How to Stream Movies from your Mac/PC to your iPad or iPhone

The thing about the iPad is that it’s an amazing device… if you know how to take advantage of it. For example, I was chatting with an attending at the hospital about the iPad and he said he thought it “sucked” because he was unable to do some things he wanted with it. It turned out he just didn’t know how and, after explaining the functions, he couldn’t be happier with it.

Apart from the incredible medical software available for the iPad, one of the other remarkable features of the iPad is all the available video and entertainment software. Apple’s advertising goes something along the lines of “you get one device and 200,000 possibilities” (or maybe I just thought that, I don’t know). One of those possibilities is to open your iPad up to streaming video. That’s right – movies that resides on your computer can be watched on your iPad without needed to copy anything to your device and use up space. Now that you know where we’re going in this article, let me introduce you to Air Video.

Air Video has a number of great features including, as you may guess, video streaming but it can also do a couple other great tricks such as converting video on-the-fly so that it can be watched immediately and doing offline conversion to iOS-compatible formats. Air Video can recognize and play the following formats: mp4, m4v, mov, avi, wmv, asf, mpg, mpeg, mkv, 3gp, dmf, divx, and flv. While this article is written with the iPad in mind (all screenshots are taken from the iPad version), this software also runs on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

From the description in iTunes:

Enjoy your entire video collection everywhere! *
Get more of your video library on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Air Video is a great solution to watch your AVI, DivX, MKV and other videos.

★ Video Streaming ★

Don’t synchronize your videos, watch them over air! Suddenly the capacity of your devices is infinite!

★ Live Conversion ★

Air Video supports almost all video formats and performs the conversion “on-the-fly”. No waiting for files to convert, they are done in real time as you watch!

★ One Touch Offline Conversion ★

If you want to store your video inside the device instead of streaming it, Air Video will convert it for you to iPhone friendly format. Forget the hassle with conversion settings, just one tap and the video conversion is on.

Air Video comes packed with features. It can share folders on your hard drive as well as iTunes playlists. It supports live conversion and offline conversion where the entire file is converted upfront. It lets you customize the conversion settings, zoom and crop the video.* Air Video works over local network and over internet (including 3G). However to enjoy streaming over internet your router must support UPnP or NAT-PMP protocols so that Air Video can setup the port forwarding for you. Otherwise you will need to configure the port forwarding manually.

* Air Video will not play DRM protected videos. All video content purchased through iTunes includes DRM. Video podcast content is free and does not include DRM protection.

Below are four screenshots detailing the features of Air Video and one screenshot showing the server GUI running on Windows 7. The server GUI allows the user to specify shared folders, monitor video conversions, change settings (Start with Windows, password protection, etc.), remote access over the internet, display subtitles with language limits and view server and conversion logs. Unfortunately, conversions can not currently be started from the server GUI and still have to be initiated on the iOS device.

In the first Air Video screenshot running on the iPad, the server selection can be seen. Each computer runs a local copy of the Air Video server (available for Mac and Windows). Subsequent screenshots show how video folders can be browsed, video playback options can be changed and video conversion status on the server can be monitored.

Windows Air Video Server

Server selection screen

Video folder selection

Playback options

Converstion status on the server

Overall, Air Video is a 4.5/5 star product. It does everything one could hope for except for allowing conversions to be initiated on the server. Videos play fast and the software is stable. After using this software for the past several months, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Air Video is available in the App Store for free as the free version or $2.99 for the full version. The free version is limited to 3 to 5 videos per folder but it otherwise fully functional.

Air Video: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/air-video-watch-your-videos/id306550020?mt=8

Air Video Free: http://itunes.apple.com/app/air-video-free-watch-your/id313056918?mt=8#

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