How to add your DVDs to AppleTV

Adding your personal DVD’s to the AppleTV adds convenience

AppleTV Image

If you’re not inclined to hack your AppleTV 1G but still want to play your personal DVD’s through it, this can be done with a little time and some special software.
Once you’re done you’ll never go back to digging out DVD’s again.

Jan 2011 Update: This article refers to the AppleTV 1G. The AppleTV 2G has no hard drive and is a streaming device. There is, however, an ATVFlash hack in the works, currently in Beta. Stay tuned!

[This is a companion article to: How to use AppleTV with Windows]

Software You’ll Need

AppleTV will not play DVD’s directly, they must be converted to a format AppleTV recognizes. You’ll need three pieces of software for your Windows PC to make this happen.

DVD43 or DVDSmith enables you to “rip” or copy your files from the DVD to your hard disk so you can work on them. Handbrake converts that copy to something the AppleTV can use. iTunes (which you probably already have) allows the AppleTV to see and play them.

Copying your DVD’s to your Windows hard disk

Windows will not allow you to copy a DVD by default, due to DRM (Digital Rights Management) which is on all commercial DVD’s so you need a program that can bypass that DRM.

DVD43

DVD43 is a free DVD dycrpyter that bypasses most encryption techniques and allows you to copy the files.
The first step is to allocate some hard disk space, maybe using an external drive. Count on 4Gb per movie.
Once DVD43 is installed it sits in your Task Tray as a little yellow smiley face DVD43 icon.

When you insert a DVD into your computer it will automatically try to read it and crack the DRM.

DVD43 working icon

If everything is good you’ll see the happy face DVD43 happy face.

Now if you open My Computer you will be able to see and copy the contents of your DVD. You only need to copy the VIDEO_TS folder, which may take 15-30 minutes. Create a temporary folder on your hard drive for the DVD copy, which can be deleted once the conversion is done.

DVDSmith (64-bit OS)

I’ve recently moved to Windows 7 64-bit and unfortunately DVD43 will not run on that platform. I found DVDSmith and have been pleased with it so far. The Process is slightly different; you select your DVD drive as the Input Source, select your Movies Folder as the Output Folder and click Start Backup. DVD Smith with copy your DVD to your movies folder and you can use Handbrake from there.

DVD Smith

Convert your copied DVD files to AppleTV format

Once the disk is on the hard drive we use HandBrake to convert the file from DVD format to MP4. Handbrake is easy to use as it has a preset configuration for AppleTV.¬† It is available for both Mac and Windows. You can use Handbrake’s default preset with little noticeable difference, however we have the disk space so we try to get the best quality we can within Apple’s 4Gb file size limitation by tweaking the parameters on the video tab, Target Size = 3800

Handbrake Software

A Handbrake conversion can easily take an hour, so add three or four movies to the Handbrake queue and let let them run overnight.

Note: A DVD optimized for AppleTV will not play on your iPhone or iPod Touch unless you use Handbrake’s “Universal” preset, which may result in lower resolution movies.

Add your Converted Movies to iTunes

Once a DVD is in MP4 format, go to your iTunes and select the movies category, then select File, Add File to Library and select your converted file. The movie will appear on the right and if iTunes can find the album artwork it will show up.

Adding Movie Artwork

More often than not iTunes will not find Album Artwork for your movies so you will have to go get your own. To do this  use CDCovers. Find your DVD and copy the picture to your movies drive. You may want to create a folder for this called MovieCovers. Then from within iTunes, right-click on the movie and select Get Info. Move to the Artwork tab and click Add. Select your album artwork and now it will show up both within iTunes and on your AppleTV

AppleTV get info AppleTV add artwork

Adding Movie Comments

Another nice feature is to add comments to your movie. Comments show up under the DVD Jacket on the AppleTV. To add these comments go to the list view in iTunes and add your text to the Comments column. You can sometimes get good movie text from the Internet Movie Database IMDB.com.

AppleTV comments

Watch Your own DVDs on your AppleTV

Once your movie is showing within iTunes you can now view it through the AppleTV by selecting it from the My Movies menu option.

AppleTV My Movies

Sit back, grab the popcorn and enjoy!

49 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. Still haven’t formatted the new drive. I thought there might be better quality with MP4 over TS_Video but maybe not? OK, last night I had a little time so I connected my ATV via ethernet, ran a HDMI cable to my PC’s 22″ HannsG, and plugged in the power. Still don’t understand how to turn the ATV on/off though LOL. Anyway, I got to the menu, selected XMBC and tried to find my current USB drive with ripped movies in TS_Video format. Could not “find” that drive no matter where I connected it (tried on a regular USB port, then even tried connecting it to the USB on the ATV… no dice. I want to make this as simple as possible, but I have to figure out why I can’t see the drive. Maybe that drive was FAT32, and not NTFS? I always thought NTFS wouldn’t work with movies because it couldn’t recognize the finished size of the movies? Have to keep thanking you for your advice and help… hopefully others are reading this and making progress as well!

  2. Hmmm… This almost sounds too easy LOL. If I format the new USB drive HFS+Journaled would that be bad or good? So you’r saying by doing this, I wouldn’t have to bother with XMBC or Boxee? My ATV was bought with a clean install of both. If I format the drive and move a few movies (Video_TS files) over from the little USB drive, you’re saying I should be able to follow your steps and select these movies using the iTunes/ATV or do I have to restore the ATV to OEM first?

    1. @Mike: If you’re converting all your movies to M4V then XMBc or Boxee is not required. However if you want any other format then keep XMBC (That’s what I’m using) and point XMBC to your USB drive. With XMBC you can have the best of all worlds.
      Regarding HSF – I can’t say for sure if that would work, but why would you want HSF? I would just use NTFS.

  3. TG… Did you have to convert the movies to a specific format to make them compatible with your setup? Also, just curious about your remote USB drive… did you format it for Mac or PC, and lastly… is it connected to the Airport or just daisy-chained into the USBs?

    1. @Mike: I used Handbrake to convert the Video_ts files to MP4, but you can run them right from the Video_ts folder if you want. The remote USB is a Windows format, attached to a central computer and shared out. The Airport is just used for WIFI.

  4. TG… I bought the ATV maybe 6 months ago and the guy who sold it to me did a fresh install of Boxee and XBMC. Is there a newer version of XMBC that I need to “install” and if so, do I have to do any unique purging of old stuff before I install new?

    I probably should give this a try, but I don’t even know how to select it LOL. Is there an easy to understand tutorial (For Dummy’s) on first time setting up someplace? If XMBC will put up an on-screen “menu” that lets me pick movies from the USB drive and automatically sort through the Video_TS folder and then play the movie non-stop using the various *.VOB, *.IFO, and *.BUP files in the folder… that would be awesome! Some movie sub-folders have 9-11 of these other folders.

    1. @Mike: On the ATV menu look for an option called “Launcher”, under that should be XBMC. After that, as in most things hacked, there is some technical setup required. Here’s the XBMC manual: http://wiki.xbmc.org/?title=XBMC_Online_Manual. The hardest part I had was figuring out and getting XBMC to see a shared drive on my external USB drive attached to a computer in the other room. The format was “xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx@{drive share}. However once connectivity exists the rest is menu point and click. I created folders for genre (action, drama, comedy, etc) and moved movies to each. Now I can browse to the Action folder and scroll down to select the movie of choice. It’s a great system once it’s up and going.

  5. Hey TG, thanks for the advice.

    So if I did your suggested install/hack and installed XBMC on my ATV I wouldn’t have to convert these movies? That sounds too good to be true LOL! Running the entire movie without resets… that’s what I want.

    I bought my ATV already hacked (I’m a dufus) and I think it has BOXEE on it. I’m going to have to fire it up sooner or later… (probably after Christmas) and see what else is on it.

    1. @Mike: I can run movies even right from the DVD files. The only format that seems to be a problem for me is wmv. I can run avi, mov, mp4, etc.
      Have fun!

  6. OK, I confess to not being a real technologist right up front. I need some help and advice because I’d like to stream from a eHD to my old ATV and subsequently watch a movie on my TV (upstairs). Trouble is, my movie collection was archived with a PC-only product (CloneDVD2). The archive is on a eHD in category folders with individual movie names. Somehow, I’d like to have ATV present a menu or movie list that I can pick from and view while upstairs while looking at my TV. So I guess what I’m asking is whether I have to “convert” these to an ATV-firendly format in order to do what I want. I should note that I can connect the eHD directly to my iMac, browse the folders, and actually view the movie piecemeal using VLC. Problem is its not linked and that’s not going to work for me.

    Any/All help and advice is appreciated.

  7. Hi,
    interesting thread. Having some issues converting. Sems there may be issues with Windows Home Server. On Windows 7 some conversions only produced an mp4 audio file – any ideas?

    cu
    – pete

  8. This was an interesting read, but I’m wondering if there is any way to upgrade the HDD in my Gen1 40G ATV? Like many others, I’d simply like to use the device as a means to select and play DVD Movie Files from some kind of nice catalog app. I can easily run a ethernet from the Airport in my basement studio to the Family room directly above. My only other alternative that is cost-effective is to use a external USB or FW drive to host the movies and use the ATV to access and deliver them somehow to my bigger screen upstairs.

  9. The trend I’m noticing is that this process is only sucessful for me when i’m copying dvds produced prior to 2002. I’m using the link on this page to download dvd43, is there an update on another page?

  10. I have used dvd43 to copy the entire video_ts folder as listed above, however when I (using the video_ts folder as a source) attempt to convert the files handbrake doesnt display all titles under the titles drop down menu. Lets say the particular file list titles 1-10, 6 and 7 are the dvd video content. For some reason 6 and 7 are omitted on the title drop down menu. I’ve also attempted to use dvd decrypter to copy the source files to no avail. Thanks!

  11. I have copied the entire video_ts folder however when I load handbrake the title containing the actual movie is not available. . .any ideas?

    1. @dlharp
      I’m not sure I fully understand what you mean, but it sounds like in Handbrake you are selecting a video file, rather you should select a DVD/VIDEO_TS folder.
      Hope this helps.

  12. OK
    thanks for this useful tips, watching DVD movies on Apple TV is great. Apple TV lets you buy and rent HD movies right from your TV. Plus, enjoy YouTube videos, HD TV shows, podcasts, music, and photos. Well, with that latest advances in home wireless networking and iTunes we have found that the Apple TV has become a viable choice as a home media centre. There are still a few holes in what it can do, but it looks pretty good.
    hmm, I followed this tips to make my Apple tv as home Media Centre:
    Using AppleTV as your new home Media Centre
    ifunia/news/using-appletv-as-new-your-home-media-centre/

  13. Use MetaX for all tagging of mp4/m4v files. You can add the cover art, specify Movie, TV Show or even Music Video. You can also assign the Season and Episode for TV shows. And iTunes will automatically organize the files using the TV show name and season info. There’s a slightly different syntax for what goes in each field. Look at a purchased TV show if you have one.

    MetaX also let’s you add the movie or TV show rating (G, TV-G etc) so using that with parental controls keeps the kids out of movies not for them. Also – I tag all movies for the kids as “Kids and Family” so they can simply view by GENRE and not have to wade thru all the movies. MetaX has a lookup feature that pulls in all the tags and art most of the time – and chapter names – from Tag Chimp. But also has the capability to drag/drop this info from other sites (B&N).

    I use AnyDVD vs DVD43. It’s always being updated and allows you to rip to an image file (ISO) or DVD structure.

    Lastly, I wouldn’t waste your drive space on large output files from Handbrake. I’ve tested larger files vs. the AppleTV preset and there is little or no erosion in quality. Pretty much all my movies are between 800MB and 1.5GB and look stunning on my ATV and on XBMC or BOXEE on other HTPCs here at home.

  14. For TV shows in iTunes, while in iTunes go to “get info”, then click the “options” tab. In the “Media Kind” field select “TV Show”. Also, under the “Video” tab entering the TV show title along with episode name as well as season and episode numbers will cause iTunes to automatically group your TV shows.
    Hope that helps.

  15. This has worked great, i am actually using a paid for program that incorporates handbrake and works well. Is there a way that you know of to rip a disk of a series and have it in the tv show section of apple tv? So far all i can do is keep each episode as a seperate movie.

    1. Moreperf: I don’t believe there’s any way to put content in the TV section. Movies is the only part that is open to add to.

  16. Good question Mike, and probably one for the Handbrake forum. Please reply back when you get an answer.
    I’m also still trying to optimize the AppleTV preselect on Handbrake to get the best resolution possible under 4Gb.

    1. Amy: I’m not a Handbrake guru and I don’t play with all the settings, but I get great resolution by setting the destination file size to 3840Mb (multiples of 64) and let handbrake do the rest. This is a close to 4Gb you can get. I’m very happy with the results, albeit the conversion time takes longer. I also remove any subtitles.

  17. Great article – I’m already using the handbrake + DVD43 combo – which works well most of the time!
    I also agree about storing in the highest quality. What I still haven’t figured out though, is how to encode using handbrake so that it comes up as ‘HD’ on my Apple tv. Any thoughts?

  18. El programa Hand Brake aun en formato 64 es bueno, pero algo debe de tener pues cuando se pasa al itune y este a su vez se sincroniza al AppleTV, la reproducion en el TV es muy mala, pues cuando se esta reproduciendo se pierde colores y hay constantes perdidas de definicion, y lo unico que pienso que esta produciendo esos problemas es que en Hand Brake no convierte muy bien a los formatos MPG4 aun H264. Esa es mi apreciacion despues de haberlo probado, si alguien ha superado esta situacion por favor escucho consejos…. gracias

  19. Meta X is great for downloading all cover art, actors and descriptions. Chapters are dicy. Hope this helps. I also use Handbrake to rip directly from DVD to MP4 for AppleTV. I haven’t heard about stressing the DVD head. Can anyone shed any light on this?

    1. Heathan: here’s a link to DVD-Guides that talks about stressing the DVD (http://www.dvd-guides.com/guides/dvdrip/235-convert-dvd-to-h264-mkv-mp4-using-handbrake). Maxosx.com forum also says, “Converting directly from a DVD puts a lot of stress on your drive, as the conversion process can take a long time.” The feeling seems to be that the constant head tracking over a long period of time can stress the DVD Player. Anyone know anything more?

    1. Scott, I get mine from IMDB.com, another visitor mentioned just doing a Google search by image for the CD Cover.

  20. This is the method I use to get my purchased DVD’s into my AppleTV. I use Universal mode and I just let Handbreak take the material directly off the DVD. I don’t copy the content to an HD and then use Handbreak.

    I get my DVD cover art and write up info from Amazon.

    1. Re: Drice4444 – The only reason I copy from the DVD to a hard disk is that I read (somewhere) that trying to do this directly from the DVD causes excessive wear on the DVD head and can wear it out prematurely.

  21. Simple and concise overview on getting DVDs into Apple TV format.

    Just one correction I would suggest, which is that the Universal mode has a default Picture Resolution of 720pixel width, which is fine for AppleTV and iTunes, but will not transfer to the iPhone properly. You can manually adjust this to 640, which would still work fine (the iPhone tech specs do list MP4 resolutions upto 640×480). This is preferred over the Handbrake default iPhone/iPod Touch settings, which has the resolution at 480pixel width.

    Also, I do a search on images.google.com and type “The Dark Knight movie poster” to get my cover art.

  22. Great article – I’m already using the handbrake + DVD43 combo – which works well most of the time!
    I also agree about storing in the highest quality. What I still haven’t figured out though, is how to encode using handbrake so that it comes up as ‘HD’ on my Apple tv. Any thoughts?

    1. Good question Mike, and probably one for the Handbrake forum. Please reply back when you get an answer.
      I’m also still trying to optimize the AppleTV preselect on Handbrake to get the best resolution possible under 4Gb.

  23. Hi, thanks for providing this post. I am trying to copy a DVD to my desktop (I have DVD43, and a green smiley face). I get an error dialogue box “Error Copying File or Folder” that states “Cannot copy VTS_01_1: Invalid MS Dos Function”. The file (VTS_01_1.VOB) is pretty large (247 mb). Do I have to use a DVD copy program like “1-click-copy”. Any freware versions you would recommend?

    Thanks!

    1. Kevin: I don’t use any disc copy program to copy files from the DVD to the hard disk. I have found, however, that sometimes DVD43 does say a disk is copyable when in fact it is not. I know it’s hard for rippers such as DVD43 to stay on top of the ever-changing protection schemes used. You may be running into this.
      /Technicalguy

  24. Is there a reason not to use Handbrake’s “Universal” format? I rip all my stuff that way and was under the impressin that I could then play it equally well on iPhone as well as appletv.

    1. You are right Duane, according to the Handbrake website “Universal” format should work for all Apple devices. I’ve just never tried it so I can’t offer any comment on quality. I do try to optimize for AppleTV. I currently don’t watch movies on iPod, or Touch/iPhone.
      I’ve updated the article as appropriate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

© 2014 Foreverwarm Consulting Inc. | Proudly 100% Canadian Frontier Theme