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

Stream content to your Apple TV with cross-platform VLC

VLC on Apple TV

VideoLAN

Apple TV is an excellent streaming entertainment solution, but it is limited in the number of media formats it can play. It can't stream content from many media servers or material made available in unsupported formats. That’s the bad news; the good news is that there are applications available that can play these other formats, including Plex, Infuse, and VLC media player, which is explained here.

VLC on Apple TV
VideoLAN

Meet VLC

VLC has an outstanding reputation. It has been in wide use by computer users on Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms for years and has become an essential tool for video playback. This useful software is made available free of charge by the nonprofit organization, VideoLAN, which develops it. 

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

When you link the application with your Apple TV, you are able to watch video streams in multiple formats from multiple sources, including local network playback, remote playback, and network streaming playback. 

Local Network Playback

Local Network Playback is for file sharing on a local network using Windows network shares or UPnP file discovery. VLC accesses media files in connected local directories. If you have an on your network, you'll find these when you tap the Local Network tab. Each one of your local network file shares shows up on the screen. Select them, select the share you want 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 gives 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. You can play almost anything you can play on your computer on your Apple TV.

  1. To use this feature, select Remote Playback and then highlight and select Enable Remote Playback.

  2. This activates the VLC remote playback server, which creates and shows you a local network address for the Apple TV. (Don’t worry, this address is only accessible to other devices on your network).

  3. The next step takes place on any computer that is also on your network, where you open a web browser and enter the address VLC created in the previous step, which is visible on the Apple TV screen.

  4. The address opens VLC’s Remote Playback window. You can now drag and drop files into the window to play them on the 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.

  5. The file you select on your computer now plays on your Apple TV and is cached on your Apple TV until the system subsequently needs to use that space for other content.

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

Network Streaming Playback

Network Streaming Playback handles almost any streaming media you have the precise URL for. The challenge is knowing the precise URL, which is not the standard URL you are used to. To find the precise URL, you need to look for a complex URL with a media file suffix that you can identify when you look through the source code of the page that holds the stream.

After you have the correct URL, enter it into the Network Stream box to stream it to Apple TV. VLC maintains 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, where you can 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.