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Topic: To Clarify: iTunes 7 ALBUM ARTWORK Issues...

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Old 09-27-2006, 05:14 PM
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Lightbulb To Clarify: iTunes 7 ALBUM ARTWORK Issues...

There seems to be some confusion going around with regards to album artwork and iTunes 7 (and now 7.0.1), and how it should be handled and what features do and don't work as expected right now.

I am therefore going to attempt to clarify this situation, based on my own specific experience and testing of these issues in iTunes 7.

But first, a bit of background:

In iTunes 6 (and prior versions), the only way to add album artwork to a track (or group of tracks), was to select those tracks and place the album artwork directly into those tracks (there were a couple of methods for doing this, but the point is that the artwork was added directly into the tracks' ID3 tags).

When displaying artwork in iTunes, it would read these tags in order to display the artwork.

To display artwork on the iPod, the artwork in the music file would be converted by iTunes into an album artwork database on the iPod itself. The iPod would ignore whatever image was in the tag, and simply read the uncompressed bitmap from it's artwork database.

This conversion process is done by iTunes, and only when the music file is transferred from iTunes to the iPod (automatically or manually). However, in automatic mode, the addition of the artwork into the tag would of course cause iTunes to see the file as updated, and therefore re-transfer it to the iPod, updating the album artwork in the process.

The one caveat here is that album artwork added directly to a track already on your iPod (via manual mode) would not be converted by iTunes for display on the iPod. The song file itself would need to be retransferred from your computer's iTunes library for the artwork to be converted properly.

So, enter iTunes 7....

Other than a bug in iTunes 7.0.0 (concerning adding artwork to MULTIPLE tracks simultaneously, which was fixed in 7.0.1), none of the behaviour from iTunes 6 has actually changed. Adding album artwork manually to your tracks works the same way that it always has.

However, what iTunes 7 now brings to the table is a feature to automatically fetch album artwork from the iTunes Store, primarily intended to supplement the coverflow browser feature so that there's artwork to look at within your library.

This automatic download of album artwork is where things start to fall apart. The problem is that iTunes does not place this downloaded artwork into your MP3/AAC files. In fact, it doesn't update the files at all -- rather it puts the artwork into a separate database that's maintained to support the coverflow feature.

Now, when viewing the track through iTunes, all indications will appear that the artwork is there and in place, but it's not actually IN your MP3/AAC file. iTunes is simply pulling it from it's own cache and displaying it in all the right places. When the track actually is transferred or updated on the iPod, iTunes will even correctly pull the album artwork from it's own cache, convert it for iPod viewing, and put it into the proper database.

However, because the file itself does not get updated when downloading artwork automatically, iTunes doesn't see that the file has changed and therefore won't see any reason to transfer any of that file's information to the iPod. Hence, the newly downloaded album artwork does not appear on the iPod until something else about that file changes.

However, if you add the artwork to your tracks the same way that you did in iTunes 6, everything will continue to work the way it's supposed to.

Alternatively, if you do want to use the automatic artwork downloading feature, and have a lot of tracks that require it, the simplest solution might be to just reload your album artwork onto your iPod from your iTunes library. To do this, simply DEselect "Display Album Artwork", sync your iPod, and then REselect that option. This will remove ALL album artwork from your iPod, and then force iTunes to rebuild the artwork database, retransferring all of your album artwork in the process, whether it's in the file tags themselves or in iTunes' own artwork cache.



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Old 09-27-2006, 05:41 PM
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Thanks for the recap and update!






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Old 09-28-2006, 09:21 PM
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Great Information but . . .

I have a few questions . . .

I have already MANUALLY added artwork to all of my songs manually prior to 7.0. So when I upgraded, I allowed 7.0 to add the artwork. The problem is that if I transfer songs from my library to my Nano - take it to work - then plug it in to my work computer and launch iTunes 7.0 playing songs off of the Nano- the only songs that show up with artwork are those that I had previously manully added. All of the new songs do not show artwork, probably because they are stored ina seperate folder on my home computer?

Anyway, I tracked the new songs that I have added since 7.0 and MANUALLY added the artwork to the tags. I hope that this works . . .

Am I missing somethisng? Thanks.
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Old 09-28-2006, 09:25 PM
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Nope, that sounds about right.

When viewing album artwork ON your iPod display, the iPod uses an album artwork database created by iTunes for that purpose. When viewing content FROM your iPod (ie, through iTunes), the artwork will only show up if it's in the ID3 tag, as iTunes does not read the album artwork database for this purpose.

So, the tracks that you've added the artwork to manually will have the album artwork in the ID3 tag of the actual AAC/MP3 file, which is why you would see these when viewing your iPod through iTunes. However, the tracks to which you added artwork through iTunes' "Get Artwork" feature would not have the artwork embedded in the AAC/MP3 file, but rather only in the iPod's artwork database (for display ON the iPod), and of course in iTunes' own artwork cache on your home computer.

Basically, a summary of this is as follows:

When playing back music ON the iPod:
  • Artwork is pulled from the iPod album artwork database.
  • Artwork in the song files is ignored.
When viewing or playing music FROM the iPod (through iTunes):
  • Artwork is read from the song files.
  • Album artwork database on the iPod is ignored.
  • Album artwork cache in iTunes is ignored.
When viewing or playing music FROM iTunes:
  • Artwork is read from in the song files OR the artwork cache in iTunes.
When adding album artwork DIRECTLY to tracks (on iPod or in iTunes):
  • Artwork is embedded in the ID3 tags of the AAC/MP3 files.
  • The local album artwork cache is updated.
  • The iPod artwork database is NOT updated.
When adding album artwork through iTunes 7's new "Get Artwork" feature:
  • Artwork is NOT embedded in the ID3 tags of the AAC/MP3 files.
  • The local album artwork cache is updated.
When transferring songs from iTunes TO the iPod (automatic or manual):
  • Album artwork in the iTunes artwork cache OR the ID3/AAC tag is converted to the iPod album artwork database.




Last edited by Jesse Hollington; 09-28-2006 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 09-28-2006, 09:30 PM
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The following is a chart I put together to help illustrate the points above...




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Old 09-28-2006, 09:37 PM
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Thanks . . .

for your help . . .
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Old 09-28-2006, 11:11 PM
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this isn't true... ive tried everything above and it doesnt work it still don't display on the ipod
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Old 09-29-2006, 12:22 AM
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It's not an accurate statement to suggest that it's not true in general simply because it is not working properly in your particular situation.

The information stated above is the result of extensive testing on four different installations of iTunes and several different iPods. This is the way the feature is presently expected to work. However, it is entirely possible that there may be individual problems or bugs in how this is working on different systems and with different album artwork and track formats.

If you can provide more specific information on what sort of problems you are experiencing, I would be more than happy to provide any insight that I can.



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Old 09-29-2006, 01:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhollington
The following is a chart I put together to help illustrate the points above...
*kaboom* (head explodes)

Wow. Good work there, on what should theoretically be a simple thing. Hopefully that explains why one of my tests didn't show the artwork.
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Old 09-29-2006, 01:21 AM
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Can I ask, releated to the auto album cover, do you have to have an account with itunes store and credit card number to get these covers.
I have read that you can skip the credit card part and I have also read (plus screen capture)that you can't skip it. What is guys?


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Old 09-29-2006, 01:22 AM
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Thanks for the guide, it's very in-depth.

However, the only part that has me confused is the part about adding tracks directly to the song file. You say that when adding embedding artwork into the audio file, the iPod artwork database is NOT updated. You should probably clarify that you mean only when updating tracks ON the iPod. Because if you update artwork through iTunes and then sync to iPod, the artwork will get updated on the iPod. You clarified that earlier, but I got confused there for a second until I realized you meant updating tracks through manual management of the iPod.

Other than that, that sorted a lot of things out to me.

One question though. Do you know the steps iTunes takes towards caching album artwork? My iTunes "album artwork" folder is rather large, and I've only used the "get artwork" feature for maybe... two or three tracks? This leads me to believe iTunes is caching artwork for songs that actually have the artwork embedded in them, or is doing so from the point I installed iTunes 7.0 foward, if that makes sense. And to clarify, I don't have the "automatically get album artwork" box checked, yet I still see the information bar up top trying to get album artwork for certain songs I add to iTunes (I think it is anyways).
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:38 AM
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Need to manually rebuild iPod artwork database

So I need to rebuild my iPod artwork database from the images embedded in the file tags, as most of the tracks don't exist on the PC (CD rips). The one thing is seems iTunes won't do . There must be a market for a utility that will do this!
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Old 09-29-2006, 04:40 AM
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Thanks for the informative post. Forgive me for going over it again, but I just want to sure I'm following....

In my case I have over 500 albums on my home PC, with a further 20 on my work rig. When I upgraded to a 5th Gen iPod I spent many, many hours going through my entire collection manually adding album art - every album, every track.

Now that I've upgraded to iTunes 7 I've found, like you guys I guess, that my Ipod has suddenly lost most of it's album art.

When I connect it to either my home or work comps the artwork is there, but as soon as I try to play something via the iPod it doesn't show up.

The wierd thing is that some artwork does show up, whilst some doesn't. I have no idea why.

I've also tried deslecting & reselecting the 'display album art' setting through iTunes, with no result.

Can anyone suggets a way around this, or explain to me why some of the art is showing up whilst the majority doesn't?

Cheers.
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Old 09-29-2006, 08:03 AM
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A couple of other points of clarification in answer to the above questions:
  • If you are in manual mode, the ONLY way to put artwork back onto your iPod right now is to add the artwork to the song in iTunes and then re-transfer those tracks back to your iPod. The artwork can be added either manually or automatically, but it must be added to the file in iTunes and then the file transferred to the iPod.
  • Toggling the "Display Album Artwork" checkbox will only work if you are using automatic synchronization, since iTunes has to be able to match the artwork from the songs in your library to the songs on your iPod. If you are using manual mode, there will be no association between these tracks, so iTunes of course won't know what artwork to add.
  • If you are in automatic mode and choose to toggle the "Display Album Artwork" selection, you must UNcheck it, do a full auto sync, and REcheck it and sync again. Unchecking it and rechecking it without syncing will do nothing, since you're basically just telling iTunes to keep doing what it's already been doing. The key here is to look for the "APPLY" button and ensure you hit it after you remove the checkbox, and WAIT for the iPod to sync fully before REchecking the box.
  • Probably one of the most confusing issues is that if you have downloaded artwork for a track automatically, and then transfer that track to your iPod, you will get artwork on the iPod's screen, but you will not see artwork in the track if you view if from your iPod through iTunes. This has led a number of people using manual mode to conclude (incorrectly) that their artwork is NOT being transferred to the iPod. However, if you disconnect your iPod and actually play some of the tracks ON the iPod, you'll discover that the artwork is in fact there. Again, as above, the iPod reads an artwork database, while iTunes reads the image embedded in the track itself. With automatically downloaded artwork, it will be transferred to the database, but not embedded in the track.

With regards to the album artwork cache in iTunes, this exists primarily for the coverflow mode, since it would be very time-consuming to have to read every image from every file each time you accessed the coverflow view.

iTunes will actually cache all of the artwork images that are IN your tracks as well as those images that it downloads. It generally only caches one image per album/artist combination, compilation, or "album artist", but it will cache the artwork you already have as well as that which it downloads.

If you look in the "Album Artwork" directory under your iTunes directory ("My Music\iTunes" on Windows, "Music\iTunes" on the Mac), you will see two subdirectories, DOWNLOAD and LOCAL. Download contains those images downloaded via iTunes "Get Artwork" feature, while LOCAL is a cache of artwork that is already in the tracks.

Lastly, to use the "Get Album Artwork" feature, you do need an iTunes Store account, however whether or not you can skip the credit card validation process is something that is going to be dependent on which country you are operating in, and whether you've already setup an account with a gift certificate or gift card (which do not require a credit card number).




Last edited by Jesse Hollington; 09-29-2006 at 08:11 AM.
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Old 09-29-2006, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhollington
Alternatively, if you do want to use the automatic artwork downloading feature, and have a lot of tracks that require it, the simplest solution might be to just reload your album artwork onto your iPod from your iTunes library. To do this, simply DEselect "Display Album Artwork", sync your iPod, and then REselect that option. This will remove ALL album artwork from your iPod, and then force iTunes to rebuild the artwork database, retransferring all of your album artwork in the process, whether it's in the file tags themselves or in iTunes' own artwork cache.
You've done a great job explaining what has become quite the complex issue, thanks!

I would like to note, just so it is clear, that people should be well aware if you do decide to use the automatic artwork feature, as you note the file will not be embedded with the artwork but, as you note, you will be able to view it both in iTunes and on your iPod. What you won't be able to do is view the artwork in any other program, ever, as long as iTunes continues to go against the ID3 standard, even if not intended. No WMP, no winamp or any other player, you simply will only be able to use iTunes as a music manager when wanting to view artwork. I would recommend continuing to add to the file manually, just so the file is tagged according to the standard.

JWj
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Topic: To Clarify: iTunes 7 ALBUM ARTWORK Issues...

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