Way back in February, I posted a really cool tip which allowed Mac users to stream their entire iTunes library over the network and even through the Internet onto their iPhones. This involved the use of symbolic links, Terminal, converting videos into h.264 and adding them into iTunes. As cool as the tip was, there were too many variables where things could go wrong. And sadly, as Murphy’s law would imply, it did go wrong for several people — they couldn’t get it to work at all.
Luckily for them, I discovered a much simpler alternative to save the day. Like my tip, this app will enable you to stream your videos to your iPhone or iPod Touch over a local network as well as the Internet. And hey, good news — Windows users get to jump in on some video streaming fun as well! What is this fabulous application and why haven’t I heard of it, you ask? Well, because it’s our job to scour for gems like these and announce them to you.
Coupled with their iPhone app, Air Video is a Mac/Windows desktop application that is designed to act as a server and stream videos to the iPhone (or iPod Touch) in almost any format, even if they’re not encoded in h.264! It has a built-in converter which does all the encoding on-demand! We’ll touch on that a bit later. First, let’s check out the server side of this video streaming combo.
As I’ve previously said, Air Video will work on both Mac and Windows. Unfortunately, I wasn’t privileged with a PC so I’m afraid I can’t demonstrate how this operates in Windows. But I suspect that the procedure is somewhat similar to Mac’s so I’ll just go ahead with my review and hopefully pass on a rough idea of how it all works.
Installation comprises of the usual suspects: DMG; mount; drag server app to Applications folder; launch app. Once the app is launched, it resides in the menu bar. You should be presented with the Preferences window (if nothing happens, click on Air Video’s menu bar icon and select Preferences).
As you can see in the screenshot below, I’ve already added several folders to share. Have you noticed it yet? Air Video allows you to stream any folder from your computer — it doesn’t need to be from iTunes! Click on the “Add disk folder” or “Add iTunes playlist” to select folders and playlists to share. Before you begin to select your favourite artist’s playlists, know this — music cannot be streamed.
For the sake of learning (and expedience), let’s just assume that’s everything we need to set. Now we’re ready to start the server. Click on the ‘Yes’ button next to ‘Server Running’ to get the show on the road! The menubar icon will change to reflect the status of the server.
Let’s move on to the iPhone. Download the free Air Video app from the iTunes App Store. Air Video Free will only display 3-5 randomly selected videos from any shared folder. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’ll probably rearrange your video files into groups of 3. Otherwise, support this marvelous app and buy the full version for $3.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app on your iPhone or iPod Touch, connect to your local network via WiFi and start Air Video. Click on the plus sign on the top left of the Servers page to add a server. If you’re running a Mac, it should be automatically detected. Otherwise, you can easily add a server manually. In my case, it discovered my MacBook and I only had to tap it in order to add it to the server list. Tap it again to view the list of shared folders.
I’ve set my Movies folder to be shared but I could only view 3 of the 15 items within the folder. I tapped on “12 more items” and it pestered me with a pop-up to buy the full version. No biggie. Moving on, I tapped on a recent series I’ve been watching — Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word. That brought me to an info page which very kindly informed me that the video isn’t properly formatted for the iPhone. Here’s the really exciting bit: even though the video isn’t formatted in h.264, Air Video can convert the file on the fly using Live Conversion.
After a few seconds of buffering, it started to play! Really awesome stuff. In the meantime, the server-side application is using up a lot of my CPU power, all due to the fact that it’s converting the video file into a recognizable format. That’s probably the price to pay for convenience. My advice to you if you’re planning to stream a lot of movies over to your iPhone — have them ready in h.264.
So those are the basic features of Air Video. Now, it’s time to move on to the juicy stuff — streaming over the Internet. This feature needs to be enabled in the server application under the ‘Remote’ tab. Once enabled, it will provide you with a specific PIN number which you’ll need to enter in the iPhone app to link the two together. If you’re facing any difficulties, check out their support page on Remote Access. And of course, if you’re accessing your computer from the Internet, you’ll have to make sure that the ports are opened (either by UPnP or manually configuring the router) and firewalls are set to accept certain connections.
Air Video couldn’t have been discovered at a better time. As my rusty tip slowly falls apart; a gorgeously designed and incredibly exciting app rises to the occasion. It’s now easier than ever to stream videos directly to your iPhone and iPod Touch.
Have you used Air Video? Is it worth paying $3 for the full version? Familiar with easier ways to stream video to iPhone or iPod Touch? Let us know what you think.