How to Use VLC to Watch Almost any Video on Apple TV

Stream Anything You Like With VLC

VLC on Apple TV
Almost all your home media will play on Apple TV, thanks to this useful app. c/o VideoLAN
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Apple TV is a great streaming entertainment solution but it is limited in the number of  media formats it can play. This means it will not stream content from most media servers, or stream material made available in unsupported formats. That’s the bad news; the good news is that there are apps available that can play these other formats, including Plex, Infuse, and VLC. We explain VLC here.

Meet VLC

VLC has an excellent reputation.

It has been widely used by computer users on Mac, Windows, and Linux for years, and has become an essential tool for video playback. Even better, this useful software is made available for free by the non-profit organization, VideoLAN, which develops it. 

The great thing about VLC is that you can pretty much play anything you care to throw at it – it supports literally dozens of video and audio formats.

When you install the app on your Apple TV you will be able to watch video streams in multiple formats from multiple sources, including local network playback, remote playback, and network streaming playback. Here is what you need to know:

Local Network Playback

This is for file sharing on a local network, using Windows network shares or UPnP file discovery. VLC lets you access media files in connected local directories. You’ll find these when you tap the Local Network tab, assuming you have any on your network.

Each one of your local network file shares will show up on the screen. Select them, select the share you wish to play, enter any logins that may be required and browse the files held there to your heart’s content. 

When playing media a swipe down on the Apple TV Remote will give you access to track selection, playback speed, media information, audio controls and the ability to download subtitles for the media, if available.

Remote Playback

You may just want to play files in different file formats that you have stored on your computer – it means you can play almost anything you can play on your computer on our Apple TV.

  • To use this feature you should select Remote Playback and highlight and select Enable Remote Playback.
  • This will activate the VLC remote playback server, which will create and show you a local network address for the Apple TV. (Don’t worry, this address is only accessible to other devices on your network).
  • The next step takes place on any computer that is also on your network, where you should open a Web browser and enter the address VLC created in the previous step, which should be visible on the Apple TV screen.
  • The address will open VLC’s Remote Playback window. You can now drag-&-drop files into the window to play them on Apple TV, or tap the + button at the top right of the window to choose them using the file picker dialog (Finder on a Mac). You can also enter a URL of a specific video stream.
  • The file you select on your computer will now play on your Apple TV and will also be cached on your Apple TV (until the system subsequently needs to use that space for other content).

NB: You can also choose media held on a mobile device using the + button, or enter a URL.

Network Streaming Playback

Network Streaming Playback lets you play almost any streaming media you have the precise URL for. The challenge is knowing the precise URL, which will not be the standard URL you are used to. To find that URL you need to look for a complex URL with a media file suffix which you can identify when you look through the source code of the page that holds the stream. This is a little hit and miss and for many a little complex, but some will find this Lifewire article useful.

Once you have the URL you just need to enter it into the Network Stream box and you will be able to stream it to Apple TV.

VLC will also maintain a list of all the previous URLs you have accessed here, as well as all those you have previously accessed using Remote Playback.

Some other useful features of the app include the capacity to increase playback speed and integration with OpenSubtitles.org, which lets you download subtitles for many movies in many languages as and when you need them.

If you have large quantities of content on legacy media servers, VLC is likely to become an essential app for you.