Movie files show in Mac OS X Finder with an example frame from the movie. Unfortunately, it's captured from fairly early in the movie, so that different episodes of a series, or perhaps different movies from the same studio, will all end up with with essentially the same frame from the titles, rather than having a distinctive icon. (Which would sure be nice for my son, who can't read the filenames but would instantly recognize many frames from the films that fill our drive on the media machine.)

Best solution would be if I could specify which frame of the movie is used for the icon. Sort of like how, in Keynote, you can scrub to pick the representative frame to show before the movie on your slide begins playing.

Perhaps 2nd place would be if I could just change how far in it samples (maybe instead of 10 seconds, or whatever, 2 minutes in would be more likely to show a distinctive capture).

Anybody know how to do this?


Indeed, the choice of still frames is sometimes very bad.

enter image description here

I'm not aware of any way to do this automatically, but in general, you can change the icon for anything in Finder using the following method.

1. Getting a proper screenshot

Open the movie in QuickTime (version 7 would be preferred), VLC, or any other video player. Scroll to the frame you want as a preview.

In QuickTime 7, you can just press C to copy a frame. In any other video player, press 4 and drag over the frame to make a selection screenshot of this particular frame, which will be available in the clipboard.

You can also just let VLC make a snapshot to a file, or open any picture in Preview.app, go to Edit » Select All, then Edit » Copy.

2. Applying the new preview

Now, navigate to the file in Finder, press I (or right-click, Get Info), and click the small movie icon at the top left:

enter image description here

Click it, so that it's highlighted in blue.

Press Cmd-V to paste the screenshot or picture you've copied into the clipboard before.

enter image description here

Your movie will now have a new preview:

enter image description here

3. Changing or deleting the preview

If you look closely, you can see that the file size has increased. This screenshot will be "carried" with the file, even when you move it somewhere else.

If you want to remove it again, just click the small thumbnail in the Get Info dialog, and press . To change it, just paste over the custom icon.

  • Tried and true with my first Mac. I wish there was a way to do it automatically though – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Nov 12 '11 at 15:56
  • @Luke You're absolutely right. I don't know if there are any decent organization tools for movie libraries (like Plex), which could automatically add more representative screengrabs. Alternatively, it might be possible to edit the icns resource fork used for the icon separately. One could probably also script that. – slhck Nov 12 '11 at 16:01
  • But I'm not THAT smart with Macs :p lol – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Nov 12 '11 at 16:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.