Help-Key: How to easily stick episodes you've missed onto your Apple TV


At the Stevenote a couple weeks ago, Steve mentioned that within “a couple weeks” those of us with Apple TVs would have the ability to rent movies directly from iTunes on our set-top boxes.

This uncertain day has surely passed, and last week Apple said we’d have to wait at least a couple more weeks, as things weren’t ready. That’s ok, though, because we have the Internet, and we’ve got other ways to watch vids on our nice flat panel TVs. Here’s a how-to on getting the latest shows onto your Apple TV.

One of the wonders of the Internet is BitTorrent. It’s a blessing and a curse, as it lets users find the content they’re looking for quickly and easily, it’s also living in a shady area of copyright law. But it can be used for good.

Most new episodes of TV shows are shared via BitTorrent, and you can easily get the ones you want with a free, small, useful tracking application. TVShows is a Mac-specific, open-source goodie that mixes Torrent tracking and RSS into a light-weight interface that lets you “subscribe” to your favorite TV shows. For PC users, there’s another similar application called TED.


Search for your show, add it to your subscription, and forget about it. As each new episode of your favorite shows are added to the BitTorrent field, the program will automatically find the torrent file and download it with your favorite tracker.

It’s a great (if not entirely ethical) way to keep up on your TV viewing if you miss an episode or two. But you want to watch it on your TV, and that’s where it gets fun.

See, most shows are going to be in DivX or XviD formats, which Apple TV natively doesn’t support, so you have to encode these. On your Mac, simply take the shows and drag them into a great little utility called VisualHub. The program has a profile for Apple TV built-in. Check the “Apple TV” box, check the “add to iTunes” box, and hit start. Don’t worry about the advanced settings, tweaking them isn’t really needed. It’s not fast, but overnight you’ll wake to find the videos in your iTunes, automatically, and thus ready on your paired Apple TV.


On a PC, we like the Engrish-tastic U2Sea. It’s simple and lightweight, though it doesn’t have the automatic “add to iTunes” feature, so you’ll have to import the Apple TV-ready files manually.

As long as your PC or Mac is paired with your Apple TV, you should be able to stream the video onto your HDTV in great quality with great sound.


Now, it’s not HD, and it’s not 5.1 Surround Sound, but it’s better than missing that premiere of LOST last week. What happened there, anyway?