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Lost iPod video

Ok, so this may not count as a breakthrough discovery, it’s actually more of a revelation: Apple’s fifth-generation iPod with video works really well as a video player when connected to a television… and there’s a cheap, simple way to hook it up.

I’ve owned a 60GB iPod with video since the beginning of the year. I bought it primarily because my music collection had outgrown the hard drive of my original second-generation iPod. I really wasn’t interested in the video functions at all, and aside from a couple of music videos I bought from iTunes, I never used it to watch videos. I find the screen is just too small to watch something comfortably for more than ten minutes or so, and more importantly, not being a TV addict, I never really have the urge to watch anything when I’m away from home. I’ve always known that it was also possible to connect my iPod to a TV to watch video, but for some reason I thought I needed to buy Apple’s $99 iPod AV Connection Kit to do so, and that the quality on my 31″ TV would be nearly un-watchable.

Recently, there was a harmonic convergence of events in my life that had me revisiting the iPod+TV question:

1) My wife and I recently decided to put the first season of Lost in our Netflix cue. Despite all the rave reviews it received upon its premiere, we usually find that we’re disappointed by most “prime-time” television shows and so we just never got around to tuning in. But curiosity finally got the better of us, and within the first ten minutes of the first episode, we were hooked. Last weekend we finished the first season and found ourselves in a bit of a quandary: The second season won’t be released until September 5th, and not only are we dying to know what happens, but there are spoilers everywhere you look. (It’s amazing how you suddenly start noticing references to a show or movie after you’ve seen it.)

2) My sister recently sent me an iTunes gift certificate for my birthday (my family has always suspected I was a Podophile). It just so happens that the second season of Lost is available right now on iTunes.

3) Now that I’m actually writing regularly about the iPod, I suppose if there was ever a time to figure out the best way to get iPod video onto my TV, this was it. I could combine my Lost obsession with my iPod obsession all in the name of “reporting.”

The first hurdle I wanted to deal with was the $99 iPod AV Connection Kit. It’s a package containing a Universal iPod Dock, a remote, and a iPod AV cable.

iPod AV Connection Kit

Even though it’s cheaper than buying everything separately, there was just no way I was going to spend that much money on another video component, especially since I wasn’t sure how watchable iPod video would be on my TV. I was in downtown San Francisco on Monday and decided to stop into the Apple Store to investigate. It was there I noticed that they sell the iPod AV Cable separately for $19. It has a mini headphone plug on one end and three RCA plugs (yellow, red, white) on the other. I had always assumed that the RCA ends plug into your TV and the mini end plugs into an iPod dock ($39), which I don’t own. “Certainly it doesn’t just plug into the iPod headphone jack”, I thought. “That would be too easy.” The only description on the box reads:

Compatible with all iPod models with color display.

Not very enlightening.

Finally, I did something I almost never do: I asked a salesperson for help. My question was “What’s the simplest, cheapest way to get video from my iPod to my TV?” The answer was the iPod AV Cable. The salesperson assured me that it plugs right into the headphone jack of the iPod and can be used to watch videos or slideshows with music on a TV. She went on to explain that if I wanted s-video out to my TV, I would need the iPod Universal dock instead. Since my TV is a standard definition model, and I was planning to watch iTunes encoded videos, I didn’t think s-video would make too much difference. I opted for the AV cable and made the purchase.

iPod AV Cable

When I got home, it was time for some testing. I already had a couple of iTunes-purchased music videos on my iPod, so I was ready to go. I plugged the RCA jacks into my TV and the mini plug into my iPod, selected Daft Punk’s “Around the World” video and pressed play. I could hear the music start but the screen was black, though the video was playing on my iPod screen. I checked my cable connections, checked that my TV was set for “input,” checked that I was on the right channel. Still a black screen.

Next I looked at the documentation that came with the cable. Here’s what it says:

For information on using this product, see the documentation that came with your iPod.

…in four languages. That’s strike two for Apple documentation on this adventure. Instead of digging through my closet for my iPod box (I may be a Podophile, but I’m not a box fetishist), I decided to turn to Apple’s website for support. Searching for “iPod AV Cable” led me to this helpful iPod video tutorial, which explained that I needed to select “TV On” under the Video Settings menu on my iPod (this shows how out of touch I am with my iPod video functions). Once I did that, I was up and running.

Daft Punk Around the World Video Young Jeezy And Then What Video

(These are photographs of my TV screen to give you a general idea of the picture quality on my 31″ standard definition TV. The actual picture is even sharper in person. As always, YMMV.)

The first thing I noticed was that the video quality was better that I thought it would be. Even more-so when watching a more recent video like Young Jeezy’s “And Then What” (my other iTunes purchased video). Colors seemed bright without much bleeding, and while it isn’t as sharp as a standard broadcast or DVD image, the picture quality wasn’t a distraction at all, especially when viewed from a comfortable distance. The only real noticeable defect is the presence of some digital artifacts, or “blockiness,” during black or very dark scenes.

Convinced that this would be fine for watching the second season of Lost, I pulled the trigger and spent my gift certificate. Each episode is about 43 minutes long, and the first one took about an hour to download (on my Comcast high-speed connection). However, things sped up after that and I had all 24 episodes about 6 hours later. We’ve watched two so far, and agree that it’s just as enjoyable as watching the DVDs.

Lost Season 2 via iPod

That being said, there are a couple of caveats: First, the audio is standard stereo, so you won’t be getting any of the surround sound effect that you may be used to. Second, Lost is filmed in widescreen format but the iTunes video episodes are in standard 1.33:1, so there’s a portion of the picture cropped out. I’m not sure how many videos on iTunes opt for standard vs. widescreen, but if it’s important to you it’s something you definitely want to check. On the plus side, the instant gratification of iTunes is hard to beat. Also, playing video on the TV screen rather than the iPod screen conserves battery life. After about 130 minutes of video, it looks like I’ve used less than 20% of the battery.

Overall, I’ve been really happy with the experience, but I’m not quite ready to change the way i watch TV. If there’s a choice between DVD and iTunes, I think I’d choose the DVD every time (especially since I use Netflix). And if I want a show that’s currently running on TV, I’ll leave it to Tivo to record the episodes. But if it’s a situation where I may have missed a couple of episodes and want to catch up, or it’s just not available on DVD, iTunes and the iPod is a surprisingly good option. After seeing how well it works, I may even step up to the iPod AV Connection Kit for the s-video and remote.

As I said earlier, I know this isn’t an amazing discovery I’ve stumbled upon, but I figure if an iPod enthusiast like me hasn’t really considered using his iPod this way, maybe there are others out there who could benefit from my story. More iPod video tips coming soon…

Related stuff:

  • 60GB iPod with video
  • iPod AV Connection Kit
  • iPod AV Cable
  • Lost - Lost, Season 1 Lost: Season 1

    Lost - Lost, Season 2 Lost: Season 2

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    14 Responses to “Watch iPod Videos on Your TV”

    1. [...] Looks like I got my iPod -> TV connection up and running just in time! [...]

    2. dermo says:

      Just a quick FYI – you can change the settings on the iPod so that video is output in widescreen format.

    3. Podophile says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. Unfortunately, the Lost episodes from the iTunes Music Store seem to be standard format only.

    4. Richie says:

      You don’t need to buy the expensive Apple AV cable… any one will do, you just need to plug the red plug to the yellow TV socket, the yellow to the white, and the white to the red.

      Full description at http://www.cdrinfo.com/forum/tm.asp?m=130785&mpage=1&

      I’m looking for some advice too… what’s the best way to copy the movie to the iPod without losing quality? I’ve noticed that the quality of a movie burtn to CD/DVD works much better on the TV than from the iPod.

      But there must be a way!!!!!

    5. Brandon says:

      Hey man i was jus thinking of watching vids on the tv and i wasnt really wanting to fork out the extra dough. I ran of a couple of site that was getting to what you have found out but they didnt give all the details that you gave so i was just wanting to say thanks for drwing the whole picture and not just one corner. It sure does help newbies lie me out. I am about to go get a av to rca cable from radioshack and try it.
      Thanx for the help

    6. Jonathan says:

      I tried using a av to rca cable that had 2 jacks a white one and a red one. somehow was to lazy to get the 3 coloured cable,, anyways tried that and some how i go tteh viedo no sound,,, well in the evening when I wanted to watch a movie on the Ipod it just gave me the sound no video

      Can someone help please !!!!!

    7. Podophile says:

      Jonathan – On your iPod, go to Video>Video settings>TV Out and make sure it’s set to “off.” If it’s set to “on,” the video will not play on the iPod screen. Personally, I keep my iPod set to “ask” so that it prompts me to select TV Out “on” or “off” each time I choose a video to watch.

    8. Cori says:

      Hey does ne one know if it works on the new 80GB I used to do it with the 30GB but it won’t work the same way.

    9. Raul says:

      hi! i’ve done all what you have told but when i select a video or movie it shows me on the screen “TV Out Enabled Please connect Video Accesory” and i connect it and press play and the same screen keeps there and nothing appears on the tv. If in video settings i put tv out off and i try to play it i can hear the music on the tv but no image appears. what do you think it can be? Thank you.

    10. Dom says:

      i having the same problem as Raul, as to getting better video quality, download the program videora , its free and you have the option to make the resolution tv sized have fun Dx

    11. bthind says:

      Hi All, I have a question…does this work only with videos purchased through itune store? All my music videos on my ipod are from you tube and my movies are from DVD. I converted DVD to ipod using handbrake software, free on the internet. But they play fine on my ipod but not on TV, neither sound or vidoe…..

      If this works only with videos from iTunes, is there a way i cna make these videos work on TV?

    12. bthind says:

      Ok guys never mind..i figured it out…. I read on some other site that yellow is actually a audio and red is video for iPod..that did the trick…. the quality is not that good but i got it

    13. Kealii says:

      Man, thanx so much for this info. funny about the Lost show. That is exactly how I got hooked to it too. But I went to the library for seasons 1-3 because I waited until the showing of season 4 to give it a try. I wanted to know if this cord works with my Ipod classic 80gb. Hope someone can help. Mahalo in advance.