Tagging MP4 Video Files

video_taggingOne of the shortcomings for using the MP4 format, is that you can’t easily add in “metadata” tags into the video file. Such meta information include episode name, video category, episode description, genre, etc. You can easily add such information to WMV formatted files using the freeware application called dSHARPIE, but not to MP4 files.

So, why is adding in meta data tags such a big deal? Because such information can be displayed on your Zune when you scroll through the available synced files.

Recently, I discovered that you can add such meta data to MP4 files. I found this valuable information on this web blog site. The author explains how you can use a freeware application called Atomic Parsley to add such meta data to MP4 files. Atomic Parsley is a DOS command line application, so there’s no easy-to-use graphic interface (however, writing a simple GUI front end shouldn’t be too hard :)).

Since there are so many video converters available that can generate MP4 files, it’s nice to know that a utility such as Atomic Parsley can be used to add in meta data tags just like with the WMV formatted files.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, I played around with the Atomic Parsley application to see if I could add in the various meta data tags that are visible in the Zune Software and Zune device. As it turned out, none of the standard “atoms” in Atomic Parsley were recognized and used by the Zune software. Information such as episode title, description, video type, etc. could not be set by Atomic Parsley for the Zune.

So, I tried a different approach. I edited the video tags for a given Mp4 file from within the Zune Software. I filled in the various attributes to my liking, and then saved the data (I had to wait a few minutes with my test file just to make sure the Zune software saved my new settings). I then use the command “atomicparsley test_file.mp4 -t” to have the Atomic Parsley application write out all the tags it could find and identify with my test file. AP only found two of the tags I entered in the Zune Software, one for the Series Title and the other for the Genre. That’s it. Since the MP4 file format has the ability to store custom atoms (or tags), I can deduce from my test that the Zune software uses custom tags to store the various bits of information viewable in the Zune software and device. I believe that AP can set those tags, but I need to know their specific identifying labels to do so.

Unfortunately, my online search didn’t reveal what those identifiers are, nor could I find a program that would list all MP4 tags in a given file. I’m not sure why Microsoft doesn’t simply give us this information in a document, as it could only help strengthen the support of the Zune devices. If anyone has more information on this topic, please let me know.


9 thoughts on “Tagging MP4 Video Files

  1. mados123 says:

    Hey zunetips – Out of curiosity, why would you want to use a third-party software to tag the mp4 files if they are ultimately to be used in the Zune player and software and can be tagged in there now (or is that not the case)?

  2. zunetips says:

    mados123 – It might be more convenient to tag an mp4 file outside of the Zune Software if you have a conversion process in place to do so. For example, using DVRMSToolbox to convert TV recordings to MP4 format, it would be nice to have the tagging also included in that automated process.

  3. FinTX says:

    FWIW – There is a UI tools, like MP3tag that you can use to add tag and embedded cover art to your MP4 files. The cover art is then picked up by your Zune when browsing the videos: In the Zune software and in the player. This also displays the images on you Xbox360 when sharing from Zune…


  4. KiloVision says:

    I am looking for a command line app that will write tags to WMV files. I have been unsuccessful in searching for one. Any thoughts? I want it for the same reason you do: I am converting things outside the Zune software, but would also like to tag it.

  5. zunetips says:

    KiloVision: I’m working on a command line program that will include a album art jpg image into a wmv file. I’m using Windows Media SDK to do it, and I’ve got it working. I just need to clean it up. I can probably add in meta data also. What meta data tags are you wanting to add in?

  6. PCWarrior says:

    So, this is about the closest topic to what I am looking for. I have a bunch of WMV movie files that I converted to specific ZuneHD resolutions, and I need to add cover art to these files. I tried using Audioshell, but it didn’t work for the larger files. When I shrunk them down, as in, to about 1/5th the size, Audioshell worked, but these files are about 2 – 2.5 GB. Is there any suggestion for a program that’ll do this?

  7. zunetips says:

    I wrote a posting that talks about how I use a DOS-based program to insert cover art into a WMV file:


    You’ll see that I created a program that will take a jpg image file and insert it as cover art into a wmv file. It’s a manual method (using a DOS program) but it should work.

  8. PCWarrior says:

    In windows 7, which DOS program should I use? I’ve never used a method like this before, so it’s totally new to me. Thanks a lot.

  9. zunetips says:

    The program that I wrote is a DOS program. In Windows 7, you type in “cmd” in the Start Menu ‘search programs and files’ box to bring up a DOS window. Then, type in the commands that I mention in my posting.

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