I want to watch movies from anywhere!
February 5, 2010 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have a Mac Mini that I'm using as a media center running Plex. I want to be able to watch the media stored there (a couple terabytes of AVIs, MP4s, etc...) from anywhere I am, on a laptop or hopefully even on my iPhone. Is there any hardware/software solution that will help with this?

Using Back to my Mac or DynDNS I can mount my Mac Mini's drives remotely, but playing full-quality files over the internet isn't really possible, and it does't give me any options for the iPhone. I'm assuming that I'll need something that will transcode the files into a more web-friendly format in real time and make them accessible over then internet.

Options I've considered:
I've been looking at Slingbox, which seems to do a great job with this for live tv or a DVR, but I'm really just looking for a way to transcode/stream media from my computer. I don't have cable and don't need to literally control my TV.

I tried Orb for a while, because it seemed to include the features I was looking for, but it's Mac version was terrible and i wasn't able to get it to work even over my local network, let alone over the internet.

Also, the PogoPlug looked like an attractive option, but it seems like you have to manually convert your videos into a web-friendly h.264 format to make them streamable over the internet. I was hoping for a more on-demand option.

Is there anything I'm not thinking of?
posted by raygan to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: zombieApoc: I don't think that's particularly relevant to my question. Some is ripped from owned DVDs, some is not.

I should add that I have a fairly good cable internet connection with pretty good upstream bandwidth (I haven't tested it lately but if anyone needs numbers I'll post back), and that the Mac Mini in question is 2.26ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM. I don't have unrealistic expectations about the quality I can expect for video streamed over a consumer cable connection, I'm just looking for the best possible solution.
posted by raygan at 7:35 PM on February 5, 2010

My friend has a very similar set up and just recently gave Orb another try after a much earlier failed trial (I believe they updated their mac software recently). So far it's been working great, transcoding 1080p mkv files on the fly and playing them on his iPhone over 3G.

I think the major bottleneck for most people would be upstream bandwidth. My friend has 25/25 mbps FIOS so it works great, but someone with <3>
I'd suggest giving Orb another shot since it does exactly what you want it to do. You probably just need to open/forward certain ports for it to work properly.
posted by hummercash at 7:37 PM on February 5, 2010

bah, that should read "someone with less than 3 mpbs might have some problems."

Does matter anyway since you said your bandwidth isn't an issue.
posted by hummercash at 7:41 PM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: This is totally anecdotal because I've never tried it, but I've been reading a lot of good things about "Air Video" for the iPhone to do exactly what you're asking. It supposedly converts video on the fly into a viewable format. and people talk about using it over 3G which would suggest that it also has the ability to traverse your network somehow. I understand there is a free version you can try on the AppStore, might be worth a go?

(PS. I have the exact same mediaPC setup as you! Pretty awesome, isn't it? :) )
posted by ranglin at 10:26 PM on February 5, 2010

Apple has a protocol it developed for the iPhone called "HTTP Live Streaming", which bundles RTSP (streamed QuickTime video and audio) into HTTP (web) traffic.

This protocol makes it a lot easier for a server to stream these media over networks (which for a variety of reasons block most forms of network traffic, except for web and a few others) to a QuickTime-based client on an iPhone (e.g., Safari).

If you have some command-line and programming chops, you might look into setting up a web application to list your movies and offer them as streams on demand.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:24 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: Air Sharing works BEAUTIFULLY over my LAN, I can't wait to test it over the internet. Thanks Ranglin!

If that doesn't work out, I'll definitely take another look at Orb. I'll post back with further results.
posted by raygan at 1:20 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: HOLY BALLS Air Sharing even works beautifully over 3G. This is supremely excellent. Exactly what I was looking for. It automatically adjusts the video encoding quality down a bit for the 3G streaming, but it takes less than a minute to begin playing a file and it's totally watchable.
I wish it had a way to play on a laptop as well, but you can't have everything.
Thanks a zillion to everybody who commented but obviously, best answer goes to Ranglin.
posted by raygan at 1:31 AM on February 6, 2010

Just to clarify, this is Air Video, the video streaming app, not Air Sharing, the document storage app.
posted by chrismear at 3:50 AM on February 6, 2010

Came in late to the thread, but I'm here to pile on the Air Video love. I've been using it daily for several months now, and it never fails to blow me away every time I use it. Being able to watch any video on the 8 TB Drobo attached to my Mac Mini, anywhere I have internet access is awesome

And unlike that festering piece of shit known as "Orb", AirVideo actually *works*.

I just wish the AirVideo developer would make a desktop client. My life would be complete when that happens.
posted by melorama at 6:52 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah looking back on this I must have been mixing up the names, but you can't mix up the apps. Air Video is AMAZING. And the iPad version has only made it better.
posted by raygan at 2:18 AM on June 3, 2010

« Older Is there such a thing as a public lobby group?   |   What would the USAF do with a guy with an... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.