How To Stream Videos To Your Apple TV
First get your video into a format playable by iTunes. The general rule seems to be, if a file plays in iTunes, it will play on the Apple TV. AVI files aren’t compatible. I’ve decided on MP4 as my format of choice.
If you already have some video files, use iSquint to convert your files. Change the setting to Optimize for TV. iSquint can convert AVIs and WMV files to MP4.
You can also use Handbrake to rip a DVD directly into MP4 format. It rips and compresses in one step. They have a preset for AppleTV but I’ve used the default “Normal” setting successfully.
To do this, insert a DVD, and launch Handbrake. Click Source and select your DVD. Then use the Title drop down to select the movie or TV show. For TV shows, each episode will show up as a different chapter group you can choose. You can usually figure out which group is which episode by its order and running time. Here, it’s safe to assume the first four titles are the first four episodes because of the running time.
Note: If your program has subtitles, make sure to change the setting that has them appear, or your ripped file won’t have them. This is under Audio & Subtitles.
Once you’re have a title selected, click Start and wait a long time. After it’s all done you’ll have a video file that plays in QuickTime Player, VLC, or iTunes.
Now that you have some video files, let’s get them into iTunes for streaming to the Apple TV. I recommend storing video files on an external drive. To do this you have to first keep iTunes from copying the files into its own iTunes library. First copy your video to the external drive. Then open iTunes, go to Preferences, and then Advanced. Uncheck the check box “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library”. Now when you add your movie files to iTunes, they’ll stay on the external drive.
Now drag all your video files into iTunes, or use File -> Add To Library.
By default, imported videos appear in the movie section. If you just added a movie, you’re pretty much done except for changing the title to the title of the movie.
If you’re dealing with television shows, the meta data is more complex – in particular all the episode information. The metadata is an important step as it’s used to organize your files in both iTunes and on the Apple TV. You want to have descriptive tags rather than just the name of the video file, otherwise navigating to the episodes via the Apple TV will be difficult.
So for TV shows, first visit a site like Episode Guides for the particular show I’m dealing with and find out all this tagging information.
Then in the iTunes movie area, select the first episode file and open up the info window. Change the type to “TV Show” and add the season and episode number. For Episode ID I’ve been using the season followed by the episode number. Use the next button to move onto the next episode.
The files will disappear from the movie view, so change over to the TV Show area of the iTunes library. Now they’ll appear a bit differently, using the file name as the episode name. Do an info view here and change each episode title to its correct name. Don’t worry, the references to the video files won’t break.
You can also add cover art. Create an image that is at minimum 300 pixels high. Then select all the shows and get info. A pop up appears where you can edit multiple items. Paste your art into the Artwork square and click OK.
Now take a look at the TV view and enjoy your anal retentive metadata tweaking.
Note: If this metadata stuff is a little too hairy for you, try Lostify which will add metadata before importing into iTunes.
Now that you have your TV shows in iTunes with decent tags, you can access them via the Apple TV. Make sure iTunes is running on the computer you want to stream from. Then fire up your Apple TV and go to Sources. You should see the shared iTunes library that’s located on your computer. Select it, and you’ll get access to that library. Under TV shows you’ll see the television episodes you just set up, organized in a friendly way.