How would you categorize the movie Daybreakers into one genre? Is it Action? Drama? Horror? It definitely has qualifications for Fantasy. Even Science-Fiction. Maybe you have your own made-up genre called “Vampire”. In any case, limiting yourself to just one genre is just annoying and stupid. And I say that whoever came up with that idea should be taken to a busy street corner and made to wear a silly hat and a sign that says “I had a stupid idea and it somehow got approved and bothered millions of people.” We all know just about every movie out there fits into multiple genres. I even made a genre for “Academy Award Winner” and have movies tagged for that as well as other appropriate categories.
I have been trying to figure this one out for ages, and was definitely headed the right direction, but a helpful nudge from one of my readers (thanks, Michael Barton!) helped immensely.
First of all, this works with the current Apple TV firmware on ATV gen 2 and gen 3. Sorry, ATV gen 1 fans, at this time I still don’t know how to do this on Apple TV gen 1. I mourn with you, as I still have several of them in use. And if you needed a reason to upgrade to an ATV 2 or 3, add this to the list of advantages!
For the newer, smaller, black Apple TVs, this multiple genre workaround will perform wonderfully. And no hacking is needed! Bonus.
By the way, this works for music too, so if you have songs that you wish you could have put into multiple genres, you can do that and benefit both in iTunes on your Mac, as well as all your portable devices that support playlists, and even for playing back music over the Apple TV.
Scope and Objectives
This post will show you how to tag your videos in your iTunes library so they will appear in multiple genres. This is mainly a workaround to the limiting single-genre option in iTunes. Then, you’ll learn how to enable your Apple TV (without hacking) to show the genres.
For you advanced users, lemme sum it up for you in 3 steps.
- Use the Comments field to add a comma separated list of your genres. They can be any genres you like. I even made one called “Comic Books and Superheroes.”
- Setup a Smart Playlist for each of your genres, where the Media Kind is Movies, and where the the Genre or the Comments include the genre you want (and possibly the Description tag also).
- Enable playlists in your 2nd/3rd gen Apple TV for Movies.
Step 1. Tagging Your Movies for Multiple Genres in iTunes
What you need to do is firstly tag your movies (the fun, and kinda not-so-fun part) appropriately. I’m going to explain that part first.
Let’s use the movie Alien as an example. In my opinion, this movie fits into the following genres: Action, Science Fiction, and Horror. But I think it mostly qualifies as a “Horror.” So using the official iTunes “Genre” tag, we’ll set it as “Horror,” – we’ll call this the “primary genre” – and we’ll use the other two genres as secondary genres.
NOTE: It won’t really matter for the Apple TV which one you choose as your official iTunes genre, and which genres you put for secondary genres with this system. However it will matter in for any device that does not support Smart Playlists. There, movies will still only be sortable by the single genre listed in the official “Genre” tag. That’s why you should consider where the movie “fits” best as the primary genre.It’s really easy to change genres for movies. You can either click on the genre in the iTunes list and change it there directly by typing over the old genre, or you can select the movie and do Command + I (Get Info) to open the Information and tags for that movie. Alternatively, you can right-click and select “Get Info”.
Now that you have the information window up for your movie, select the “Info” tab. We can change the primary genre at the bottom in the “Genre” tag. If you don’t see the genre you want in the default list, just type in your own custom genre. iTunes will remember it for other files once you’ve added it.
You then want to list your secondary genres in the “Comments” field. You don’t have to separate them by commas, but I did anyway. Contrary to what most people think, the “Comments” field is not the field that your Apple TV uses to show a description of the movie. That is the “Description” field, and is under the “Video” tab. So things you type in “Comments” are for the most part going to be hidden. I have “Rated R” in there also because I made a Genre for Rated R movies. Why? Well we have kids in our home, and there was no other way to sort by a rating. I wanted to sort by rating so I could make sure that the MPAA Rating tag was correctly applied. You can think outside the box and create other “genres” that you want for any sorting purpose.
If you’re having a hard time deciding genres for your movies, I suggest looking at the iTunes Music Store (will only show one genre) and IMDb (shows multiple genres) to see what they chose. While I disagree with their choices sometimes, they are good starting points and you don’t have to use them. Have fun coming up with your own.
I’ve been asked by some readers for my complete list of genres that I use. Rather than pollute this already long post even more, I’ve gone and made that a separate posting, which you can read here.
Step 2. Creating Smart Playlists for Multiple Genres in iTunes
Now that your movies are are nicely tagged, let’s get to the next step.
It’s all about Smart Playlists, people. I’m using iTunes 10.6.1 as I write this, but making Smart Playlists has been a feature in iTunes for a long, long time. In fact, I had categorized my movies by multiple genres in iTunes a long time ago, so when I’m working at my computer I could find movies along my terms.
Little did I know that setting a small option in my Apple TV would make them all visible there also.Anyway, let’s keep moving. First you will want to create a Smart Playlist in iTunes. From the iTunes menu you can choose File > New Smart Playlist (Option + Command + N). Then in the window that appears, we need to set some parameters for the list.
The first parameter we need to set is “Media Kind” > is > Movie. This ensures that no TV Shows, Music Videos, of Music files end up in the playlist.
Next, we need to set filters for the genre we’re creating. Let’s say that you have a Kids & Family genre. And within that playlist you have movies like E.T. and movies like Cars. But you want another genre just for animated shows, which Cars would also fit into. So let’s make this new playlist for “Animation.”
We’ll use the “Any” parameter next.
By setting Genre > contains > Animation, you will ensure that this Smart Playlist picks up any movies that had the word Animation listed as the primary and official genre.
By setting Comments > contains > Animation, you will ensure that this Smart Playlist also adds any movies that had the word Animation in their Comments field (which is what we used to tag genres earlier, remember?).
By setting Description > contains > Animation, you will ensure that this Smart Playlist adds any movies that mention Animation in their Description field.
You could also add Description > contains > Animated, if you think you might pick up some movies that mention something like e.g. “awarded best Animated Short”) in their description field. It depends on how detailed your tags are. Only you would know.
That is all you have to do to set up your Smart Playlist. They automatically update themselves, so your newly created playlist may already have items in it. Repeat this process for every genre you want. Name the Smart Playlist anything you like. For me, I chose to name mine like this: Movies: Fantasy.
Step 3. Enabling Playlists for Music and Movies in your Apple TV
The last step is for us to enable the playlists in the Apple TV. By default they do not show up.
Go to Settings > Audio & Video and set “Show Playlists” to “All”
Now when you go to “Computers” and then “Movies” you will see “Playlists” at the top.
And of course, inside the Playlists menu option will be all of your Smart Playlists you created, with all of your custom genres.
A big thanks to Michael Barton again for tipping me off on this. Let me know how it works for you, and if there are other topics you’d like to see.