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).

Use the Old Apple TV Remote with the New Apple TV

ImageIf you have a new Apple TV, you may have already discovered that the new remote is not the ideal device for navigating lists in the Apple TV’s interface. If, for example, you have a long list of movies, and want to view one near the bottom of the list, you need to swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, until you get to where you want.

However, you can still use the old Apple TV remote – the one to the left – with the new device. You can navigate much more easily by pressing the up and down buttons; and you can press and hold to move up or down a list quickly. And entering passwords, something that is hellish on the new Apple TV – is even easier with the old remote; you can press and hold the left and right buttons to move through the letter list.

So if you have one of these remotes, you might want to keep it handy. Unless you need the touch pad on the new remote, such as for playing a game, you may find the old remote easier to use. And it’s probably easier to use with a lot of games too.

Amazon Will Ban Sale of Apple, Google Video-Streaming Devices – Bloomberg Business

Amazon.com Inc. is flexing its e-commerce muscles to gain an edge on competitors in the video-streaming market by ending the sale of devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc.

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon’s streaming video service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run easily on rival’s devices.

Hmm… While this sounds like an abuse of dominant position on Amazon’s part, I would really like to see a Prime Video app on the Apple TV.

With the new Apple TV coming out in November, and offering an app store, I would assume this will be possible. Apple doesn’t prevent Amazon from having its apps in the iOS App Store, and would probably not be allowed to do so on the Apple TV App Store. If this is the case, is Amazon just doing this to attack Google?

Source: Amazon Will Ban Sale of Apple, Google Video-Streaming Devices – Bloomberg Business

Why You Don’t Want the New Apple TV if You Just Want to Stream Audio

The new Apple TV is a great device, for using with a TV. But if you want to connect it to an amplifier, to stream music over AirPlay, then it’s not for you. Here’s what the back of the device looks like:

Apple tv

You’ll notice that there is no longer a Toslink (optical audio) output on the back of the Apple TV. The only option you have is HDMI; this is fine to connect to a TV or AV amplifier, but if you want to connect an Apple TV to a DAC, and then to an amp, you’re out of luck. Of course, one option is to use both: an Apple TV 3 for music only, and the new Apple TV for videos, games, apps, etc.

You can still buy the Apple TV 3, which does have a Toslink output; Apple hasn’t discontinued that model, and I speculate they’ll keep it around for a while.

And if you want to stream music to a speaker that doesn’t have AirPlay built in, then you’ll need an AirPort Express, which has a standard headphone jack at the back. (The AirPort Express has a combined analog/digital jack.)

It’s also worth noting that the new Apple TV also only has 10/100BASE?T Ethernet, and that Ethernet is slower than the 802.11ac wi-fi.

Update: As a commenter points out, HDMI allows for DRM, whereas Toslink doesn’t. This could be the reason for the elimination of the digital optical output: since you can stream Apple Music on the Apple TV, perhaps Apple needs to ensure that you can’t easily copy music you play from it.

Where is Apple Music on the Apple TV?

Apple Music, launched with fanfare on June 30, is noticeably absent from the Apple TV. When you visit the Music app on the Apple TV, there is still a tab for iTunes Match, which is all but invisible in iTunes and on iOS. But nothing about Apple Music. It’s as though Apple forgot about the Apple TV.

Or maybe they have bigger plans and they got delayed. Zac Clichy, writing on his blog, suggests that it will be the new MTV:

I believe it will be video centric. Music videos. iTunes Festival. Live camera streams of Beats 1 DJ’s. Perhaps even entirely new live content.

It’s clear that video is going to be a part of Apple Music – you can already view music videos, if you can find them – but will Apple try and make a new MTV? I don’t buy the idea of live streams of DJs, but they do already have the iTunes Festival, and could certainly add more.

How about pay-per-view concerts? The Grateful Dead’s final-reunion concerts set a record for paid live streams of concerts with 175,000 people paying $80 for the series. (That’s a gross of $14 million.) I saw the final show in a cinema here in the UK, the next day (because of time zone differences), and attendance was sparse, because the Grateful Dead are not well known here. But after the concert, I started wondering why other bands haven’t done the streaming-to-cinema thing for live concerts.

“Event cinema,” which includes plays, classical concerts, operas, and more, is quite a big thing in the UK, but it hasn’t really taken off in the US. Imagine if you could stream these events over an Apple TV instead of having to go to a movie theater. How about a Rolling Stones concert, or one by Taylor Swift? You’d get lots of people willing to spend, say, $20 to watch one. Or how about a festival pass to Bonnaroo or Glastonbury (whose concerts are almost all filmed, with many broadcast on the BBC), allowing you to watch live, and to stream the concerts later?

Apple was due to update the Apple TV hardware, but this has been delayed. This could explain the fact that Apple Music is not present. But there has also been lots of talk about Apple trying to patch together some sort of video streaming service for the Apple TV, and Apple Music may be a part of that, though with more images together with the music.

Update: With the release of the Apple TV 4th generation, you can obviously access Apple Music. But it’s still not available on the 3rd generation Apple TV, and my guess is that it never will be. Apple is too invested in getting the new hardware into the hands and living rooms of users to want to support the older model. This is foolish, because many people who have no need for the new device could be tempted to subscribe to Apple Music if they can use it in the living room.

How Apple’s AirPlay Streams Audio

I got a question from a reader asking how Apple’s AirPlay streams audio. The question specifically asked about how audio files are converted, and whether AirPlay reduces their quality.

Apple doesn’t provide much information about AirPlay, and I found a number of articles and forum posts where people described complex testing routines to determine the bit depth and sample rate of music streamed to AirPlay devices, such as an Apple TV or AirPort Express. But you don’t need to go to such great lengths to figure this out. Simply open Audio-MIDI Setup on a Mac, and select AirPlay.

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As you can see above, AirPlay streams at 16-bit, 44,100 kHz. However, what you don’t see is that AirPlay streams music in Apple Lossless format. What this means is that no matter what format your music is in, it gets converted by OS X – not by iTunes – to Apple Lossless, to ensure the highest quality. So lossless files will be streamed as lossless, as will AAC or MP3 files.

However, high-resolution files will be downsampled to 16/44.1. Interestingly, the Apple TV outputs audio in 48 kHZ, most likely because this is 48 kHz is the standard for movie and TV audio[1]. Movies sold by the iTunes Store contain audio at 48 kHz, but only at 160 kbps.