I have an AppleTV at home and I think that it is really a great device. I know at this point this comes as no surprise given my obvious passion for Apple and its products, however this device has some mixed feelings about some aspects of this product and how it fits into my lifestyle.
The AppleTV allows me to wirelessly watch content from my iTunes Library. It is also extreamly slick, unbelievably silent, and just an all rounded well crafted machine. While Apple has been really agressivly trying to be leaders in digital management and content, especially when in a growth sector like video, the truth is there are some major drawbacks to the whole process still.
Got a Flat Screen TV?
First of all one major drawback for me is I do not own a new flat screen TV, instead I own an older TV, dating at least over five years old and it has only a composite connection. This means that for me the only way to use the AppleTV is to, dare I say it, crack it. This is naturally not something everyone can do and is not really a straight forward process, but lets say that is not your problem and you have a new fancy flat screen panel. In that case the AppleTV would work out of the box for you.
Needs more Content
With the new version of AppleTV you can even rent movies directly from the machine. One drawback is of course the lack of content. Its just not there. For people on the torrents there is more than enough content and you can download content till your heart is delighted, especially content like TV shows or new releases. Most of the time this content is available as AVI files and will need to be converted to MP4 files in order to be added to your iTunes library. You can use a tool like VisualHub, QuickTime Pro or if you wait a few weeks this feature will be added to HandBrake. All these tools are fairly simple and there is more than enough content available on the web how to do this.
What about subtitles?
For me I often enjoy watching films with subtitles. But for this to work with the AppleTV you need to be able embed the subtitles into the MP4 file directly. Till recently there was no way to do this. That is until a crazy friend of mine reverse engineered the process and figured out how to do it. He created a tool called Muxo, which allows you to easily embed subtitle files into any MP4 file. Muxo by the way is free so go ahead and download it, but it only works on a Mac. Then you can add the MP4 file to you iTunes library and away you go. You can enjoy watching your flick with your subtitles right out of your iTunes library. For those of you with a cracked AppleTV, there is no longer a need for the ATV plugin.
Personally I like the idea of keeping all my digital content like music and video in one place like iTunes. The recent emergence of these great tools like Muxo and VisualHub make this process really great and easy. It would be delightful if all this worked right out of the box directly from Apple, but since it does not, it has allowed for the creation of very niche small applications that specialize in supporting single tasks. Maybe this was Apple’s plan all a long.
Additional Notes and Links
Here is a review about Muxo to explain what the tool does. The article also discusses Muxo’s support for the iPhone.