suggestion 5: Make the “Sync only these …” settings in iTunes changeable to “Sync all except these …”. This would certainly help with the exclusion of 990 of the 1000 historical albums I don’t necessarily want available to the Apple TV, while not forcing me to go into the iTunes settings every single time I add a new project/album to Aperture.

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