Initial Impressions of the Apple TV

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kevinbal
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 4:20 am

Initial Impressions of the Apple TV

Post by kevinbal »

I've had my Apple TV for almost 5 hours now and figured that now would be a good time to post an initial impression of the Apple TV and everything that goes a long with it.

Packaging: Simple, very Apple like. Only the unit, power cord, remote and documentation. Looks just like how the ipods ship now, only bigger. I really don't understand why everyone seems to be posting complaints about lack of cables..... to me, it just seems like people are complaing about items like that for the sake of complaining. Why would Apple include a component cable if you wanted to use HDMI? Or vise versa? Audio, why include optical if you can only use stereo on your set up? Most people have their own cables so this really isn't an issue, nor is it a violation of their KISS ideology.

My Set up and Initial connection: Currently I havea 32" Olevia LCD HDTV, Mac Mini serving up the goodies, Boston Acoustics 5.1 surround sound system, and all media stored on external firewire Western Digital My Book Drives. I am connecting the video through HDMI, audio through an optical cable. The idea is that I am only going to sync music and photos, movies will remain on the external hard drives to be streamed to the Apple TV.

Plugged in all the cables, then the power cord. Apple TV booted up and gave me the language prompt and then the network setup. I am using ethernet switch instead of wireless, since my network is a mixed b/g. Setup did not detect an open Wireless so it prompted me for ethernet. Couple of seconds later it said it was all set to go. I got the initial start up video and splash screen, then the menu loaded.

Menu Navigation and Apple Remote: Works and responds just like Front Row. By default the Apple TV loads the library stored on the Apple TV (more on this later). The main categories are Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts, Photos, Settings, and Sources. Once you pair a remote to the Apple TV, it eliminates any interference with other macs around.

Settings: About -> Displays software information, serial number, etc.
TV Resolution -> Sets the output resolution, 720p, 1080i, 480p, 720p 50 hz, 1080i 50hz, and 576p 50hz are the options.
Network -> wireless and wired configuration
Screen Saver -> Timeout options, Use for Music, Preview, then the options are the Apple Logo, Album covers, or iPhoto Photos.
Repeat Music -> repeat music or not on shuffle mode
Sound Check -> Just like the iTunes setting
Sound Effects -> clicks and boops like Front Row
HDMI Brightness -> defaults to high
Unpair Remote
Update Software -> direct software update, nothing yet :)
Language
Legal
Reset Settings

Music: Sounds great through the optical. Initially this was the main reason for me wanting this Apple TV. For years I've wanted an easy to use way to navigate my library through my main speaker system. Artwork and everything looks great, couldn't be happier. The Apple Lossless through the optical is unreal, though mp3 and aac sounds absolutely great as well.

Photos: I have a 2.0 MP camera. The photos look great, I cant imagine how good a 7.0+ would look. Again, this works just like Front Row so not much to write home about here.

Podcasts: I haven't tried this out yet, sorry :) Will do that later or let someone else write a review of podcasts on the Apple TV

Interlude - Sources: By default, the Apple TV loads it library on the hard drive. In order to stream, you need to go under sources and load the library of the computer you want to stream from. Then you can view the entire library on that source and stream movies, tv shows, etc. A small step that actually took me a little bit to figure out. I couldn't understand why none of my content was showing up. I, gasp, had to consult the manual after I checked all my connections and settings :)

TV Shows: So I have Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park encoded and in my library. Here's my biggest problem with the TV Show set up and it is a major concern for me. Under TV Shows, the listings are divided by TV Show name (or by Date if you rather). After TV Show, there's nothing. Even Front Row futher divides each show by Season.... the Apple TV does not. Its just a random mess of episodes with no descernable sorting. I can't figure out if it is something that I am doing wrong or what.... I'm dissapointed in this. However, the video stream itself is good. I encoded the TV Shows at 1000 kbps, mpeg 4. Good quality and sound on the bigger screen.

Movies: Now the big thing, the movies.

Most of my library is encoded at 1450kbps, h.264. Resolution of around iPod settings (640ish x 480ish).

Simply put, it looks fantastic through the HDMI - certainly a lot better than through the iPod via the dock. The colors are rich and clean, bright, and overall pretty damn good. Honestly, and I dont consider myself any kind of visual expert, but the video at those settings looked damn close to the DVD quality (which is hooked up through component). I was using Star Wars Episode III as a test.

I can honestly say that the video quality almost exceeded my expectations. For the file size, the quality is really great. I most likely will not reencode much, if anything at all, given the specs allowed by the Apple TV. With my current TV, its just not needed. Its possible that on a larger, plasma tv, capable of native 1080, there would be a large enough of a difference to warrant recoding. Simply put, this is not the case for me, right now.

Accessing the files from the stream - pretty quick. It takes about 3-4 seconds for the movie to load and then there are no interruptions (at least not through my ethernet set up). Poster art carries through the menu (unlike Front Row) and looks great (I used impawards.com to get almost all of the poster part).

Sortings - could be improved. Fortunately "The" in titles get ignored. However, the "Sort Name" field in iTunes is ignored. It just simply sorts movies alphabetically. So, while I have Austin Powers sorted as sort name "Austin Powers 1", "Austin Powers 2", etc.... Austin Powers Goldmember still shows up ahead of Austin Powers International Man of Mystery, unlike how it sorts in iTunes. Not a huge deal, but something that I hope is improved with the first software update.

Also, I would have loved to see a Genre option included. While scrolling through a list of 300+ movies is impressive, I would like to have had the option of just seeing Comedy, or Action, or Sci-Fi. Maybe in the next software update.

Now the big audio question. I spent some time this morning/afternoon with dynaflash and jbrjake testing out various options with the latest build of handbrake and 5.1 surround sound. Here are the main points:

The Apple TV supports 320kbps, not just 160 like the specs say. This is a huge plus. In terms of the 5.1 output, the verdict is still out. It is entirely possible that it is putting out 6 discrete channels, my receiver doesn't indicate if that is the case or not. The sound is very close to the original DD on the DVD (I ran the DVD along side the test files through the same speakers). It just was not as crisp as the DD, but sure sounded as if the Surround sound was working. Unfortunately, it could also just be the fact that the Apple TV is running it through Pro Logic with some damn good emulation of surround sound. I hope that someone will be able to confirm this, but at the very least, it'll play 320 kbps without any issues.



All and all, I am -VERY- happy with the Apple TV and what it can do. I was looking for a easy, and visually pleasing, way to ultimately have my entire media library accessible at just a couple of clicks. The quality versus the DVD is pretty damn good using h.264 and 1450 kbps. For many people, this is going to be amazing. For someone that wants to replicate everything on the DVD, including Dolby Digital sound, and picture quality - this isn't, nor was it ever, intended for you.

cbud
Bright Spark User
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Post by cbud »

Could you test h.264 Main Profile? Please?!

kevinbal
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 4:20 am

Post by kevinbal »

Sorry, forgot to mention that I did do that while I was testing audio. 3000kbps main profile, to me, on my setup, produced virtually no difference than 1450kbps baseline. *shrugs* I'm sure people will see it differently, but in the opening scenes of Episode III, they both looked equal and both looked damn near the same as the DVD.

dynaflash
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Post by dynaflash »

I would just personally like to extend a "Thanks" to kevinbal from the development team for his prompt testing with us as the first HB user with an appleTV that could answer some of our questions right away this morning. He was extremely helpful and patient with us as we bombarded him with testing requests! Thanks kevinbal!

I am sure that when he logged onto our irc channel he had no idea what he was getting into :)

Gak
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2007 10:59 pm

No AC3 for me

Post by Gak »

I just ripped a quick chapter with the latest beta. I may have done something wrong, but at least with a quick check it is not passing 5.1 through the optical, just stereo. My receiver tells me what it getting on it's display so I can check.

I may have set something wrong on the rip. But in the beta it's pretty straighforward since there is no option to convert to 5.1 yet. So I don't think I screwed up.

Everything else worked fine.

FYI: I got stumped with the Source selection thing just like you did. This part of the setup felt very non-Apple like to me. Only thing I don't like so far is that Music stops playing if you navigate above the Music menu. Don't see why I can't poke around Movie listings while Music is playing.
Last edited by Gak on Fri Mar 23, 2007 12:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

dynaflash
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Re: No AC3 for me

Post by dynaflash »

Gak wrote:I just ripped a quick chapter with the latest beta. I may have done something wrong, but at least with a quick check it is not passing 5.1 through the optical, just stereo. My receiver tells me what it getting on it's display so I can check.

I may have set something wrong on the rip. But in the beta it's pretty straighforward since there is no option to convert to 5.1 yet. So I don't think I screwed up.

Everything else worked fine.

FYI: I got stumped with the Source selection thing just like you did. This part of the setup felt very non-Apple like to me. Only thing I don't like so far is that Music stops playing if you navigate above the Music menu. Don't see why I can't poke around Movie listings while Music is playing.
If you were using MediaFork 0.8.0b1, then you dont have the 5.1 aac extraction option. The only way to get that right now is to build it out of our svn. Our next release will have it. MediaFork 0.8.0b1 just mixes the source 5.1 down to stereo.

SicMX
Posts: 66
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2007 11:31 pm

Post by SicMX »

Thanks for the info kevinbal! I'm looking to get an Apple TV as soon as i get a new HDTV.

I've been ripping some DVDs with Mediafork @ around 2500-3000kbps 720x480 (if 16:9) Main Profile to avoid any artifacting in dark or grey patches. Do you think these will work with Apple TV?

Also when you select a movie is there any info available, like actors, plot, runtime or ratings?

Cheers!

Gak
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2007 10:59 pm

Re: No AC3 for me

Post by Gak »

dynaflash wrote:[
If you were using MediaFork 0.8.0b1, then you dont have the 5.1 aac extraction option. The only way to get that right now is to build it out of our svn. Our next release will have it. MediaFork 0.8.0b1 just mixes the source 5.1 down to stereo.
Ok, thanks. I thought it passed it through. Just built the current SVN trunk. I'm going to try to convert and see what happens.

exodar
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:12 pm

Can someone confirm 480i setting?

Post by exodar »

I noticed in the following AppleTV setup video on gizmodo that 480i is clearly an option. Can someone with an AppleTV and a Standard Def television with Component Inputs confirm this?

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/apple-tv/fir ... 246124.php

I have a Sony Wega 32" Standard Def TV that has Component Inputs and I have been dying to know if it will work with it. My TV has this "Enhanced Mode" you can put it in that compresses the screen down to 16:9 but it is all still 480i.

Wife has put the Kibosh on getting an HDTV until we get a stupid fence put up in the yard. Like that is somehow more important...sheesh.

Thanks in advance...
exodar

Gak
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Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2007 10:59 pm

So far no 5.1

Post by Gak »

I ripped a chapter using the convert to 5.1 from the latest builds. My receiver says it's only getting stereo. The file itself says it has 6 channels in it though. Bummer. Wonder if there is some magic bitrate setting that will get it to work. I'll mess around with it some more tomorrow.

Cyander
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Re: So far no 5.1

Post by Cyander »

Gak wrote:I ripped a chapter using the convert to 5.1 from the latest builds. My receiver says it's only getting stereo. The file itself says it has 6 channels in it though. Bummer. Wonder if there is some magic bitrate setting that will get it to work. I'll mess around with it some more tomorrow.
Same here, my receiver is telling me it is using Dolby Pro Logic II (doing it quite well)...

To be honest, this is about as good as I could expect this time through. The important thing is that it does a good job mixing the discrete channels (instead of just turning them off) and passing that out, making it still feasible to archive using 5.1 AAC.

nightstrm
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Post by nightstrm »

While the software may not support it at this time, the hardware defintely has the ability to output 5.1. If you look at the first picture on this page from anandtech (http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2951&p=7), you'll see a Realtek ALC885, which according to the specs on their website (http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/prod ... ProdID=138) supports up to 7.1 as well as the audio content protection found on next generation discs. Here's to hoping that Apple decides to actually use it soon!

EDIT: The 945G chipset used could also hold potential for Apple eventually unlocking discrete sound support, as it has Intel's HD Audio specification.
Last edited by nightstrm on Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

macattack15
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:12 am

Something to try

Post by macattack15 »

I'm curious if one of you guys downloaded an HD trailer from Apple's website that had 5.1 audio (for example oceans 13) and tried playing it on the ?TV if that would play in 5.1. I have messed with a bunch of them at my local Apple store but I couldn't find any clues about its 5.1 support. I must say though HD content on it looks AMAZING! It also streams and buffers media faster then any other set-top box I have ever seen from my modded xbox to my cable box. Its near instant streaming speed was a big sell for me, alas I am still waiting to buy one through work.

rigormortis
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oceans 13 5.1 experiment

Post by rigormortis »

I'm curious if one of you guys downloaded an HD trailer from Apple's website that had 5.1 audio (for example oceans 13) and tried playing it on the ?TV if that would play in 5.1. I have messed with a bunch of them at my local Apple store but I couldn't find any clues about its 5.1 support. I must say though HD content on it looks AMAZING! It also streams and buffers media faster then any other set-top box I have ever seen from my modded xbox to my cable box. Its near instant streaming speed was a big sell for me, alas I am still waiting to buy one through work.

***********

Yep, just tried it. 720p version. My amp shows that I'm only getting 2-ch :(

Cyander
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Post by Cyander »

Some worse news about 5.1... iTunes ignores tags in m4vs/mp4s with 5.1 surround in it. So while iTunes will stream them to the Apple TV no sweat, you can't get cover art or the like.

Rockin' Az
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2007 9:29 pm

Anamorphic encodes

Post by Rockin' Az »

Hi

Been lurking for a while, but this is my first post.

I am interested if any AppleTV recipients out there have tried manually hinted anamorphic files. I read in another post that the Apple TV doesn't handle anamorphic files (same as Quicktime), but from the primer on anamorphic videos on the Handbrake site, I am wondering if AppleTV recognises Quicktime files that have manually specified scaling added to the file.

To test, all someone (and as a non-owner that someone would be someone here on the forum!) would need to do is rip a small chapter of a wide screen DVD with Mediafork. Select Anamorphic under the video settings and take note of the anamorphic resolution that Mediafork gives (e.g. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with anamorphic set gives you an encoding resolution of 720x426 after autocropping and an anamorphic resolution of 1024x426).

After doing a small rip, open the mp4 file and select the movie properties (cmd-j). From there select the video track and click on visual settings. Uncheck the preserve aspect ratio box and enter the anamorphic resolution from Mediafork earlier. Save the file as a quicktime file.

If the file shows up correctly on Apple TV then it looks like it pays attention to manual hinting in Quicktime (if that's the right expression).

I understand that the benfits of anamporphic are good and plentiful. What I'm not sure of is whether manually instructing Quicktime to scale the video brings the same benefits. Someone more knowledgeable may be able to shed light on that.

If anyone has tried this, or are willing to try this, I would be most grateful..and we would all have a better idea of better ways of encoding files for Apple TV.

Kind regards

Rockin' Az

jbrjake
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Post by jbrjake »

No. Doesn't work, as has already been reported.

macd00d
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Claims of 5.1 DTS working on Apple support forum

Post by macd00d »

Just thought I would pass this along. He's talking about DTS encoded music... but I figured you guys would definitely want to check this out.

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jsp ... 1&tstart=0

wyvern
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Anamorphic encodes

Post by wyvern »

Rockin' AZ

I encoded a movie with file format MP4 file, AVC/H.264 Video/AAC Audio. Anamorphic (PAR) was selected. Encoding rate for the video was 3000 kbs. The output resolution of the file was 718x468.

The Apple TV will play this video file in its 718x468 aspect. I have found a work around with Quictime Player to restore the proper aspect ratio for Apple TV. First, open the mp4 file in Quicktime. Then show movie properties, select the video track from the properties window and type in the scaled size that you desire. I restored the scale to 850x468 for this movie. Then Save As a self-contained movie. This movie will play in Quicktime in its proper aspect ratio, and it will sync to the Apple TV and play it its proper aspect.

Rockin' Az
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Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2007 9:29 pm

Anamorphic encodes

Post by Rockin' Az »

wyvern

Thankyou! That is the exact experiment I was hoping someone would perform!

Based on your post I think we could conclude that while the Apple TV doesn't handle anamorphic encodes automatically, you can use Quicktime Pro (as outlined in wyvern's post above, or my earlier post) to manually specify the scaling so that anamorphic encoded video displays correctly.

This is good news. I have quite a few files with anamorphic encoding (using 3ivx and Diva mainly, one with Mediafork). I now know that if I manually hint the files, they should work fine on an Apple TV if (when) I get one.

My final question for any encoding experts out there - does manually specifying the scaling using QT Pro, defeat the purpose of an anamorphic encode in the first instance? In other words, is it worth encoding future video using anamorphic? What are the benfits (quicker encodes etc)?

If it is worthwhile, and if there is enough interest, I could put together a quick how-to (or at least an initial draft) - though it seems a fairly straightforward process.

Rockin' Az

jbrjake
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Post by jbrjake »

We're getting conflicting reports here, so someone's incorrect. If adding the transformation matrix works on the AppleTV when you do it in manually QuickTime, it should work just as well with anamorphic encodes from post-revision-353 HandBrake builds. And it's been reported that it doesn't. The other possibility is that someone broke maurj's anamorphic work, but no one's fessed up to that.

kilofox
Posts: 15
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Re: Anamorphic encodes

Post by kilofox »

Rockin' Az wrote:Hi

Been lurking for a while, but this is my first post.

I am interested if any AppleTV recipients out there have tried manually hinted anamorphic files. I read in another post that the Apple TV doesn't handle anamorphic files (same as Quicktime), but from the primer on anamorphic videos on the Handbrake site, I am wondering if AppleTV recognises Quicktime files that have manually specified scaling added to the file.

To test, all someone (and as a non-owner that someone would be someone here on the forum!) would need to do is rip a small chapter of a wide screen DVD with Mediafork. Select Anamorphic under the video settings and take note of the anamorphic resolution that Mediafork gives (e.g. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with anamorphic set gives you an encoding resolution of 720x426 after autocropping and an anamorphic resolution of 1024x426).

After doing a small rip, open the mp4 file and select the movie properties (cmd-j). From there select the video track and click on visual settings. Uncheck the preserve aspect ratio box and enter the anamorphic resolution from Mediafork earlier. Save the file as a quicktime file.

If the file shows up correctly on Apple TV then it looks like it pays attention to manual hinting in Quicktime (if that's the right expression).

I understand that the benfits of anamporphic are good and plentiful. What I'm not sure of is whether manually instructing Quicktime to scale the video brings the same benefits. Someone more knowledgeable may be able to shed light on that.

If anyone has tried this, or are willing to try this, I would be most grateful..and we would all have a better idea of better ways of encoding files for Apple TV.

Kind regards

Rockin' Az
I can confirm this works. I have an AppleTV. I encoded a small file ( 1 Chapter) with the anamorphic setting on. I then opened the file in QT Pro and reset the video to the proper width. Instead of saving the file, I exported to mp4 using pass-thru for video and audio. Saving as a .mov works too, however you can change the artwork as you can with an mp4 file.

I appreciate this thread... I will be using anamorphic whenever I can!

OSMacintosh
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:35 am

Post by OSMacintosh »

Hello,

Could someone with an AppleTV please do my a big favor and test these options!

MPEG-4 (H.264) - Main Profile

Aspect Ratio (Normal)
Target Size (4000 MB)
Audio: 5.1 (320 kbps)

Please test that and let me know if that will work on the AppleTV I am intrested in buying one yet am not sure if my movies will play!!

Thanks, and sorry if this has been answered already just need a quick answer don't want to spend all day searching.

Thanks again,


EDIT ***** Confirmed from Apple Store Rep. Works with 5.1 Sound if you use the Digital optical audio (located in the back)!! Also it does support any Bitrate, and my frame size of normal DVD should be supported accourding to this rep.

Now I just got to get one of these bad boys lol!!! AMAZING

Question:

But one other question for those who have an AppleTV if you would be so kinda, could you test MPEG-2 videos and Dvix, and MPEG-1/2 in .mov containers if they will work. GREATLY appricateded if ya will.

Thanks

Core
Posts: 20
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 5:31 am

Post by Core »

I've had my ATV since Friday. Spent all weekend ripping my dvd's, trying different settings and software, and reading as much in various forums as possible. End result... I'm going to send mine back to Apple. I cannot get 5.1 audio to work at all. Several movies, after hours of ripping, I was able to watch and half way through the sound ends. Burned the same file to a DVD and it worked fine and with 5.1 sound so the original rip was fine. I'm sure that eventually these things will get worked out, but I just don't have the time to be messing around with it for now.

hawkman
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Post by hawkman »

OSMacintosh wrote:But one other question for those who have an AppleTV if you would be so kinda, could you test MPEG-2 videos and Dvix, and MPEG-1/2 in .mov containers if they will work. GREATLY appricateded if ya will.
Dude, if you follow the news, it looks like the AppleTV can be hacked to play things like divx - but it involves taking it apart, hooking the drive up to a Mac and installing some codecs on it. Not exactly straightforward. Out of the box, it only supports what Apple say it supports (surprisingly...).

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