Ask the MACist - Apple TV Video

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Welcome to the latest edition of 'Ask the MACist', the column where I answer your Macintosh and other technology questions. Our question this week comes from Josh in Los Angeles. He asks: There's no problem downloading .avi files, converting to .mov, and playing on the Apple TV, is there? Or showing .mov files generated by iMovie? Also, does it run with 10.3.9?

The answer to your questions are pretty simple, fortunately. Anything you can play on an iPod with video you can play on an Apple TV. The longer answer appears at Apple's website devoted to Apple TV and iTunes. The device will only play the following:

• H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): Up to 5 Mbps, Progressive Main Profile (CAVLC) with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps (maximum resolution: 1280 by 720 pixels at 24 fps, 960 by 540 pixels at 30 fps) in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats

• iTunes Store purchased video: 320 by 240 pixels or 640 by 480 pixels

• MPEG-4: Up to 3 Mbps, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps (maximum resolution: 720 by 432 pixels at 30 fps) in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats

ask the MACistAlso, Apple TV requires iTunes 7.1 and iTunes 7.1 has a minimum Mac OS requirement of 10.3.9. So, that means if you are using OS 10.3.9 with iTunes 7.1, you should be fine. Also, keep in mind that iTunes 7.1 also has a requirement that you have Quicktime version 6.5.2 or later so don't forget to update that as well.

As for converting the video to the correct format for Apple TV, at the moment there are several tools to accomplish that task. You could use Apple's own Quicktime Pro, or use the option in the latest version of iMovie to convert for Apple TV, Handbrake (now called Media Fork) or even ffmpegX. For you Windows users, a good tool is AVS Video Tools.

However, my tool of choice at the moment is a program called Visual Hub. Visual Hub is a nice tool and allows you to convert pretty much any video format into any other. It works great for converting .AVI files, for example, into H.264 for Apple TV viewing — and actually has a preset for that — and it can also be used for a great deal more.

Plus, of all the tools I've tested for converting video, Visual Hub is the fastest on my test machine — a 20" Core Duo 2 iMac with 2GB of RAM. Although, speed is relative in that it still takes some time to do the conversion, even with Visual Hub. So, plan on setting it and doing something else until its done. Like watching some video via your Apple TV.

Ok, that's it for this week's 'Ask the MACist.' But remember, if you have a question about anything Mac, Mac-related, or even something about other tech like TiVo, Blackberry or even Windows, send it to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com.

About Chris Ullrich: Chris is the technology editor at LAist as well as a frequent contributor to other sites like Cinematical and Comic Book Resources. He also consults with clients in entertainment and related industries about how technology can best help them exceed their goals.

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