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AirFlick turns Macintosh into an AirPlay data server

Erica Sadun
Erica Sadun|@ericasadun|December 20, 2010 2:30 PM
airflick airtunes apple tv itunes stream data

If you own a Macintosh and an Apple TV, I have created a new tool that allows you to stream data outside of iTunes. It's called AirFlick, and it's now available in alpha form for download and testing.

Last week, I put together a related application called AirPlayer that allows you to stream video from your iPad using Apple's built in AirPlay services and demonstrated it on TUAW. AirPlayer works by emulating an Apple TV using your Mac's built in Bonjour networking capabilities. Below is a description and brief video explaining how it works.

Update: TUAW reader BC adds:

How to Add Live Conversion to Erica Sadun's AirFlick App

Ok, by doing this hack, you can stream ANY video format sitting on your Mac to your AppleTV. I'm testing out an mkv file right now, and it works like a charm!

  • Download the unofficial Mac AirVideo client here. Start playback of a video using live conversion from within this unofficial client, it should hand off the streaming video to Quicktime X.
  • Inspect the stream by viewing the Movie Inspector (check the "Window" menu for Quicktime). Write down that url.
  • Paste that url into Erica Sadun's Airflick app and boom now your AppleTV can basically play any video you throw at it! Looking forward to someone streamlining the process into a neat little app.
One extra little note: you don't have to necessarily download the unofficial Mac AirVideo client above. You can instead begin playback of a video from within the AirVideo iphone app, then go to the mac serving up the stream, and type "ps ax | grep ffmpeg", and grab the alphanumeric string following the --conversion-id flag.

Then paste into AirFlick the following:

The iOS device recognizes your Mac as a compatible player and offers to play back video from certain applications. If your unit is jailbroken and you've installed AirVideoEnabler, the range of applications expands from iTunes and Video to a fair number of other apps that otherwise would not provide AirVideo video.

This solution worked well for anyone who wanted to use a Mac's screen for larger scale playback, especially for those of us who have Mac minis attached as HDTV media centers. Anyone could visit and use a standard non-jailbroken iPad, iPod touch or iPhone to transmit video to my TV.

Please note that AirPlayer Playback is limited to video at this time. Under the hood, audio uses a separate technology called AirTunes, and requires high-level encryption and authentication. I chose not to go there.

AirFlick provides another kind of service. Instead of substituting for an Apple TV, it transmits data to any ATV 2 (or any Mac running AirPlayer).

AirFlick offers the potential of real-time transcoding of otherwise unsupported file types into Apple TV-compatible data. It also allows you to open videos located on the Internet by pasting a URL and clicking the play button. I was able to watch a number of Internet Archive (archive.org) mp4 videos on a big screen TV by browsing that website, selecting URLs and opening them with AirFlick.

AirFlick works by transforming your Mac into a web browser, the same way AirPlay works on your iPhone or other iOS device. For Mac-based files, AirFlick tells your Apple TV to connect to a local URL and serves the data that the Apple TV plays back. So long as those files are in a supported format such as mp4, m4v, mp3, etc., the Apple TV can read and display the file data.

The 0.01 release of AirFlick is quite alpha -- so expect a few bugs along the way. If your Apple TV reports errors, you can always use your menu button (as I show in the video) to try connecting again.

If you give the app a spin, do report back with how things went for you in the comments for this post.