Why Are Images from My TV Different if I Use Apps on the TV or my Apple TV?

I was watching something I had ripped on Plex recently, and I noticed that it looked a bit faded, muted, even veiled when I streamed it through the Plex app on my Apple TV 4K, compared to streaming it through the Plex app on my TV. I thought that, perhaps, the app itself had some way of rendering the colors and sharpness that was different on the two devices.

Then I tried some other apps, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The output from each source was very different. With Netflix, the TV looks a lot muddier than when I stream from the Apple TV, and with Amazon Prime Video, the colors are very different.

Here’s an example, from the beginning of the first episode of Person of Interest. I took this photo of the image streamed via the Apple TV app:

Apple tv

And here’s the same scene from the Amazon app on my TV:

Tv

Checking my TV’s settings, I made sure that the settings apply to all sources. The Apple TV shouldn’t change much; you can choose whether it plays HDR and either 50 or 60 Hz, but neither of these settings made a difference. There’s also a color gamut setting, but that didn’t make any difference either.

The color cast difference in the two photos above is quite striking, and much more of a difference than what I saw from Plex. The brightness and saturation are also very different.

Does anyone know why I’m seeing such a difference in colors, sharpness, and contrast between the two? Theoretically, these apps should be sending the same data regardless of source.

Yet another reason why I hate TVs.

Apple Phasing Out iTunes Store Access for Original Apple TV

Apple TV 1st GenRemember the 1st generation Apple TV? The one that was a sort of iPod for the living room? You’d sync content to it from your iTunes library, then watch it on your TV, using HDMI or component video connections.

This has long been an obsolete device, but Apple is adding another limitation.

Also beginning May 25, security changes will prevent Apple TV (1st generation) from using the iTunes Store. This device is an obsolete Apple product and will not be updated to support these security changes.

After the changes, you’ll only be able to access the iTunes Store on Apple TV (2nd generation) or later.

I only recall syncing content to the 1st generation Apple TV, not accessing the iTunes Store directly on the device. So I’m not sure if you’ll be able to use it by manually syncing content in the future or if it is truly dead.

The 1st generation Apple TV was available with either 40 or 160 GB storage, and is still a useful device. Does anyone still use one? If so, what do you plan to do after this change?

How to Take Screenshots of the Apple TV – Look, Ma, No Wires Edition

Two years ago, I wrote about how you can take screenshots of the Apple TV. At the time, you needed to connect the device to a Mac and use Xcode – Apple’s developer environment – to capture what’s on your TV screen.

This has become a lot simpler lately: you can now do this without wires. This means you can leave your Apple TV in the living room, and take screenshots from any Mac on the same network.

If you do need to take screenshots of the Apple TV – something that generally only developers and journalists need to do – here’s how.

First, make sure your Apple TV is awake, and your TV is on; you’ll need to view it briefly.

Next, fire up Xcode, then choose Window > Devices & Simulators. Click your Apple TV in the Discovered sidebar, then click Pair with your Apple TV. You’ll see a screen asking you to enter the six-digit code displayed on your TV; go to the other room and get the code, then enter it.

Apple tv1

You’ll next see a screen like this:

Appletv2

You can now click Take Screenshot to capture the screen. Of course, you still need to go back to where the Apple TV is located to navigate through menus and select items, since Xcode can’t (unfortunately) display what the Apple TV is showing in real time.

Screenshots are saved to your Mac’s Desktop.

h/t Rob G..

Don’t Buy an Apple TV 4K if You Don’t Have Fast Internet

I was very interested in getting the new Apple TV 4K. I wanted to be able to view 4K movies on my 4K TV. I can already do this to some extent with Amazon Prime Video, and the quality is impressive. However, Apple has published a support document that explains the requirements for accessing 4K content.

You won’t be able to download 4K movies; you’ll only be able to stream them.

You can download a local copy of an HD movie, and you might be able to download HDR and Dolby Vision versions, but you can’t download a 4K version.

And you’ll need a 25 Mbps connection to get 4K content. Otherwise you’ll just get HD or SD:

The higher the quality of the video that you’re trying to stream, the faster your Internet connection has to be. (Apple recommends a minimum speed of 25 Mbps for 4K streaming.) Your Apple devices automatically switch the video quality to a lower quality version if your Internet connection isn’t fast enough.

Yet again, Apple hits users without fast internet connections. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to download a movie, even if I do so overnight because my connection isn’t fast enough to do in when I want to watch it. And what about people with bandwidth caps? If they want to watch a movie several times, I assume the content will be stored in the Apple TV until more content is streamed overwriting it. But if you want to watch a movie again after you’ve watched a few others, then it won’t be local.

I assume these restrictions have something to do with Apple’s agreement with movie studios. But they do highlight he fact that you don’t own the movies you buy from the iTunes Store; you are merely renting them. You can’t do what you want with them, you can’t even back them up in case they are removed from the store.

Learn How to Do Everything with the Apple TV 4 in Take Control of Apple TV, Second Edition

Tc apple tvWhether you’re considering an Apple TV or you already have one, you can more fully enjoy Apple’s entertainment device with this ultimate guide by TidBITS managing editor Josh Centers. You’ll learn how to set it up and use it to watch movies and TV shows, play music, display your photos, give presentations, and run all manner of apps on the big screen.

Josh walks you through cables, ports, and setup, and explains how to use gestures and spoken commands with the Siri Remote — yes, you can talk to your TV! He helps you navigate and customize the Home screen, plus describes getting-started settings such as inputting your Apple ID and enabling parental controls.

The book, which is organized to make it easy to find the topic you need now, walks you through using the built-in apps for playing iTunes Store video and describes how to download apps for Comedy Central, Disney, ESPN, HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, PBS, YouTube, and more — complete with clickable Web activation links for 50 video apps, so you don’t have to type those Web URLs by hand. But you’re not restricted to commercial video: Josh explains how you can best view home movies and any DVDs or Blu-ray discs you own.

The book also looks at using an Apple TV to listen to your music or Apple Music, download and play podcasts from iTunes, and browse your photos. An important new feature of the Apple TV is its App Store, and you’ll find recommendations for apps that bring fitness, food, mapping, shopping, art, gaming, and more to your big screen.

Bonus! A special cheat sheet summarizes key Siri Remote tips and spoken commands so that you can easily try them from the couch.

Get Take Control of Apple TV, Second Edition.

The best way to watch media on the new Apple TV: iTunes Home Sharing vs. Plex

With the release of the fourth-generation model, the Apple TV has opened up to third-party apps. You are no longer limited to getting local media from your iTunes library. One of the first apps that lets you use other sources is Plex, which “organizes your video, music, and photo collections and streams them to all of your screens.”

I had tried out Plex some years ago, and found it as enjoyable as installing Linux on a computer. But the company has made great strides in improving the software, and as soon as the Apple TV app was available, I installed it on my device. In this article, I’m going to compare the two for streaming content to an Apple TV. I’ll also discuss using these two methods to share content on other devices.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

Password Entry on the Apple TV 4 Sucks, but There Is an Easier Way

From day one with the Apple TV, I have hated the way you enter passwords. Some bright UI designer at Apple felt that a single line of characters when you enter passwords was cool, but ignored the fact that it takes way too long to navigate that line.

Rob Griffiths found how to bring back the old password grid, which makes it much easier to enter passwords. Did you keep the remote from your previous Apple TV? Well, it will come in handy now.

Do You Need to Take Screenshots of the Apple TV? Here’s How to Do It

Whenever a new gadget is released, we tech writers have to figure out how to take screenshots of the device. It is important that we are able to show readers what the display looks like when we are describing features. You may wish to do this too: you may want to capture a screen to share with a friend or you may need to take a screenshot for someone providing tech support.

With the Apple TV, it’s not that simple. You can’t take a screenshot on the device itself; at least no one has found that magic sequence of button-presses on the remote that captures the display and sends a photo to your iCloud Photo Library. But you may still, even if you’re not a tech writer, need to capture images from the Apple TV, if you are, say, a teacher or trainer. You could just take photos of your TV screen, but that never looks very good.

There are two ways to grab screenshots of the Apple TV, though one is much better than the other. I’ll start with the one I don’t use, then explain the better way to do this.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

How to Stream Content from Your iTunes Library to the Apple TV

When Apple introduced the latest version of the Apple TV, a lot of people were worried that they would no longer be able to stream content from their iTunes libraries. In the screenshots on the Apple website, the Computers tile isn’t shown, and on the Tech Specs page, nothing said that you could still use Home Sharing to access your iTunes library.

Well, rest assured; nothing much has changed. You can still stream music and videos from your iTunes library, as you have been able to do for years. You can watch movies and TV shows, you can stream music, and you can listen to podcasts and audiobooks on the Apple TV. Here’s how you set up and use the Apple TV to access media in your iTunes library.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

New Apple TV Unable to Play Certain Videos

A number of Apple TV users are reporting that, when they try to play certain videos, they get messages saying:

This content cannot be played because its format is not compatible with the Apple TV

In a thread on Apple’s support forum, users are discussing what might be causing this. The Apple TV is compatible with the following video formats:

  • H.264 video up to 1080p, 60 frames per second, High or Main Profile level 4.2 or lower
  • H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
  • MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

It seems, that in some cases, the issue is the bit rate used to rip DVDs or Blu-Rays. One forum poster reported the following:

  • Works: Low Complexity, MPEG-4 video file, 1079 kbps, 720 x 304, MPEG-4 video codec
  • Does Not Work: Low Complexity, MPEG-4 video file, 1296 kbps, 720 x 404, MPEG-4 video codec
  • Works: Low Complexity, MPEG-4 video file, 4380 kbps, 720 x 540, H.264 video codec
  • Does Not Work: Low Complexity, MPEG-4 video file, 2026 kbps, 720 x 540, MPEG-4 video codec

I have to say, ripping videos has always seemed to be a black art. When you look at the settings in Handbrake, it’s not clear what is the best way to rip a video. I’ve always just used High Profile, and I’ve never – yet – had any problems. I have Blu-Rays that I’ve ripped with that profile that exceed 6000 kbps, and they’ve always worked fine; I’ve tried some on the new Apple TV, and I haven’t had any issues yet.

But there are also different codecs. Unlike music, where the codecs don’t change very often, video compression is constantly being improved and tweaked. The new Apple TV has, in particular, a limitation regarding what types of videos using the MPEG-4 codec. But I doubt many people have used MPEG-4 in a very long time. If you do use have videos encoded with MPEG-4, you may need to convert them to H.264, which seems to be the codec that will be supported the most for a while. (Though the newer H.265 is available).