I went down a rabbit hole over the weekend, and I thought it might be fun to write up some notes on it. I had decided that I wanted to watch Magnificent Butcher, a Sammo Hung movie from 1979. I have it on DVD, so I pulled it out of my random DVD pile and stuck it in my Xbox.
The Xbox appeared to boot up, but I couldn’t get anything to show on the screen, and I couldn’t eject the DVD. Long story short, I eventually got the DVD out and the XBox working, but it was stuck in 640×480 resolution. I eventually got it back to normal 4K resolution, but that’s another long story.
So back to the Sammo Hung DVD: I decided that this might be a good excuse to experiment once again with DVD ripping, and watching ripped DVDs on my Apple TV. I have HandBrake installed on my PC, with libdvdcss, but I haven’t used it in a long time. Well, it still works, and I ripped the DVD with no problems.
Next issue: how to watch it on the Apple TV. First, I decided to hook up an external USB drive to my new router. My old router supported an external USB drive too, but I tried it once and found it to be slow and unreliable. So I thought I’d give the new one a try and see if it was better. Well, it was. I hooked up an old 500 GB SSD, formatted as NTFS. The router recognized it, no problem. It automatically exposed it via Samba. I had no trouble accesssing it from my Mac or PC. And it’s pretty fast! So I copied the .mp4 file for the movie up to it, along with a few other random .mp4 files I had on my PC.
Next, I had to decide how to access that shared drive from the Apple TV. I already had VLC installed on the device, so I tried that. It connected to the Samba share, no problem, and let me watch the movie. So I guess I have a pretty good way of watching random .mp4 files on my Apple TV now.
So maybe I should go buy Ladyhawke from Rifftrax and watch that! I’ve been tempted to buy videos from Rifftrax before, but I’ve always held off, since I didn’t have a simple way to watch them on my TV.
I also remembered that I’d copied a few Akira Kurosawa movies from my TiVo to my MacBook several years ago (2016, apparently), via cTiVo. I gave one of those a try, and it works with VLC on the Apple TV too, so now I can copy those files over to the drive and watch them from Apple TV.
And that got me curious about whether or not cTiVo would work on my current MacBook. Well, it does. It was updated earlier this year, and should keep working for a while longer, though I guess it’s on its last legs.
So now I’m copying a few more Kurosawa movies up to my Mac, and I’ll copy those over to the drive tomorrow, so I can have a little Kurasawa marathon at some point in the future. (Of course, there’s no reason I can’t watch the ones that are still on the TiVo, on the TiVo, but…)
I also took an old scratched DVD that wouldn’t play on my Xbox and ripped it on my PC. It didn’t give me any errors, though that doesn’t guarantee that the .mp4 is perfect. I’ll try watching that soon, I think. (The movie is Syriana, and I’ve had the DVD for years, and just never got around to replacing it. So now I can finally watch it! Probably!)
As an alternative to VLC, I’ve considered Infuse, which is probably better, or at least prettier. And of course there’s Plex, which I’ve tried before, and was just too much of a hassle.
Looking at the Plex web site right now, they seem to be de-emphasizing their original purpose as a way to stream your own media, and are now touting the ability to watch free live TV via their app. Most of what they have seems like the same kind of stuff you can get via Pluto, so I’m not sure why anyone would be too excited about it. But OK.
So, anyway, I now seem to have a relatively hassle-free way to watch .mp4 files on my Apple TV. I don’t think I’m going to go on a bender, ripping a bunch of my old DVDs, but I may take some of the more questionable ones and rip those. (Maybe some more old Kung Fu movies that might be a little scratched up.)