Conundrum: Syncing Personal Media From Multiple Sources

So you’ve got this great Mac, and you’ve probably got some great photos or video of the family, or that mountain bike adventure, or the last rock concert you and your friends attended. Whether you like to show off these great moments and experiences on your mobile iDevice, or at home on the computer or high-def TV, the same conundrum can occur: How do you store and organize all this great stuff so it’s easily accessible in one place all the time?

I’m sure I know what you’re grumbling right now: “iPhoto/Aperture does that, what’s the big deal?” Well, if you want to get right to the good stuff — all the good stuff — without scrubbing through the chaff first, there may be a better way to address the situation.

The situation as I see it, looks something like this:

  • Over time, I’ve used iPhoto, so I have some photos there.
  • I also, and exclusively now, use Aperture.
  • I’ve got random video clips from the point-and-shoot camera that are scattered around Finder and iPhoto.
  • I’ve got Flip video in the Flip version of iPhoto.
  • I’ve got photos and HD video from my iPhone 4 in Aperture.

I realize that maybe I’m just sorely disorganized (ok, I know I am), but I’m guessing similar conditions probably exist in many a household out there in reader-land. Sharing all of this from my Mac is one thing. At least it’s all right there, so even if I have to switch apps and dig a little bit, I can get to it. But then there’s the real kicker: How do I elegantly get all of the good stuff synced to my mobile iDevice to share on the go?

My Solution

The solution I came up with isn’t necessarily the best (please share your own in the comments for the good of the community!), but it has certainly proven to suit my needs. Basically, I siphon all of the photos and personal video from their various locations (older iPhoto libraries, various Aperture libraries, Flip Video, Finder, and so on) and drop them all into a single iPhoto library (which I’ve named ‘sync’).

If you’re unfamiliar with creating a new iPhoto library, it’s quite easy. When you launch iPhoto, hold down the Option key, and a dialogue will ask you if you want to select a different library, or create a new one. Once I created the new library and dragged all my media in, I made sure it was organized in a way that made sense for me to show it off. So I’ve got ‘Family 2009’, ‘Family 2010’, ‘Photography’, and ‘Home Movies’ albums for easy access to everything. Of course, you may want to drill down to specific events like iPhoto and Aperture do, so do whatever makes most sense for your needs.

The beauty of this particular solution is that since Aperture is my main photo application, iPhoto is left untouched. Therefore, leaving the ‘sync’ library as the default in iPhoto means it’s always available for syncing to my iPhone. And of course if I’m at home I can pull up iPhoto on the MacBook or big screen to easily share the content that I want without having to sift through tons of other media that isn’t nearly as interesting.

The downside here is that whenever you have new photos or videos, you have to manually drag and drop them into your new ‘Sync’ iPhoto library. Although with a little time and know-how, Automator could be utilized to solve this problem as well.

If you’ve run into the same problem, and developed your own workaround, we’d love to hear your solution as well.