Take Command of Screensavers on Apple TV 4

Your TV, Your Choice

Things really have moved on since much-missed Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the first generation device at Macworld 2008 on January 15, 2008 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images).

Apple TV 4 has an incredibly popular screensaver (enabled by default) that shows aerial views of different cities which most people already use, but there are other screensaver options you may want to take a look at, so how do you get them working on your Apple TV?

Where’s The Setting?

Screensavers are controlled via Apple TV’s Settings app, which you’ll have used when setting up your own unit. Tap Settings>General>Screensaver and you’ll be shown the five different types of screensaver available to you on Apple TV:

  • Aerial: (Apple-supplied aerial views of cities and places)
  • Apple Photos: (Apple-supplied photo libraries)
  • My Photos: (Your own image collections)
  • Home Sharing: (Content acquired from other compatible systems on your network)
  • My Music: (Your album covers taken from iTunes).

I go into more detail on each screensaver type below. To enable any one of them just select it with your Siri Apple Remote and a tick should appear beside it to signify is it the active choice.


Apple introduces new Aerial screensavers now and then. You can only have a limited number of them on your Apple TV, but you do get to control how often they are updated. When Aerial is the active Screensaver you will see four more controls appear above Type in the Screensaver menu:

Download New Videos: Never; Daily; Weekly; Monthly. I use monthly as downloads are around 600MB each time, but if you want more frequent updates, choose daily.

Apple Photos

Apple provides five beautiful libraries of images you can choose to use as screensavers with Apple TV. Animals, Flowers, Landscapes, Nature and Shot on iPhone 6.

My Photos

You can choose to use your own images as screensavers with this choice, but you may find compatibility problems if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled on just some of your Apple devices.

These photos don’t work with the screensaver which only “works with images shown on the Shared screen,” as Josh Centers puts it here.

Home Sharing

This option lets you create screensavers from photos and video thumbnails of images shared over your home network using iTunes.

My Music

This option displays album covers from your music library in the Music app.

Universal Screensaver Commands

All the screensavers offer the following settings:

  • Start After: You can choose to launch screensavers after 2-, 5-, 10-, 15-, or 30-minutes inactivity, or not at all.
  • Show During Music: This Yes or No command lets you decide if you want music played through your Apple TV to be audible once the screensaver kicks in – that means you can play Apple Music tracks to your heart’s content while watching your choice of screensaver on your TV.
  • Preview: Use this to launch your screensaver immediately.

Change Transitions

Apple Photos, My Photos and, in some cases, Home Sharing all let you set your own transitions. Doing so is more or less the same in each screensaver option. With one of those screensavers enabled return to the Screensaver menu and you should see the Transitions dialog, choose between:

  • Random: A little of everything.
  • Cascade: Good for low-res images.
  • Flip-up: One large image flips to make way for the next.
  • Floating: Images in different sizes float up the screen, sometimes spinning.
  • Origami: Multiple on-screen images fold on and off the display.
  • Reflections: You see reflections of images at the bottom of the screen.
  • Shifting Tiles: I quite like this tile mosaic choice for image display.
  • Shrinking Tiles: Images start large and shrink to make way for the next.
  • Sliding Panels: A good choice for high-res image collections as the on-screen images are large.
  • Snapshots: Another good choice.
  • Ken Burns: This gives still images a sense of movement.
  • Classic: A number of classic transitions are also available.

That’s a lot of choices, so I usually choose Random, though with an image library and transition selected all I need to do is check Preview to see how well they work together.

Making Screensavers

If you look at your iCloud image libraries using an Apple TV you may have spotted the ‘Set as Screensaver’ option at top right of the image window. If you really like a collection just tap that button and it will become your screensaver until next time you change it.

That’s about all there is to screensavers on Apple TV 4 at the time of writing.

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