Other Ways To Stream : Video streaming apps, Media server apps, Playing on the PS3, TV on your Apple

10/4/2012 1:37:35 AM

Streaming media across your network is easy with Airplay and Apple TV, but only Apple-friendly formats are supported, and although you can convert media if necessary - as we’ll see over the page - you probably want to watch a film without waiting a couple of hours for that process to complete. So if you have a lot of content that you acquired away from the iTunes Store, perhaps stored as AVIs or MPEGs, a way to stream them from your Mac directly would be useful. You may also want to watch videos stored elsewhere on your local network on your iPad or iPhone, without having to copy them to the device and fill up its storage.

The answer is a third party app that can stream video in multiple formats, transcoding it on the fly if necessary, without relying on iTunes or Airplay.

Description: A TV tuner such as Elgato’s EyeTV Mobile lets you watch broadcast TV on ¡OS; there are plenty of such add-ons for Macs, too, supporting Free-view reception
A TV tuner such as Elgato’s EyeTV Mobile lets you watch broadcast TV on iOS; there are plenty of such add-ons for Macs, too, supporting Free-view reception

Video streaming apps

Available for $3 from, Air video comes in two parts: a server app that runs on your Mac or PC, and a companion app for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. There’s also a free version, which has minor limitations such as only displaying a small number of playlist items.

Description: Air video
Air video

Launch the server app on your Mac and specify the folders where it should look for movies. If they’re already in formats supported by iOS, they can be streamed directly to your device. If they are in unsupported formats (WMV, MKV, DivX and FLV are supported, among others), the software can convert them live as the movie streams across your network. This requires a reasonably quick Mac: a Core 2 Duo or better processor is recommended, but this is hardly high-end by today’s standards. You’ll need a decent wireless network, too, but again, nothing out of the ordinary. If your Mac struggles with live conversion, there’s the option to convert the whole movie offline before streaming it, and even a conversion queue so you can ‘fire and forget’.

StreamToMe ( works in much the same way; the Mac server app is currently free from the Mac App Store, while the iOS app costs $3. It supports a range of input formats with live and offline conver­sion features. As well as supporting DVD resolution video over your Wi-Fi network, it can adjust the stream automatically to play smoothly to a remote Wi-Fi or 3G con­nection over the internet. It also lets you use a TV out cable from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to connect to a TV and use the device as a wireless streaming media center to get content from your Mac or PC to your TV without needing an Apple TV or other streaming box.

The developer recommends a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or faster processor for 720p video, which excludes older Macs.

Media server apps

Media server software works by using the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) protocol to open up a wireless connection to your net­work and broadcast the availability of your media files to specific devices. This is the kind of app you’ll need to use with a DLNA box or DLNA-equipped TV set.

Description: Media server apps
Media server apps

As we mentioned earlier, Twonky Media is the best known UPnP media server app.

It costs $19.9 from, and connects your Mac to any DLNA device on your network, including TVs, games consoles, AV systems, NAS boxes, digital media adaptors and mobile devices. The Twonky Manager app (try to ignore the name) also provides a sort of centralized hub on your computer for managing data from other devices, so you can do stuff like automatically copying pictures taken on your iPhone to your Mac via Wi-Fi - an alter­native to iCloud’s Photo Stream.

Twonky lets you use your mobile devices as remotes for controlling the playback of media on a TV streamed from a Mac, similar to the way Apple’s Remote app works with Airplay and an Apple TV.

iSedora Media Server is another option: it streams video, music and photos from your Mac or PC to DLNA compatible TVs, Blu-Ray players and consoles like the PS3 and XBox. It can transcode on the fly for several devices at once, and even supports streaming subtitles as part of a movie. There’s a fully functional downloadable demo that can be started as often as you like, but will quit after an hour. The base ver­sion costs $25 from, and serves one DNLA device at a time. To share to unlimited devices you need the $69 multi-room license.

Playing on the PS3

If you already have a Sony PlayStation 3 plugged into your TV, it makes sense to take advantage of its media streaming capa­bilities. Yazsoft’s Playback ( products/playback) is a popular Mac server app for this purpose.

Description: PS3

The PS3 Media Server app, on the other hand (, is available for Mac, PC and Linux and is completely free. Powered by Men coder, ffMPEG and other video libraries, it can stream many video file types directly or transcode them live. Although it was originally developed for the PS3, and works seamlessly with the console, it’s actually a more generic DLNA- compliant UPnP streamer and supports a wide variety of devices including the XBox, Sony Bravia TVs, and Android devices, Samsung TVs and Boxee, among many others. You can specify folders to share, control stream­ing and transcoding settings and even access your iTunes library, just fire it up and it appears as a media source on your device.

TV on your Apple

Want to watch live TV on your Mac? It’s not as easy as hooking up a Free-view unit or your Virgin or Sky box to the machine. The 2010 iMac was the only model that could accept an incoming HDMI signal, with an adaptor such as the Kanex XD (; there’s no equivalent adaptor yet for the current Thunderbolt model. And even if you could rig up some sort of Heath Robinson connection, today’s copy ­protected HD content wouldn’t play over it.

Description: TV on your Apple
TV on your Apple

However, there are plenty of products that let you receive free-to-air channels directly from an aerial on your Mac or iOS device. Elgato, Equinox, and Hauppauge all sell tuners that connect to your Mac via USB and allow you to watch and record live TV from either Free-view or Free-sat. Elgato’s Eye-TV Hybrid can receive both, as well as analogue TV and Subscribers to Sky and Virgin Media who take both broadband and TV services can watch TV shows and films on the relevant company’s websites. Sky viewers can also watch on its mobile app, Sky Go. Virgin has a mobile app, which can be used by anyone, but it charges for access.

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 each offer catch-up services on their web­sites and via iOS apps. And the BBC allows UK license payers to watch live TV on the web or from its app. Viewers outside the UK can’t access iPlayer, although if you down­load programs while in the UK you can then watch them abroad. There’s a paid-for international iOS app, too, but it’s not avail­able on the UK App Store. You can’t watch ITV Player or 40D outside the UK, either through a Google search will turn up VPN tunneling services and suggestions for UK proxy servers, which let you to make it look as if you’re in the UK, if you’re really keen.

The website TVCatchUp, which also has an iOS app, streams 40 channels, includ­ing mainstream terrestrial networks, free of charge for UK users. Again, it’s only acces­sible from within the UK.

Finally, Vulkano Flow ( connects to a cable or satellite box and allows you to control it and view its output on your Mac or iPad, over a Wi-Fi network or the internet. It’s a terrific idea, but we had a number of problems when we tested it last year. Sling-box ( also makes boxes which allow you to view content from your cable or satellite box over the internet.

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