Recently i bought an iPad to evaluate if it would be good enough to read books, or that i would need to buy an e-reader specially for that purpose. Since this was my first Apple product i was not acquinted with iTunes and how to get media (movies) onto your iPad. The most movies on my (windows) computer are H264 encoded AVI or MKV files. But my first experience was that, when you try to add these files in iTunes to your movie library they will just not show up. No message, no warning, just nothing.
After debugging i found that issue is that iTunes will only allow H264 encoded MOV files onto the iPad. So if your library does not contain those you will need to convert your media to the iPad compatible format.
The truth is, the encoding of movie formats to H264 (.mov) is really CPU intensive so can take pretty long. This is also ofcourse directly related with the input format because when you are converting a Blu-ray to h264 resolution for the iPad it also needs to downsize every frame to fit the iPad window.
For this i actually bought an application, the ImTOO iPad Video Converter. The application is pretty simple but has some nice features. Just drag your movie into it, select your output format (H264 for iPad or H264HD for iPad) and let it run.
Best part is the application can automatically shut down your pc after it is done converting and queue up multiple movies in different formats for rendering.
The bottom line is when you don’t want to embrace the complete Apple workflow it feels like you are not in control. I would love iTunes to have a plugin based option to say “Hey this movie file is not compatible but i can make it like that, you wanna?” but that is not the case.
The above is also true on a Mac if you have non-.mov files which you want to play on your iPad. The options are a bit easier there, you have Handbrake to convert your movies and there also exists a usb ‘dedicated’ h264 encoder (Elgato Turbo.264 HD) to speed up the process by 2-4x.