This weekend, I took time off from gaming, and decided to see if I could use iPhone/iPad in different ways to present media to big TVs and projectors. I am wondering how to escape the traditional lecture, and if an iPad can be used a little like a server or an audience feedback system. For example, can I show a diagram on projector, allow others to see it on their iPad, and then to see if they can annotate it in some way and share it back. Next, can I ask a question, then allow the audience to watch videos or other content on their iPad as they need it.
I was specifically trying not using AppleTV which is tied to iTunes (booo) and using it in ways that full-mirroring won’t accomplish. Plenty of people bought iPad One. It seems the ‘magic’ didn’t extend very well to video-out, as full mirroring was never included, leading to plenty of ‘apps’ being developed to try and do it. There are plenty of useless ones, that crash or do nothing — WebShow I’m talking about you. This post is about how to create a cheap-media server from your Mac – and use it to stream video and images to projectors, and allow other people to pull them from you to their own devices – via local, wifi and 3G networks.
Air Video works and is rather clever. Anyone who has tried to load movies in to iTunes knows how Apple’s magic won’t extend to formats that Apple doesn’t see as white, but black magic, such as dot avi. The work around has been to use Handbrake to convert your rogue file to a format iTunes does like, and I have to say, Handbrake does an excellent job, but of course takes time, and locks your video into your iTunes account as is the way with the Colditz of digital rights management.
So Air Play is more a media server. You install the server add-in on a Mac and you are all set for wifi-streaming. Install the Air Play App on your iPad, find the folder of media you want to share stream it to your iPad. An excellent solution for those who are thinking about having video-resources and believe that people are mobile, not desk-bound. Air Video works over local network and over internet (including 3G). There is a free version, which would be fine for ‘consumption’, and a cheap paid version that does the conversion stuff. Air Video also works with your iPhone.
Best of all it supports live conversion and offline conversion where the entire file is converted upfront. It lets you customize the conversion settings, zoom and crop the video. This means you can create or scrape video from the internet using popular tools such as iShowYou ($20 screen capture, which I use all the time) or KeepVid, which allows you to back up your YouTube videos to MP-whatever.
Now if you also want to push this media to a projector, not just an iPhone or iPad, then just spend $20 on an RGB out connector and a 3.5mm audio line to your speakers and off you go to the big-screen. This is kind of cool, especially as you can stream things over 3G and over distance. No more file conversion, no more having to keep videos on public servers – for under $50.00 you have your own media streaming rig and file conversion toolbox. Although the iPad One has to await iOS5 to get full mirroring, to use all the apps in video out mode, I was more interested here in thinking how to use a desktop Mac as a media server, and then how to use that to allow ad-hock use of video files. Air Video achieves that, not least in the fact it would be entirely possible to use iShowYou to record a lecture or a lesson activity and then to have the immediately available.
In addition to this, I played with ImageBank ($0.99) which also has a basic server rig, so allows you stream photos to your iPad. Now if you just want to make still slides, this thing will allow you to present a set of images. On the desktop, you set a folder for your image set (which you can also password protect). It has an autoplay mode, shuffle and manual controls, which will allow you to flick back and forth between images – and send them out to your projector. Another option is Cinq which again has a iPhone/iPad client and a server rig. This one also allows you to pull images from your network in Facebook. Cinq will pull images from iPhoto, but also manages to deal with a remote folder on your ‘home mac’ so if you are taking images with your iPhone or iPad Two, you can send these directly to your iPhoto or other folder via wifi or 3G, and of course anyone with access to that can immediately collect them. In the version I have, it refused to work with Twitter, and I’m not sure the ($2.99) asking price for ‘ad-free’ was worth it – perhaps if it pushed images to Facebook or Twitter, but as it is, it worked like ImageBank for free.