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5 Reasons I love my AppleTV

5 Reasons I love my AppleTV

I have been asked a few times, and most recently via twitter about how to get the most out of the Apple TV. With the dawn of Boxee many multimedia fans are looking at the Apple TV device in a whole new light. I am going to concentrate on how to get the most out of the Apple TV (but without the Boxee hack). applebig

There is little point in covering the main features of the device as we all know what it can do.

You can buy music, TV, and Movies directly from iTunes (including rentals and HD). You can watch YouTube video and look at Flickr photographs but where we get the best from the device is through integration with our very own iTunes library. I don’t use torrents for TV or movies so on the whole I am hoping all the processes described are above board and legal.


1. Working with TV

Given the Apple TV is designed to sit in the living room the most important issue is watching recorded TV. The current AppleTV doesn’t offer any direct TV service other than buying direct from iTunes.

To get TV to the Apple TV we go via an external aerial connected to a TV device such as Tubestick or Elgato TV device. This device is then connected to a Mac that does all the recording via a software application. Sounds complicated ? well the process of getting programmes broadcast on any digital freeview channel to the AppleTV is actually view easy.

As well as the benefit to the AppleTV the devices also offer the ability to watch and pause live TV and the ability to export to a range of formats including iPod, iPhone or DVD.


2. Home Video

Most families have an array of home video. Birthdays, Christmas, School plays all get recorded and generally don’t get too far beyond the tape or editing process. It is amazing how boring these videos are at the time of production yet view them in five years time and they have a whole new meaning.

The Apple TV offers a great showcase of home movies. If you edit the films in iMovie you can share them directly with iTunes and there is even a preset for Apple TV viewing (Share menu in iMovie).  If you have already made the films and they are not ‘Apple TV ready ‘then there are a few ways you can remedy this.

Firstly if you still have the amazing VisualHub application you can drag the films into this application and select the AppleTV setting.

VisualHub has been discontinued but if you are confident there are instructions on how to build it using the Techspansion open source code (here). This will not only convert the video it will also automatically add it to your iTunes library.

The second option is a Turbo.264 device, again a simple drag and drop process will have your video converted quickly thanks to the additional hardware acceleration. Finally, the third option is to import the movies into iMovie, re-render and export to AppleTV.

It might sound like a bit of hassle but you will appreciate it in ten years when you are watching life experiences you had completely forgotten.


3. Family Photos

It is funny the number of people who talk about backing up their digital photos. They are probably the most precious data on their computer yet when asked if they ever look at them the reply is always the same “I really must print them out”.

I won’t get into the brilliant photo books that can be created directly from iPhoto but the Apple TV is one of the main ways we view our photos. The Apple TV can store photos synced from your iPhoto (or Aperture) library.

I prefer to set up a smart album within iPhoto that generates the photos that are displayed on the Apple TV. Photos are the only media type that can’t be streamed to the Apple TV so these will always have to synced and stored on the device.

Not only will the Apple TV use the photos as a screensaver it will automatically display the images when you are playing music. It is a great way to remember experiences while listening to your favourite tracks and the Apple TV also displays the photos in a range of exciting ways.

4. DVD and Films

The biggest wrecker of DVD disks is kids. The disks get slapped into the player, they never return to their box after being viewed and if you can find a disk 3 months after your bought it you are lucky. Welcome Handbrake. I am not sure of the specific legal issues o
f using this process but I personally don’t think it is wrong to Handbrake DVDs that you own.

Insert the DVD into your Mac and let handbrake do the rest. There is even Apple TV preset making the process even easier. Once the conversion is complete you need to double click the file it adds to your desktop, this will add the film to iTunes where it can then be synced with the AppleTV.

5. Streaming Media

Should you go for the larger Apple TV or stick with the 40GB. To be honest I think I could cope with the 40GB version as the Apple TV can stream TV, films and music directly from any iTunes library on your LAN.

You can only sync with one library but you can stream from any, this useful if you have a few family members with Macs and a diversity of musical taste. Setting up a share is really easy and the Apple TV Movies, TV and music automatically populate with the content.

remoteFive key benefits without even counting YouTube, Flickr, MobileMe and the ability to rent movies in HD directly from the iTunes store. You can also control the Apple TV via the iPhone or iPod Touch remote app. Available from the iTunes Apps store (Free).

Click here for more information on the Apple TV.

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