What Format Do Videos Have to be for the iPod?

By David Weinberg

The iPod nano has video playback capabilities.
i Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The fifth generation iPod classic was the first iPod with video playback capabilities. Since then, Apple has released versions of the iPod nano and the iPod touch with video playback. These players have limited compatibility with video formats. To make a video play on an iPod, you will need to purchase and download it in a compatible format or convert it from its original format.


iPods can play video that has been encoded using H.264 or MPEG-4 codecs. These files are have .m4v, .mp4 or .mov file extensions. If the file is encoded using H.264, it can be encoded at 768 kilobits per second at a resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels. It can play back at up to 30 frames per second. Videos that are encoded using MPEG-4 can be encoded at up to 2.5 megabits per second at a resolution of 480 pixels by 480 pixels. They also play back at 30 frames per second.


If you download your video files directly from the iTunes store, they will already be in a compatible format for an iPod. Alternatively, you can import your video files into your iTunes library. If the files play in iTunes, then iTunes will be able to convert the video into a format that your iPod can use. Select "Create iPod or iPhone Version" from the "Advanced" menu to convert the video into a format that your iPod can use. If the files do not play, you will have to use third-party software to convert the videos.

Third-Party Conversion Software

If iTunes cannot convert your video file, you can use a third-party program such as Videora, Xilisoft or Cucusoft video converter. These programs an take a number of video formats and convert it into a video format that iTunes can handle. You can then import the file into iTunes and transfer it to your iPod. If you want to avoid converting videos but you do not want to buy your video files from iTunes, you can buy DVDs or Blu-Ray discs that include an iTunes compatible video file.

Aspect Ratios

Different iPod players use different aspect ratios. The aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and height of the video image. Standard television programs have a 4:3 ratio, for example, and widescreen programs or movies have a 16:9 ratio. The iPod touch can automatically play videos in either of these formats. The fifth generation iPod classic has a "Widescreen" setting in the "Video Settings" menu. If this setting is not turned on, the edges of widescreen videos will be trimmed. With the setting off, black bars appear above and below the video but the edges are not trimmed. The sixth generation iPod classic and the iPod nano have a "Fullscreen" setting in the "Video Settings" menu. When this setting is on, the edges of a widescreen video are trimmed. If the setting is off, black bars appear above and below the video.