Wireless Video Streaming from OS X to your TV?

by Kevin Hemenway

The short story is that I bought a house and, with it, a new wireless router (the D-Link DGL-4300, quite nice) to penetrate the walls my previous apartment never had. With a strong wireless network on the second floor connecting to my entertainment on the first, I've my game consoles and laptop satisfied, but would like to focus on video streaming. In short: I want to wirelessly stream movies (of MPEG, DivX, and XviD persuasion) to my TV.

My current workflow is to burn digital movie files onto DVD-Rs and then play them through my Philips DVP-62, which is a cheapie throw-away player that supports all the formats I care about. This has slowly become costly and inefficient: with over 100 DVD-Rs now burnt, it's a pain to find the right movie on the right disc (and heaven-forbid I'd like to watch a marathon spanning multiple discs), much less pay the cost for media (which is roughly the same amount as the player itself).

Recently, an update to the Xbox 360 promised the ability to stream video from sources other than Windows Media Center machines and, while possible on OS X (with the help of shareware Connect 360), you need to convert your files to WMV/WMA, a feat that only Flip4Mac can currently accomplish. VLC can apparently do it on Windows, but doesn't support WMA encoding on OS X in my tests.

With over 100 DVD-Rs containing six or seven movies a piece, and Flip4Mac encoding times taking roughly the duration of the file itself, this isn't entirely ideal either. I've yet to find a live transcoding solution (i.e., convert at time of play request) for OS X, though a few exist on Windows (TVersity's latest version has specific support for this, but doesn't run on OS X).

Yes, I do have Parallels on my MacBook Pro. Yes, I have BootCamp too. Do I want to run my laptop for 15+ hours to support a movie marathon? Do I REALLY want to pipe video through my Xbox 360, or use a non-Mac solution? No. Could I save myself a lot of effort if I just settle for second best? Absolutely, but it'll take me a few more weeks to resolve myself to that.

So, of late, I've been looking around for "digital media receivers", which are boxes that specifically support what I'm looking for (again: wireless streaming video of MPEG, DivX, or XviD from my Mac upstairs to my television downstairs). Unfortunately, I haven't found a lot of satisfying results that'd fill me with such confidence that I'm ready to plunk down "definitely" as opposed to "experimental" money.


  • The KiSS DP-600 plays all the formats I'm looking for, has a clean interface, and specifically supports OS X with its (ugh, brushed-metal) MacLink application. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available in the US, and I'm not entirely willing to make this my first (non-PayPal, more than $100) overseas transaction. It is also a DVD player which seems to (though I've yet to get perfect confirmation on this) do the same thing as my current Philips box - play files stored on a DVD-R. Unfortunately, the site isn't entirely "robust" and hasn't reported any news since late 2005 (though new firmware has recently been released). Has anyone used this? If it's a DVD player, what region is it encoded for? Are there any American distributors that I've missed?


  • TwonkyMedia is a general purpose UPnP server for videos, photos, and music. The software is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows and they list a number of supported systems, such as the D-Link DSM-520 and the Zensonic Z500, which both have their pros and cons. The Z500 is an unsexy DVD player (which I don't really need) and has a horrific interface, while the DSM-520 (the better of the two, IMO) has had various reviews saying its interface was slow (though some have suggested this is due to their shipped Windows-only media server, which I wouldn't be using) or that the newest firmware has broken some types of XviD and DivX playback. Both come in around the "experimental" $200 mark.


  • Apple's planned iTV is a non-starter - without S-Video or composite video, I can do nothing with it (unless I buy a new TV, which isn't going to happen anytime soon), and iTunes cheerfully ignored any of the DivX and XviD files I dropped over it (and yes, these same files playback fine in QuickTime). Whilst I'm sure enterprising hackers will either add extra formats to iTunes or otherwise route around those particular requirements, I still don't plan to replace my TV when other potentially cheaper alternatives may exist.



Any readers have any of their own experience or thoughts to report?

47 Comments

Brian Enigma
2006-11-28 17:47:47
I just have a Mac Mini under the TV running Front Row. It has the Apple remote for basic stuff and a Bluetooth mouse for more advanced operations (e.g. starting VLC.) Any computer in the house running iTunes can stream video to it. If I have video in some format that iTunes doesn't like to use (AVI), I just copy it directly to the Mac Mini and play it with VLC. Admittedly, with a GigE network connection coming up from the basement, this takes significantly less time than wireless, so your mileage may vary.
mike
2006-11-28 18:13:36
Modded Xbox 1 with Xbox Media Center. It can playback pretty much any file. I use it to stream data from my G5 to my TV, and it rocks, especially since you can use the Xbox remote to navigate.
Adam Rice
2006-11-28 20:01:21
I don't have any definitive answers for you, but the one gadget I've got bookmarked is this--eventually I want to do this myself.
Iceberg Slim
2006-11-28 20:25:03
I second the modded Xbox 1 (cheap) with Xbox Media Center (free). XBMC is updated frequently, can play any almost any media format and can now even stream YouTube videos. It also recognizes iTunes shares. It supports SAMBA, FTP, etc. for streaming or uploading. I have both Windows and Mac's sharing media via wireless network. One of the best investments I've made to date...
solak
2006-11-28 20:57:02
my contribution: At least use DVD-RW. Unless you want to keep the burned video for multiple re-watchings, don't waste your money. Even if you buy them not-on-sale, a few RWs will cost less than 100 DVD-Rs. In fact, even when I plan to burn a DVD-R for long term use, I first burn a DVD-RW to test how the video encoding and menu layout work on a regular DVD player. The test play on the Mac may be convenient, but who knows whether it really matches external reality?


My preference would be the iTV, but i understand your constraints may not match that. Then again, the iTV is not released yet, so the specs may change. The suggested Mac Mini alternative seems rather capable as well.

Jamie McC
2006-11-28 23:15:47
You can buy analogue modulators to convert s-video into RF, for less than £30 here in the UK, so I imagine about $30 in the US.
Then you can use the iTV or similar device.
David Young
2006-11-28 23:54:12
I've kinda found that you really need a real computer hooked up to the TV to do any real media centering. I mean, some hardware device might play all your formats today, but next VLC will play all of tomorrow's formats, too. And transcoding just plain sucks -- most of the time you lose quality, it takes forever, and about 40% of the time it just plain fails. Version 1 of my Mac media center setup is http://www.stuffonfire.com/2006/06/05/g5-media-center/, the key to it all was some spare hardware and a DVI to VGA adapter.
Une Chambatz
2006-11-29 04:06:20
I'm also using XBMC. Works great!
dingosatemybaby
2006-11-29 05:17:10
OK, clueless here. You're saying you can mod a gen1 Xbox to be a media center??? Does the hardware have to be modded or is it a simple case of just installing some open source stuff?


Like the author, I've been trying to figure out how to get this done with existing products and have yet to find a good solution I can confidently plunk $ down on.


But I do have a gen1 xbox laying around...


Help?

Morbus Iff
2006-11-29 05:26:37
Dingos: it'd require you buying a modchip for your Xbox, popping open the lid, soldering it into place, and THEN installing software on it. It's not something I'm willing to do in pursuit of a "perfect" solution (it's actually lower on my list then just running Parallels on my laptop and streaming to the Xbox 360).
Adam Rice
2006-11-29 07:51:19
As to using a Mac as your media center: This seems like an attractive option. I've read that the mini (the most obvious choice) has problems with 3-2 pulldown on DVDs. Has anyone seen this?
dburney
2006-11-29 08:00:23
I'm just waiting for the iTV.

2006-11-29 08:11:26
Are you sure that Apple's ITV won't fit the bill? Apparently it will have HDMI and component video. Maybe an adapter of some kind will be available for your needs.


I'm in a not dissimilar situation, I'm always burning dvds for use with the dvd player attached to my SD TV. So I'm looking forward to Apple's ITV.

BeenThere2
2006-11-29 08:11:42
Check out the NeoDigits networked upscaling DVD players. Very cool stuff. It says I know they PC, but I hear they are working on Mac OS X integration as well.
Check out the X3000 and X5000.


www.neodigits.com


Stream PC-stored movies, music and photos, along with internet media content straight to your television over wired or wireless network. The X3000 brings all the digital media you have only been able to enjoy on your PC into your home theater - all in HD 1080p! With such a wide range of multimedia formats it is able to play, the X3000 lets you take your audiovisual experience farther than ever before.


The X3000 brings you absolute access, flexibility and connectivity - all packed in a slim player for those who like it sleek.

Constable Odo
2006-11-29 08:32:15
I also use a G4 MacMini hooked up to my Sony HDTV. Downstairs I have a FW800 G4 dualie running Tiger Server OSX which is connected to a RangeMax MIMO router. The dualie has four 250 GB drives on it. I usually keep about 50 movies or season TV series in XviD, DivX or mpg format (I don't use DVDs). Any time I want I can just connect wirelessly to the downstairs server and stream movies to the upstairs MacMini/HDTV combo. I use MPlayerX to play the videos. A number of my foreign films use .srt files for subs. MplayerX works great with no hiccups (I've tried VLC, but it stutters every so often). iStumbler shows a wireless signal strength of about 60 to 65 at all times. I use a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse combo to control the MacMini from the couch. I don't use any interface such as Front Row. I'll just drag video file names of the videos I intend to watch into the MplayerX playlist and select them from there. The whole setup isn't very elegant, but works fine for me.


I admit that a MacMini is a bit expensive merely to be used as wireless receiver and I would like to find a cheaper alternative for my other TVs.

CFKane
2006-11-29 08:55:43
I agree with the other suggestions of using a 1st generation Xbox and XBMC. It plays everything I throw at it and manages my media beautifully. My DVDs are stored on external drives connected to my iMac and streamed downstairs to my xbox via ethernet. Ethernet is the best option when streaming MPEG-2 video, but wireless will work great if your content is DivX and Xvid compressed.


Morbus is correct. There are a few steps involved beyond adding the open source software. You can install a modchip, but there are solderless options There's also a softmod option if you don't want to open the Xbox.


If you want to stay with an all Mac option, there's MediaCentral. I use this when I'm upstairs. It accesses the same media files I stream to the Xbox. But scrolling through 300 movies is much faster on the Xbox.


The advantage of the Xbox is it connects directly to the TV without any added conversion cables.


This site might be helpful: http://slackerpedia.com/xbmc-mac/

Craig
2006-11-29 09:09:19
Roku @www.rokulabs.com Has USB for an external Wi-fi and built-in fast-ethernet. Use SAMBA for file sharing. Unit has MPEG-2 decoding chip. Has remote. Bought on eBay ~$200.
Morbus Iff
2006-11-29 09:20:43
Roku bills itself as a music player only, and speaks very little about its video capabilities (much less DivX or XviD) support. I wouldn't want to base a new system on a side-effect.
silas
2006-11-29 10:56:09
I use a Mac Mini - you can probably find a G4, which is all you need, for ~$300 in the pre-owned market. I use it as wireless router, DVD player and central media server (and web server, and Tivo). VLC will easily play Divx, Xvid and Mpeg-4 videos over a 820.11g network.


Since you're using these other formats (given the lack of support, by the way, why do you use Divx rather than plain Mpeg-4?), you'd be better off using a simple remote like the Keyspan digital with VLC (for streamed or local archived videos), DVD Player (for new DVDs) and iTunes (for music) rather than the pretty-but-limited FrontRow. Anyway, if you're going the cheap route, no frontRow on a G4 without hacking.


I suppose video-out is an issue, but don't the G4 Minis come with RCA converters?

pauldwaite
2006-11-29 12:09:26
> "I bought a house and, with it, a new wireless router"


I'd lay down some money on you being more excited about the router than the house :)

Scott
2006-11-29 12:31:37
I just got a newsletter from thinkgeek and it had this in it..


http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/drives/8e50/?cpg=42H

Morbus Iff
2006-11-29 12:47:25
Scott - that one actually looks quite good, and runs Linux. It doesn't say what is required to stream off another machine (ie., what sort of UPnP servers it supports) or if the hard drive is /definitely/ required (I plan to stream most everything, so if I could save a few bucks up by NOT putting in a HD, that'd be ideal). Certainly deserves more investigation though.
Morbus Iff
2006-11-29 12:55:55
Hrm. The manual is available for it, and it demos using Window XP's Network Sharing and NetBEUI, it appears. What's the equivalent on OS X? I've put in some support questions on this and will report back as I hear 'em.
regulus6633
2006-11-29 13:58:17
Regarding getting your xvid/divx etc files into itunes... if quicktime can play the file then you can get it in itunes. You just need to open the file in quicktime and "save as" to a self contained .mov file. Quicktime doesn't transcode the video, it just puts a .mov wrapper around the file... so it happens very fast. This way itunes will accept it.
Morbus Iff
2006-11-29 16:43:42
regulus6633: confirmed and quite useful. Thanks!
Yacko
2006-11-29 22:03:34
The Mvix is similar to several other devices that are Firewire or NAS storage devices with playback capabilities. In most cases this won't be streaming; you would need to load material and manage files every so often. This is a category that is exploding in popularity. Try googling "TVIX", "Modix", "TVisto" and "Mediagate". The latter is available in both a non-HD and a HD version, the non-HD one is available at Other World Computing, a well-known Mac dealer right now.
Miguel
2006-11-30 03:38:41
I use a Freecom Network Media Player with built-in 250GB HD and a LAN port. This beauty can read almost anything, either from HD or via LAN. To make it wireless i connected the freecom to and Airport express.


It is not very different to stream over LAN either pushing or pulling. This solutions is a perfect pulling one. Total cost just 300 Euros.

Morbus Iff
2006-11-30 05:38:34
Yacko - yeah, I've seen a number of those types of boxes, and Mvix actually has a few wired products in the same vein. The MX-760HD seems to be their push into the wireless space, which makes me particularly interested in it. Haven't heard back from their support yet, however.
Yacko
2006-11-30 11:05:32
Morbus, don't expect customer support with any of these and don't espect any logic. Some of these boxes are short 1000+ unit production line runs at Korean factories for the English speaking affluent world. Some are flashable/updateable but would be an adventure to apply it. Next box issued by a seller/manufacturer may be entirely different than predecessors, chips, codecs, remote and ease of use departing radically and for no apparent reason. Good luck.
Artaya Boonsoong
2006-11-30 14:30:39
This is what I am using, purely non ethernet radio wave. It works great for me. Support S-video, Stereo, Component video. I simply plug S-video adaptor in my macbook and my TV become my second monitor.


http://www.pureav.com/remotetv/

tyl3rb1ck
2006-12-02 16:14:54
I use and eyehome from elgato.com connected to an airport express to make it wireless, then steam from my powerbook and macpro to it wirelessly.


Works well, software that comes with it ok and a universal binary but i prefer to use snazziserver as its gui is nicer on my tv

goole
2006-12-17 23:41:49
I've kinda found that you really need a real computer hooked up to the TV to do any real media centering. I mean, some hardware device might play all your formats today, but next VLC will play all of tomorrow's formats, too. And transcoding just plain sucks -- most of the time you lose quality, it takes forever, and about 40% of the time it just plain fails. Version 1 of my Mac media center setup is http://www.stuffonfire.com/2006/06/05/g5-media-center/, the key to it all was some spare hardware and a DVI to VGA adapter.
Ana Paljus
2006-12-18 17:13:09
Try Cynalynx from Pegasus Wireless, when it is available in Jan/2007.
Jeff
2006-12-20 10:54:14
I wonder if you guys are missing the point. Yes, he could hook up a gen 1 modded xbox. Yes, he could wait for iTV. Yes, he could plug a mac mini directly into the TV.


But he ALREADY HAS the 360 hooked up, and it's obviously very capable of doing what needs to be done, so why not just use what is already there? With the right software or hacks, this should be very possible. Surely it's just a matter of time before MSFT either supports DIVX directly or someone does a hack for it, then this WMV nonsense will be put to bed.

Xbox user
2007-01-08 11:28:00
hey I have a modded xbox worth doing it, running xbmc and i can stream all content wirelesly from my pc to xbox to tv really nic not having to burn dvds anymore!!!
Jaak Ennuste
2007-01-21 05:46:16
Slowness of DSM-520 is purely caused by slow media server. I wiu use speedy one, like Twonky, You already mentioned, UI flies. In generai I like dsm-520 a lot. Still 3 major wishes:
1. d-sub or dvi output for pc monitor. Sometimes I'd like to use this equipment separately.
2. screen saver. Keeping receiver on all day long on mu plasma burs static characters in. I dont like it!
3. D-Link server software is too slow, If you have 5000+ tracks or so. In this case I recommend for example TwonkyMedia server.
Nathan Hughes
2007-02-26 23:52:08
One word: TVIX.


Alex
2007-03-02 06:05:47
I am really keen to sort out some kind of wireless streaming equipment, so that I can view all my content from the imac to a TV.


Its a shame that airtunes doesnt support video, and that Apple TV, only works with itunes stuff?


Has anybody heard of a hack to use the Apple TV hardware to view all your content from perhaps front row?

Ana Paljus
2007-03-22 15:19:42
I received my Cynalynx from Pegasus. Finally! It streams my videos and my DVD's from my laptop to my old CRT TV as well as to the new LCD TV. Cynalynx does not have a hard disk like Apple TV. All video streaming is real-time and uncompressed. I can stream from the 2nd floor where my desktop PC is to my LCD TV in the basement. The video quality is great.
Eichhorn
2007-03-29 05:32:13
I've got the dms 520 and I'm waiting for updates from the linux community.
- I want to use 520 as a simple browser on the television. So I can play songs directly from a web page.
- I want the possibility to play DVD's
- I want to play video from a dvb stick.
- I want to use a linux on the DSM which has its /opt/ directory on a hard disk on the lan.


This is all possible (with a hard disk connected by lan), but no one tries to. (Because it is very dangerous to change the firmware.)


If there is an interesting link, my e-mail is


gerhard.eichhorn@bluewin.ch

Dennis Dolan
2007-04-01 07:06:40
Don't waste your money, literally because they won't refund!! You could say I bought on faith as no one has ever really published any first hand tests of this device and clarified the differences between its hype and reality. Where to begin. I tested the device on Server 2003 and XP OS's on a multimedia desktop and on a laptop, various applications (i.e. web content streaming, HD TV Tuner card, media files, DVD etc.) The only thing it did do well was play media files. Steaming of internet content wirelessly produced choppy images, same for DVD's when they would play, often you just get some Linux error about DVD mount point? When a DVD would play wirelessly and you would be delivered to the DVD page where you select options of what content you wanted to view, directors clips etc., that was a far as you could go. The Cynalynx remote couldn't deliver a "Select" command or anything like that to view the actual movie. Now if you plugged in the hardwire LAN port, the DVD wouldn't play choppy anymore, but that defeats the whole purpose. I wasn't able to get sound streaming from the DVD either. The HD TV tuner card renderd nothing but that was a stretch anyway, I would have gladly overlooked if it could have delivered on some of its basic promises but it failed miserably. When I contacted Pegasus for a refund they told me NO REFUNDS! in a heavy Jamaican accent and were quite rude and unwilling to work with me. They insisted I talk to a Technician, to which I informed them of my numerous attempts to contact their support representatives, only to face phones that don't answer and e-mails with no replies. I agreed to a schedule time when their technician would call me (of course during the week and normal business hours) and of course they never called. These guys are close to something great, but not there and very shady business practices. I have basically been cheated out of $400. Don't waste your money. Oh, and if you wan't to connect to the internet and the Cynalynx device without switching your LAN connection back and forth, you will need two LAN devices.
D. Ames
2007-04-01 17:28:24
The Pegasus Cynalynx is getting great reviews and available now direct from Pegasus. My research has revealed great potential for this product. Offers more by far than the apple rival.
السلام عليكم توجد سياره دولفين ستيشن تكسي تم تسليبها م
2007-04-27 13:17:10
السلام عليكم توجد سياره دولفين ستيشن تكسي تم تسليبها من على الخط السريع وهي الان معده للتفخيخ وسوف ترسل الى المناطق المحرره يرجى اتخاذ ما يلزم وتعميم المعلومه الى المراكز والسيطرات كافه شاكرين تعاونكم لخدمة بلدكم اذا انت عراقي شريف انشر هذا الخبر
Rowan
2007-05-05 05:57:21
I have a home media network at my house. Its fantastic. I use a thing called a mediagate MG350HD


It has an inbuilt 350gig hard drive so you can store movies on it. But more importantly you can stream movies from your computer through it to your tv.
Check it out i think you will really like it. http://www.airlinktek.com/english/prod_mg350.htm#spec I got mine on ebay for $300 not to bad.

PlusOne
2007-07-07 12:58:09
I have the DSM-520 connected hardwire to my network. The media server is a Linksys NSLU2 running TwonkyMedia server for unslung. It all works fine. When I tried to use the wireless connection I had crappy connection and I got the choppy video.


PlusOne

Austin
2007-10-05 06:39:12
For a temporary work-around (until someone figures this out), VisualHub by Techspansion (http://visualhub.net) will convert from any video to any other video format. It's OSX Native. Then you can use Connect360 to share your AVI > WMV conversions over your wireless network and watch them on your 360. Yes, it's still a conversion (and it takes some time - I set mine to churn while I'm at work), but it's better than nothing.
Reuby
2007-10-30 11:14:05
I'm in the process of researching wireless video, so far the best solution I've found is a simple PC2TV. We're considering using it in professional installs. Basically it accepts a wireless broadcast from your laptop/pc through a router. We use the digital version because we use non-consumer displays but there is an analog version that might have composite video that would work for a consumer display. It runs at $250 but the video is good and the set up is (usually) nice and simple.