Is Apple TV Right for me?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by martinmartin, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. martinmartin macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2007
    I have a lot of DVDs. A year or so ago, I bought a MediaBridge (link at the end of this post) with the hopes that I could rip all of my DVDs to an external hard drive and play them on my entertainment system with the click of a few remote buttons. It worked just OK - it had a hard time streaming, the user interface left much to be desired and overall I just wasn't crazy about it. It's no longer hooked up.

    So I have a lot of DVDs that have been ripped to an external hard drive in the native VOB format. Can Apple TV play these? If not, would I have to encode everything to MP4 (or something else) using HandBrake? How much does quality suffer by doing this and playing on a 50in 1080p television?

    Ideally, I would like as close to DVD quality as possible. I am somewhat of an audio nut and have a relatively serious audio system hooked up to my TV - would audio suffer from these formatting changes?

    I guess my question (in addition to those above) is, can I hook up these hard drives to my computer and stream the movies to the apple TV in a painless way? Can I select the movie on the ATV and play it immediately if the file isn't on the local ATV drive?


    (MediaBridge link -

    Edit - if you are familiar with Kaleidescape, that is exactly what I'm looking for...without paying 10-30 thousand.
  2. MikieMikie macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    Newton, MA
    Not as it comes. You can hack it to play them.

    That's typically what all of us do. There is also a good commercial product, Visual Hub, but Handbrake does fine.

    I have a Smasung 1080p 57" DLP HDTV. If I use the Apple TV preset, it's basically DVD quality. No one seems to notice the difference. In some (rare) shots, I get some light mosaic effects in clouds/steam/smoke. But this is rare. If it bothers me, I just re-encode the film at a higher quality level.

    For now, at least until Take 2 software is released, all audio output from the Apple TV is Dolby II

    That's what I do, and what most of the other forum members do. I bought the 160 GB unit so I could have my music and photos handy at all times. But I stream film and tv shows.

    There's a little bit of labor involved -- encoding with handbrake and then tagging the movies with picture/poster art, director info, etc., but for me, that's a part I enjoy. It's like a benign hobby.

    For me, getting my optical media out of the living room was a true blessing, and having my music and photos there is a tremendous asset.
  3. jbellanca macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2007
    Just wanted to second what MikieMikie said... I converted all my DVD's to MP4 using Handbrake, and some HD stuff using VH, and the quality is indistinguishable from DVD if you do the conversion at a high enough bitrate (2000-2500). Way waste all the space in VOB files in MPEG2 format when you can compress down even further with MPEG4? Your only issue, depending on how you view the problem, is until Take 2 comes out, you can' play back AC3 sound... but Take 2 supposedly will fix that, so we can have AC3 5.1 passthough.

    Long story short... yes, AppleTv is right for you, and I think once you get your stuff converted, you'll love it.
  4. martinmartin thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2007
    Mikie - thanks very much for the reply, very informative. Jbellanca - thank you also. I'm not familiar with AC3 sound, though - I'm more of an audio snob than a guru I suppose...

    Just a few follow up questions - how intrusive is the VOB hack?

    What, if any, settings would you change in the AppleTV preset in Handbrake?

    So the basic scenario is: import using mac the ripper, convert Video folder to mpeg4 using handbrake/VH, (delete video folder), import to itunes (delete original handbrake file), add artwork, etc. Then everything is accessible by streaming to ATV?

    I have an Airport Extreme Base Station, but unfortunately I'm not using it as I have Verizon Fios and their Modem/wireless router is 1 unit (and isn't 802.11 n). I've read it is possible to use the AEBS with their modem, but I don't think it's easy... Do people generally have no problem wirelessly streaming on networks that aren't 'n'?

    Thanks again.
  5. hauss316H macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2007
    America's Wang!
    i have the same setup, plug it into AEBS and enjoy
  6. jbellanca macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2007
    So, AC3 has 6 discrete audio signals (5 channels + 1 subwoofer), but :apple:TV 1.1 will only play up to Dolby ProLogic II, which has 5 channels encoded into a L+R audio stream... therefore, not as good as true 5.1. Good, but not quite the same. :apple:TV 2.0 will change this, so if you do end up converting your movies, if any have *good* sound (for me, say, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Matrix, not you average romantic comedy), I'd wait to convert those until :apple:TV 2.0 is out.

    I'm assuming you're talking about installing nitoTV to play back VIDEO_TS folders. You basically download a small "USB stick" image, boot the :apple:TV from it, and then install the software you want... the problem I see with this is, 2.0 will be out in a week and everything will change. It will likely take some time for the same hacks to be ported to 2.0. Personally, I'd shy away from this until 2.0 is out and the hacks are ported. Even so, I've heard that nitoTV is unstable... haven't used it myself. Again, I'd recommend converting your movies to MP4. Your DVD's are in MPEG2 format; :apple:TV likes MPEG4 format. MP4 has better compression algorithms, so you can fit the same quality in a lower bitrate/file size, so you really can covert a 6-7 GB movie down to 2-4 GB and not lose quality. (I say 2-5 GB because you'll probably want to experiment with a few short clips to see what quality you'd be happy with.)

    So, I basically use the following bitrates:

    2500 video / 160 audio = High quality action/sci-fi flicks, Movies I love
    2200 video / 160 audio = Normal action flicks
    2000 video / 160 audio = Normal movies
    1800 video / 128 audio = Older movies, lower quality movies, movies I don't care about as much

    But many people use the default :apple:TV setting, which is 2500 video, 160 audio. You'll get results that look EXACTLY like the DVD. Do a few tests with some small clips - most people find that you can go down to 2000 video and not see much difference - it's all up to your eye. If you really need to have the highest quality, by all means, stick to the 2500 default setting. OH, i DO recommend though that you turn on 2-pass encoding and select turbo first-pass. This will help improve the quality even more. Watch out for TV shows, particularly older ones, or some independent films - you may need to turn on deinterlacing in the video settings (look at the preview and if you see interlaced lines - you'll know them when you see them - turn deinterlacing on).

    Yes and No. HB will rip most DVD's without needing to go through Mac the Ripper. Other than that, you got it right. However, I rip everything with MTR anyway, because ripping a DVD takes 15 mins, but encoding takes 1-2 hours, so right now as I'm converting my library, I'm ripping lots of movies at once and keep adding them to my HB queue so it's constantly encoding overnight, at work, etc.

    I also have an AEBS, with an external TB drive attached to it that I store my movies on. After one's converted and on the drive, I use MetaX to add tags to it (movie name, actors, director, artwork/poster, etc.). Then I Option-Drag it into iTunes so it keeps the file on the external drive and doesn't copy it into my iTunes music folder. Works perfectly.

    My house is less than 5 years old, and I had it wired for gigabit ethernet throughout, so I'm not using wireless. From what I've heard, and my experimenting around, 802.11n should be plenty fine. Don't know anyone who's used an AEBS with the Verizon FiOS modem, but I'm sure it would work. My Dad uses an AEBS with a "normal" Verizon DSL modem, and I'm using mine with an AT&T DSL modem. There's other threads on this in detail, but you basically want to set your modem to either passthrough the IP or use bridged mode, and use the AEBS as the router.

    No problem, hope this helped!
  7. MikieMikie macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    Newton, MA
    Well, I'm not really qualified to answer as I haven't done it (I haven't had the need). I understand that it takes a little terminal work, and that updates do break it if you update it. You can find out more info at Awkward TV

    If it is extremely important for you to playback the VOB files, why not look at a Mac Mini? It's a little more money, and you lose the HD output... there are a lot of threads here that discuss the advantages/disadvantages.

    In essence, I would call the hack intrusive.

    When I have a special movie, I will check the Two Pass box. I have found that 2500 bitrate yields the most consistent results and the best tradeoff in size and quality.

    Close.... I
    1. Import using MTR.
    2. Convert to .M4V (MP4 files, but ones which can have tags) using Handbrake/VH
    3. Save the video folder until I have viewed the movie (sometimes. Depends on the difficulty MTR had.)
    4. On a Mac, I strongly recommend a piece of freeware called MetaX, a meta tagging program that is truly amazing. It gets descriptions, cast, director, etc. and then tags your file for you. I have taken to using movie posters instead of the DVD covers.
    5. I have an external HDD. It was originally hooked up to my Mac, but when I bought an AEBS, I hooked it up to there. In either case, I never let iTunes copy the .m4v file to its internal library as I like to keep all of my films in one place, my music in another, etc. So I "option-drop" the movie onto iTunes Library and it makes an alias to the movie. This saves time and means that iTunes doesn't have to copy 2 Gb files.

    At this point, everything is accessible via "g" network streaming. (SD -- Not HD 720p. That really needs "n" or wired.)

    Do what's easiest for you. "G" is fine. I was using my Comcast cable modem with an Airport Express "g" modem for the longest time. I never had a problem with streaming. Syncing took forever, and the first sync (music and photos) took overnight. I have since come to recommend that people connect their aTVs directly to their computers via ethernet for the first sync. You can see the aTV in iTunes, and monitor its progress that way.

    Anyway, once you're set up, you'll know whether or not to attempt hooking up the AEBS.

    You're more than welcome.
  8. saltyzoo macrumors 65816


    Oct 4, 2007
    here's a stupid question for you. Why do yo have to wait to convert until after take 2 is out? If you convert now using AC3 it will "just work" with take 2 will it not?
  9. Avatar74 macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2007
    I presume this is because we currently do not know whether existing AC-3 passthrough with H.264 will work or if another schema is going to be implemented. If the latter, it may mean that Handbrake and all those tools may need to be updated by their developers to transcode files according to the schema which AppleTV will recognize.

    Also, I'm a bit curious how the AC-3 bitstream will alter the file sizes because while stereo AAC tracks on AppleTV encoded content have a max bitrate of 160Kbps, AC-3 is encoded on DVD at 448Kbps (320Kbps for 35mm sprocket perforation print).

    Otherwise you might be wasting time and effort on something that doesn't work. We won't know until AppleTV's software update is out.
  10. clevin macrumors G3


    Aug 6, 2006
  11. quid squid macrumors regular

    Aug 4, 2008
    los angeles
    i'm kinda in the same boat, but don't want to go back and reencode all my movies with handbrake. i used mac the ripper to rip all my dvds to extrenal hdds. anyways i was considering Apple TV for streaming movies, but found out it does not stream .vob files. heard about hacking it, but do not want to spend $300 and void the warranty. basically i'm just gonna have to hold out until there is an Apple TV update that allows streaming of .vob files.

    i could go with popcorn hour, but i hear that the playback for streamed .vob files is somewhat jerky.

    how long do you think it will be until there is a possible update to play .vob?
  12. kjr39 macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2004

    I'd look into getting a used Intel Mini. You should be able to get one for a bit more than $300 and it will play all of your .vobs just fine.
  13. quid squid macrumors regular

    Aug 4, 2008
    los angeles
    i was actually gonna look into a mini to do this, but the price is what threw me off. didn't think of a refurbished or used one, so thanks.

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