This morning, after working out AirPlay video streaming details with Steven Troughton Smith, I decided to give Matej Knopp a call. His name may not ring a bell, but he's the developer of the awesome Air Video application. Air Video, which sells on the App Store for just three dollars, allows you to watch nearly any video from your home computer.
Instead of syncing movies to your iPad or iPhone, and filling up your limited memory, it leverages the ffmpeg library to let you convert and stream those videos instead, on demand. It's a tremendous application and a favorite among TUAW staffers.
Air Video, with its always-available access to streaming entertainment, is the app that we hands-down felt was the most perfect match to Apple's new AirPlay Video technology -- and one that was most let down by Apple's audio-only limitations for third party applications. So I called up Knopp and asked if he'd build me a one-off custom version of Air Video to showcase what AirPlay Video could have been. Not for the App Store, obviously -- it's using private APIs -- but to see what it would look like.
He was happy to help. Read on to discover how well it worked and watch it in action.
The video you see above demonstrates AirPlay Video in its most natural use case. Imagine, if you will, going over to a friend's house and streaming one of your home movies or that episode of Chuck you just recorded to your pal's ginormous HDTV. Sure, you could carry around and hook up a cumbersome video-out cable. Apple sells several offering support for composite, component, and VGA video out.
But that's just a pain. Who wants to try to find a place to rest the iPad near the TV (and trust me, it's always a struggle), have to physically connect wires to the back of the TV itself, and otherwise have to fuss, bother, and make the entire effort not worth the battle? If your friend owns a new 2nd generation Apple TV, AirPlay Video just...works. Or at least it should.
What you're seeing here is how iOS 4.2 (or, technically speaking 4.2.1) should have worked out of the box. Carry your iPad along with you. Wirelessly stream video to Apple TV. Easy and frictionless. Working over the WAN and supporting arbitrary video formats, not just the ones that iTunes annoints. While we'd love to see this capability in the App Store version of Air Video, that's not going to happen just yet.
Knopp tells TUAW, "Air Play's potential is really exciting. Unfortunately its lack of a documented API [for video streaming] at this point means that Air Video in AppStore can not support it. Hopefully Apple will enable this for 3rd party apps soon, just like they did with TV-out. While there are some quirks with live conversion that need to be ironed out, the technology is impressive and the user experience of being able to 'forward' the output to TV is very nice."
For all of you who haven't bought Air Video yet? You're missing out on one of the best iPad apps out there. (Yes, it also works on iPhones, but who wants to watch movies on iPhones? Unless you're streaming them to Apple TV. Just saying.)