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How To Buy and Rent Media To Play on Your Apple TV

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In this excerpt from The Apple TV Pocket Guide, Second Edition, author Jeff Carlson tells you how to buy cool stuff to watch on your Apple TV using either your computer or the Apple TV itself.
This chapter is from the book

Before the Apple TV became public, people speculated on what an Apple–designed TV accessory would be like. Everyone assumed Apple would add the capabilities of a TiVo, letting you record broadcast television for playback later.

Realize, this doesn't happen with most companies. No one is idly speculating about how HP is going to improve kitchen appliances. But when Apple stepped out of the "computer" box by releasing the iPod (which wasn't the first digital music player by a long shot), people started asking, "What else can Apple do?" And the real unspoken question was, "What else can Apple do better?" So, an Apple television box would naturally control the content that's already coming into the television, right?

Well, people tend to forget that Apple is a profit–driven company, which, coincidentally, had already begun to sell movies and TV shows online through the iTunes Store. Why record something for free when you can buy it for less than the cost of a DVD? Maybe you prefer not to subscribe to cable or satellite TV service, or Netflix just takes too long. Whatever the reason, the iTunes Store is a direct line to your computer and, by extension, your Apple TV.

Buying or renting content from the iTunes Store isn't the exclusive way to get it onto your Apple TV; Chapter 9 covers the methods of ripping DVDs and converting your own edited movies to formats the Apple TV can read. But for some people, it's easier (and sometimes faster) to just purchase something from the iTunes Store.

In this chapter, I cover the two methods of buying media from Apple: on your computer using iTunes (for synchronizing to the Apple TV later), and buying and renting directly on the Apple TV itself.

Enter the iTunes Store

The iTunes Store exists on the Internet, but you can't get there using a Web browser. Instead, launch iTunes and look for the iTunes Store icon in the left column (Figure 4.1). When you click it, the store appears in place of your music library in the main area of the window (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 The iTunes Store icon.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 The iTunes Store.

Most of what you see are current promotions, new releases, and top–selling items in each category.

Browse for content

The store interface is ripe for browsing, so feel free to click away. If you want to be more directed, click a category in the iTunes Store box at the upper–left corner of the screen. That takes you to a similar screen containing just the type of content you clicked.

You can also browse the store in a less flashy, but more directed, interface. To locate an item, do the following:

  1. In the Quick Links box at the upper–right, click the Browse link (Figure 4.3). This takes you to a category list of the store's offerings (Figure 4.4).
    Figure 4.3

    Figure 4.3 The directed Browse link.

    Figure 4.4

    Figure 4.4 The iTunes Store in Browse mode.

  2. Choose a category from the iTunes Store column (such as TV Shows).
  3. In the next column, click a genre to narrow your selection. If you're browsing podcasts, the column lists podcast categories.
  4. Depending on the media you choose, other columns may appear, such as TV show titles, subgenre, and artist. Click the items to narrow the field until you see a list of media files in the lower half of the screen.

Search for content

If you know what you're looking for, such as a movie's name or the title (or partial title) of a song, type it into the iTunes search field, which is labeled Search iTunes Store when the store is active (Figure 4.5). Press Enter to perform the search. A split screen appears with the results categorized at the top and listed at the bottom (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.5

Figure 4.5 Search iTunes Store field.

Figure 4.6

Figure 4.6 Search results for the text michael clayton.

Clicking items in the top portion takes you to more information. For example, clicking an album name displays the album with a full track list and notes, while clicking an artist name shows all albums by that artist.

As you peruse the store's wares, a set of buttons above the main screen indicate where you are (Figure 4.7). Clicking the Home button (with the house icon) takes you back to the main storefront. Clicking the category and genre buttons displays similar items. And the Back and Forward buttons step you through items you've already seen.

Figure 4.7

Figure 4.7 You won't get lost in the aisles with this handy navigation.

Preview any store item by double–clicking it in the list at the bottom of the screen. Most previews are 30 seconds long; audiobooks are 90 seconds long; and movies play the film's theatrical trailer.

Power Search

For a more specific search, click the Power Search link in the Quick Links box. This option leads you to a form with multiple search fields (Figure 4.8), so you can locate all movies in the iTunes catalog directed by Spike Lee or starring Johnny Depp and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8 Power Search.

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