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This is a quick DIY procedure for Apple Mac users who want to create, store and stream movies (converted from DVD, downloaded online or from TiVo etc.) to their Macs — or at some very nominal cost, to iPod Touch, iPhone and/or iPads too. I do this to time-shift videos in a format that works for me, so I can watch them on demand — whenever, wherever and however I find the time to enjoy them.

When streaming a movie from server to client the movie is not downloaded — it plays on demand. No need to take time out to copy videos to the client device before watching them — using up valuable disk or RAM space in the process. The videos are stored in one location, the server, and are available for playback on one or more remote clients — on demand (just wait a few seconds for the initial buffer to set up). In lieu of the video being locally stored, you need to have a good network connection to your server.

I use this system to stream movies around my household on a private wireless network — but the server software is capable of streaming over the internet. If you choose to do that you’ll need to follow deeper links into the respective vendors’ websites for their setup instructions — plus I recommend that you use a strong server password so as not to broadcast publicly.

Here’s what you’ll need to do …

  • Store a bunch of H.264 encoded .mp4’s on a Mac that will become your streaming server (PPC or Intel, I’m using an old G5)
  • Install, configure and run Inmethod’s AirVideo Server on the Mac where the movies are stored.
  • On the remote Mac, install the AirVideo Mac client, configure and … enjoy watching your movies (over your local network, over the internet if you must)

 


 
Movies …

Create a bunch of H.264 encoded .mp4’s and store them in a folder hierarchy to suit your storage needs — perhaps alphabetically with aliases in named category folders, whatever works for you. Decide what size/resolution works best for your needs. The AirVideo system will convert other video formats on the fly at some cost in performance, delays and occasional glitches — and also impede the ability of several people to stream from your server simultaneously. I strongly suggest you serve up only H.264 encoded .mp4’s.

Tools you might find useful to do this are QuickTime Pro, iSquint (used to convert TiVo files, downloaded AVIs etc. to .mp4) and HandBrake (used for converting DVDs to .mp4) — amongst many others.

Take note of the path to the root folder for your movie library — you’ll need to be able to navigate to this folder when configuring AirVideo Server.

 
Server …

The AirVideo Server software is technically free, but is intended to support the paid purchases of their iPhone and iPad clients — I paid $2.99 for my iPhone/iPad client BTW, and even bought several more copies as gifts for family and friends visiting my home over Christmas.

Download, run and configure the AirVideo Server on the same Mac where the videos are stored. Primarily this involves pointing it to the folder which contains your movies plus a couple of other options. You can ignore most of the conversion options if you heeded my advice to create and store only H.264 encoded .mp4’s earlier.

Since you’ll need to use the server’s IP number to configure the Mac AirVideo client you may want to manually allocate it a fixed, rather than a dynamic, number — else you’ll have to reconfigure your clients each time the Server’s IP number changes. Jot down the server’s IP number now.

 
Client …

Download, install and configure the Mac AirVideo client to all the macs you’ll be wanting to stream movies to. You’ll need the IP number of the server to connect to. The software needs VLC Player installed to convert FLV files — even you’re not using that format and you may be directed to download and install it.

Launch the Mac AirVideo client, click on the Edit Servers button, then (under the Servers tab) enter a server Name and its Location (the IP number you jotted down earlier), then hit Save. You’ll find more setup instructions here.

Now go back to the left window and select server by Name from the pull down list and hit Connect. If all is well you’ll see your storage hierarchy show up.

Navigate through your storage hierarchy to the move you want to stream, double-click on it — then click on the Quicktime button in the right window (under the Video tab) to play it. Expand to full screen mode. Enjoy!

*FREE here refers to the cost of the software applications, but please consider buying an AirVideo client for iPod Touch, iPhone and/or iPad from the iTunes store for $2.99. Using Inmethod’s client software you can direct the movie’s audio to AirTunes for richer sound — something you can’t do from the Mac client using the QuickTime Player. I stream video to my iPad and send the sound back out wirelessly to a 5.1 surround sound amp via AirTunes — and am completely immersed in theatre quality sound. Awesome. Hopefully Inmethod will have an equivalent Mac client for sale at the Mac App store soon — which will play sound out through AirTunes too!

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