How to Stream Videos to your TV

This article will help you to stream videos (and other media) from your computer and other devices to your TV. It is for those who have (or want to) digitise(d) their old video footage so that they can enjoy watching these movies all over again. Yes, we can all crowd around a small screen to watch, but nothing beats the entertainment factor more than watching on a big screen TV. So how do you show these videos on a TV??

The Quick Answer to Stream Videos

If you are in a hurry for a quick fix do this:

First buy Google Chromecast ($59AUD). Then make sure you have Chrome Browser installed and use the inbuilt chrome cast extension to stream videos direct from your computer to your TV. You do this by dragging the video file into your Chrome browser and selecting the option to ‘cast’. Using the Google Chromecast gizmo doesn’t require you having a smart TV as it turns your TV into a “smart” TV.

You do need a good internet connection because streaming video requires a strong and fast signal. If your wifi is poor connect your Chromecast and computer via an ethernet cable to your router. This eliminates the buffering or lagging issues that can happen with slower connections when trying to stream video.

If you want to hear about other options read on.

Note, all the solutions offered below are suitable for an Apple Mac or iOS devices. Most solutions also work on a windows based PC as well.

1. Hard wire the connection using HDMI

If you don’t want to fuss around installing apps, or buying extra hardware, you can always do a simple “mirror” of your device. Just hook it up to your TV using a HDMI cable (no Wifi required). If you are using an iPad you will need a lightning to HDMI adaptor. You might also need a HDMI adaptor if you don’t have a HDMI port.
This solution works, but it requires your device to be near to the TV. If you’ve got a spare laptop, using it to store your media and running it as a media server might be a good (old school) solution. At least you won’t have internet/networking issues and you won’t ever experience lagging or buffering that can happen when trying to stream video.

2. Use a Streaming Media Adaptor to stream videos

a) The most popular media adaptor to stream videos for Mac is Apple TV. Apple devices use Airplay to stream to any TV via the ‘Apple TV’ device which sells for a few hundred dollars. Some TV models (eg LG models from 2019), are compatible with the new Airplay 2 and can use Airplay without an Apple TV installed. But for all other TVs an Apple TV works great. However…it is expensive.

b) Another (cheaper) option is Google Chromecast. It might not have all the features of Apple TV, but if all you really want to do is stream media content from your computer to your television then it is a great affordable option. $60 for the device, then you use Google Chrome as your internet browser to play your home videos from within your browser. Simply drag the file into the browser.

A variation on this solution involves using a dedicated video streaming platform on your computer to connect to your Chromecast (eg Videostream, Uniconverter, Plex or VLC). But first try using Chromecast from within Chrome and see if you are happy enough with the result.

c) Use another streaming media adaptor such as (the more expensive) Roku. Works very similarly to Chromecast. One advantage with this adaptor is that it accepts video files on your USB. You just plug the USB into the Roku and the device does the necessary transcoding in order to display the videos on your television.

3. Use a streaming video app on both Smart TV and Device

How Smart TVs work

Smart TVs came onto the market around 10 years ago and have revolutionised the way we watch television. The big name manufacturers are Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, and Toshiba. They connect to the internet and allow apps to be downloaded which allows your TV to receive streaming videos. For example, Netflix. But smart TVs can also accept streamed videos from your home computer or other devices. To get it to work you need a streaming app on both your TV and on your device.

For example, the LG TV uses a free TV Cast app to receive the stream (found in app section of TV menu). Then you need to find a suitable app to transmit the stream. For example, if you are using an LG TV and you have an iPhone or iPad, you can use ‘Video and TV Cast for LG’.  (Note, you cannot run this app from a computer). All the TV brands have their own apps that they steer you to, but you can use third party apps as well.

Use computer to stream video

A (free) option to stream videos from your computer is ‘Universal Media Server’ (USM) which can be installed onto your Mac. Once installed, you then go to the photo and video library on your TV and you should see the option to play media files from the USM on your TV. Choose this option, locate the file you want to play and you should be in business. It’s not a super friendly interface but it does work. There are other apps that claim to do the same thing. For example, ‘Sofaplay’. However user experiences are mixed with many of these apps. That is, some video files seem to play OK and others don’t.

Another option is to use ‘Plex’. Plex works on all smart TVs and is a very stable platform. First, you download the Plex app to your TV (if not already preinstalled). Secondly, sign up for an account for use on your computer or device. Then you can then stream any media file with the Plex app. It is a very clean and easy to use interface. The features are similar to Apple TV except it is a software solution, not a piece of hardware. The player is free and it will stream your videos, but to unlock premium features there is a fee.

A hybrid solution is using Plex in conjunction with Google Chromecast (see 2b). Plex has a very sophisticated and clean interface, helping you to organise and stream your media library to the Chromecast, instead of using the Chrome browser.

4. Stream videos from the cloud to your TV

A great place to store media files is in the cloud. This means you can stream your videos to any device connected to the internet. By connecting your smart TV to your cloud account you can stream videos directly to your TV without the use of a computer. At the time of writing the best ways of doing this are:

  • For home videos on Apple’s iCloud. Use your Apple TV with your videos inside your Photos app on your iCloud account. This solution works well for everyday vids that you have taken on your phone. It does not work so well for older videos you may have had digitised and are wanting to store in the cloud. Also note, your photos and videos on iCloud/Photos are different to ‘files’ stored on your iCloud/Drive. The latter cannot be streamed, they must be downloaded first.
  • For home videos stored on other cloud services, such as Google Drive, Dropbox and One Drive use an app such as Infuse or VLC for iOS. You can then stream from your phone or iPad to the TV either using Airplay on Apple TV OR by casting within the app to Chromecast.

If you are a little bit techie you can also set up your own local cloud (Network-Attached Storage), which you can then access video files from any device and project anywhere. WD MyCloud is one option of several that allow for this. It can be a bit pricey to set up – expect to pay $500 – $1000, but the upside is you won’t be paying monthly fees to a cloud storage company. You will still need a media server app, such as Twonky, to access and stream your cloud content.

Just Remember...

What you WON’T be able to do is simply copy your video file onto a USB stick, insert it into the TV and expect it to play. Exception to this is using a Roku adaptor on your television (see 2c). Neither will you be able to hook up your external hard drive and expect video files stored on there to play. In fact, worse – you could damage your drive because it may try to reformat the drive and wipe your data.

The reason for the incompatibility is because both the drive and the video files are not properly formatted to play on a TV. Yes, you can create formatted files, but it is a fiddle and I don’t recommend it. Connecting a blank external drive to a television is a good idea, but only as a recording/playback device. The beauty of using apps such as Plex and Infuse is that they handle most files and they do the transcoding necessary for display on your TV.

Scanned and Secure has experience digitising thousands of hours of old video footage. Our clients now enjoy watching these as digital movie files on their television. Get in touch so we can assist you to do the same.

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