I've got a .ts video file on my harddrive, and I would like to transfer it to my iPad to watch it there. Here's some data about the file in question:

  • Size: 3.5 GB
  • 1 Video Stream: h264, 1920x1080
  • 2 Audio Streams:
    • 1st: AC-3, 5.1, German
    • 2nd: AC-3, Stereo, English

I only care about the English language track, getting rid of the German 5.1 audio would be fine.

If possible, I would like to avoid re-encoding the video due to the amount of time it takes. Re-encoding the audio (e.g. to AAC) would be fine.

Two questions:

  • Is there an app for the iPad that would allow me to watch the video without making any changes? Free solutions preferred.
  • If not, is there a process to convert the video (or the container) to a format that is natively understood by iTunes and the iPad? I know that the AC-3 audio may be a problem. Command line solutions are fine. No online conversion services, please.

I've tried the following using ffmpeg (installed through Homebrew):

ffmpeg -i in.ts -c:v copy -c:a aac -b:a 384k -strict -2 -map 0:v:0 -map 0:a:1 out.mp4

It converted the file, copying the video, and re-encoding the audio to AAC. The resulting file plays fine in QuickTime, but can't be imported into iTunes. I've read about the moov atom and its placement in the file, and the problems with ffmpeg to place it in the right location. Is this what I'm seeing here?

5 Answers 5


Handbrake should do everything you need:

HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.

It will re-encode the video but it does it relatively quickly, and re-encoding audio formats/selecting audio tracks and subtitles is all possible. Great software, free too.

  • Like I said, I would prefer a solution that does not involve re-encoding the video. I appreciate the answer and will keep this in mind as an option.
    – nwinkler
    Jan 12, 2015 at 9:04

After some fiddling, I've found one way to watch the video on the iPad.

Changing the container and the audio encoding

This can be done in one step using ffmpeg (installed through Homebrew), loop it for all .ts files in the directory.

The target format is mp4, and only the second audio channel is converted to AAC. The video is simply copied without any additional re-encoding. This takes about 2 minutes per 3.5 GB file, it's pretty fast.

for i in *.ts ; do 
    ffmpeg -i $i -c:v copy -c:a aac -b:a 384k -strict -2 -map 0:v:0 -map 0:a:1 $(basename -s .ts $i).mp4

iPad App

The resulting file can be previewed in QuickTime or in Finder, but it can't be imported into iTunes for some reason. I've got a question open for this here: Is there a way to show import errors in iTunes?

I've found that the files can be played fine in a third-party app. The app is called nPlayer free: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nplayer-free-best-player-movies/id945304853?mt=8

Confusingly enough, there's another app called nPlayer, which is not free, uses an almost identical icon, but seems to be a completely different app with a different look and feel, and from a different developer.

Anyway, nPlayer free plays the video perfectly fine after uploading the video via iTunes File Sharing.


While this is not exactly what I was looking for (importing the video to iTunes and watching using the iPad's native player app), it works for me. The re-encoding of the audio using ffmpeg is fast and painless, and it can be automated through a script, and transferring the file through iTunes File Sharing is not a big deal either.

I'll still keep this question open to see whether there are any other options.


The best video player on iOS is Infuse.


It processes the video on the device and doesn't need any server or previous conversion. It will play your file with the least amount of effort, there is a free version but unfortunately you will need to pay for the Pro because your file contains AC3 audio.


It is not free but the plex app will allow you to do it. You will need to set up a plex server and stream.

The server app is free the viewer app is not.


If it's not critically important to play it in iTunes, VLC has an iPhone/iPad app nowadays and it's been able to handle pretty much every format I've thrown at it so far.

EDIT: Apparently VLC was removed from the app store due to some licensing disagreements, and the version that was later put back no longer supports many of the formats. Disregard this answer.

  • I can't find VLC in the App Store anymore - I think it has been removed for some reason.
    – nwinkler
    Jan 12, 2015 at 11:33
  • videolan.org/vlc/download-ios.html has a clickable link. I can't check if it works because I'm in linux right now so the itunes site redirects me to "install iTunes"...
    – Shadur
    Jan 12, 2015 at 11:36
  • @nwinkler ... Nevermind. Apparently it was removed for "copyright reasons".
    – Shadur
    Jan 12, 2015 at 11:37
  • It's been re-added recently. Why the downvote?
    – Shadur
    Aug 7, 2015 at 11:36
  • The App Store comments for the new version are terrible. A lot of the functionality does not seem to work anymore (local streaming, etc.). Also looks like the new version does not support AC3 (which I asked for in my question).
    – nwinkler
    Aug 7, 2015 at 11:51

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