With the Apple TV, Mac owners can easily access all their digital media on their television. Although the Apple TV is a great solution for people who want convenient access to their music, photos, and video content, one disappointment with the device’s final specs is that it doesn’t offer support for a wide variety of video formats. Like the iPod, the Apple TV supports only H.264 and MPEG-4 video files.
With a growing range of video content available from sources as diverse as the Internet, home DVD libraries, cell phones, TiVos and other DVR devices, and digital cameras, and coming in an equally wide range of video/audio encoding formats and file types, this could be a serious limitation to consumers wanting to be able to view content from sources other than the iTunes Store. As wide as the range of video sources and formats is outside of what the Apple TV supports, there is also a range of tools for capturing, converting, and adding that video to the iTunes library in a format that can be viewed on the Apple TV.
The following sections describe the top five video tools that every Apple TV owner should know about.
HandBrake is a free tool that enables you to copy video content from a DVD and encode it as an MPEG-4 file that is compatible for playback on either a video iPod or Apple TV. HandBrake does not allow you to make a complete copy of the DVD; instead it copies and encodes individual video titles on a DVD (optionally, you can restrict copying to only specific chapters of a title) as separate video files. This means that for a TV series on DVD, each episode is treated as a separate copy and encoding operation and result in a separate file. HandBrake also enables you to select between available languages or alternate audio tracks if you want something other than the default track recorded as audio in the resulting video file.
At first glance, the HandBrake interface can be a little intimidating for some users. There are links to user guides and documentation available on the HandBrake website, however. Also, after you use HandBrake a couple of times, you’ll notice that it is a fairly straightforward tool. A more stripped-down and easy-to-use version called Instant HandBrake is also in development (a beta version is available).
HandBrake is a great tool for Apple TV owners because it enables you to include all your favorite video content in the single interface of your Apple TV. This saves you from having to search through shelves or cases of DVDs when you’re looking for a particular movie or episode of a TV series that you purchased on DVD. It also acts as a sort of backup for your favorite DVD content.