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watch avis on tv
February 19, 2008 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend the best way to watch movies, stored as avi's or mpeg's on a MacBook Pro, on a Sony Wega TV that's about eight years old? Is something like Apple TV the best, or a device like the Galaxy Tvisto Amazon used to sell? I realize my relatively old-school TV may make things harder...
posted by jgballard to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you have a DVI output on your Macbook? There's this that will convert DVI to S-Video or composite output.

I use the S-Video out on my laptop to watch local movies or the Netflix on demand service and it works great. Not HD quality but as good if not better than regular cable.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:13 AM on February 19, 2008


If you're handy with technology, you could buy a used Xbox and install XBMC (xbox media center) on it.

You could also buy a DVD player that supports dvix/xvid (assuming your files are in that format). We had one similar to this one on amazon. Couple it with a few dvd-rw's and you're good to go.

The xbox 360 will also play dvix files over your network, and I assume there's similar functionality for the PS3.
posted by pete0r at 9:19 AM on February 19, 2008


Apple TV 1.x has some trouble with DivX/XviD -- though there are workarounds. I've never used a 2.x, and I don't know if this is still true. If you are a typical video downloader, most of your .avis are in one of those formats.

Netgear's Entertainer and Zensonic's Z500 do more or less the same thing, but have support for many more formats. AppleTV's interface is much better. Whether you want sizzle or steak will determine the importance of that.

Geexbox and XBMC require a little more elbow grease to set up, but once you get them going, they're better than anything commercially available today.
posted by toxic at 9:48 AM on February 19, 2008


My friends going to buy a Take TV device, they look really good and might well be right up your alley. It's a usb memory stick (4 or 8gb) which you can put your films on as per usual, then you plug it into it's little docking station connected to the TV and away you go.
posted by Static Vagabond at 9:51 AM on February 19, 2008


I use my Xbox 360 to do this. It's pretty easy with the program Connect360.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2008


You want super easy? There are a 1/2 dozen DVD players that play Divx, Xvid, etc. About $40-50.

Burn the items to a DVD-RW, drop them in, and you're done. Reuse the DVD-RW after.
posted by filmgeek at 11:10 AM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seconding the DVD player that plays AVI files recommendation. You can get a lot of stuff on a single DVD -- enough for a few weeks of watching.
posted by peacheater at 12:20 PM on February 19, 2008


I'm also considering this - currently just using my MacBook Pro with Video Component out (adapter bought from apple) but want to switch to a situation which doesn't use the laptop while watching. While the advice of "get a DVD player that plays DivX" seems good, does anyone recommend specific models which have worked for them? I look at DVD players and worry that I'm going to spend $50 and have it not work as wanted.
posted by jamuraa at 12:43 PM on February 19, 2008


beowulf573 is spot on for the simplest way - plug it in and It Just Works. Discount a lot of the negative reviews on the Apple Store page & forums; it seems they lump reviews for all the TV-out devices together. That, and a lot of people seem incapable of reading the "Works with ..." details for each one, buy the wrong adaptor for their particular laptop, then whinge about how stupid Apple are...

1 caveat: the second screen it creates is always 4:3 - if your Sony Wega is 16:9 (some Wega models here in !USA have been for 10 years or more), 16:9 videos will be postage-stamped unless the TV can zoom in. On a 4:3 TV, 4:3 content will be right while 16:9 content will be letterboxed.

Throw the Perian codec pack on, and Frontrow will play most codecs in AVI. For those that it won't, VLC is starting to get some support for the Apple remote, so you can still still operate it from across the room.

(This is exactly how I watch downloaded videos - MacBook plugged into my 5 year old widescreen CRT Sony Wega.)
posted by Pinback at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2008


1 caveat: the second screen it creates is always 4:3 - if your Sony Wega is 16:9 (some Wega models here in !USA have been for 10 years or more), 16:9 videos will be postage-stamped unless the TV can zoom in. On a 4:3 TV, 4:3 content will be right while 16:9 content will be letterboxed.

um, that's just not true. you can set it to be whatever you like through control panels.
posted by ascullion at 4:30 PM on February 19, 2008


You want super easy? There are a 1/2 dozen DVD players that play Divx, Xvid, etc. About $40-50.

Burn the items to a DVD-RW, drop them in, and you're done. Reuse the DVD-RW after.


Actually, you can make life even easier by getting a DVD player with a usb port. Personally, if i were looking to upgrade from my XBMC I'd get a PVR and look for Ethernet and usb capability.

XBMC on a modded xbox can be pretty noisy. Lots of fan noise and it sucks down a lot of electricity.

Be careful about buying adapters to connect your pc to older tvs. My laptop outputs svideo but to connect to the scart on my TV i use an adapter that turns it into black and white off center. It's crap.
posted by srboisvert at 4:50 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I use the Phillips DVP5960.

Caveats:
* Doesn't play the higher resolution Divx files (usually include "HR" somewhere in the file name if you're torrenting)
* Only shows the first 8 characters of the file
* Doesn't display (or play) files in alphabetical order

But other than that, just stick the videos on a thumb drive and plug it into the USB port on the DVD player. I've been doing that for a several years now and never had a problem (excepting the above).
posted by natabat at 8:40 PM on February 20, 2008


I use a LaCie silverscreen and love it. Picked it up cheap on eBay.
posted by Kneebiter at 9:31 PM on February 20, 2008


I've owned both an XBMC and a philips DivX/Xvid player (dvp-642). For usability the XBMC cannot be beat, my very non-technical girlfriend has no problem navigating it (you WILL want to spend the $15 to get the xbox remote). You can also view photos and play mp3s with visualization. It IS quasi-legal, if that is a concern for you. Additionally, if you do not have an always-on computer to stream from it may not be for you.

The problem with the philips for me was that it choked on a LOT of files that XBMC would happily play. There's nothing more annoying than finding out that you're going to have to watch something on your computer because the dvd player won't handle it. I don't think I've found anything yet that XBMC can't handle, although it does die on really high resolution (think 1020p) stuff -- with your older tv this shouldn't be a problem. The philips player I owned also only took SRTs for subtitles, which was a pain when subtitles were provided as idx/sub (which is more common in scene releases). The big upside on the philips is they're probably under $50 in stores right now and they are plug and play.

The downside of the XBMC is you're probably going to want to get it pre-modded or find someone to mod it for you, and you'll have to be a little technical to get XBMC on it if it's not already there. The other big complaint i have is that, yes, it is noisy, and that it can't power on from a remote (there are mods to make it do so). Besides buying the XBOX remote you'll probably also want a wireless bridge so that you don't have to run ethernet, which you can find from $20-30 (you might have to mod something with DD-WRT). There's a little work involved, but if you are technically inclined, you can probably do all this for under $100 or so. Its the most awesome PC->TV solution i've seen yet, its UI is very refined, and there's tons of features I haven't mentioned. highly recommended if you don't need HD quality. Plus: xbox games!!!
posted by fishfucker at 3:36 PM on February 23, 2008


ascullion: "um, that's just not true. you can set it to be whatever you like through control panels."

Nope, I'm right, at least in PAL-land and/or on my MacBook - there's no way to make that secondary display anything other than 4:3. I can set it to 720x480, which is a bit closer in pixel terms - but it still treats the display pane as non-anamorphic 4:3, with the additional limitations that it buggers up display of SD 720x576 WS anamorphic source content and the output is now locked to NTSC.
posted by Pinback at 10:01 PM on March 16, 2008


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