After Hours

Stream audio and video from your Mac with Playback

To stream content you already own on your TV, you don't need fancy devices like AppleTV or Google TV. Playback for the Mac works with your Xbox 360 or PS3. Vincent Danen has the details.

With the battle for the living room becoming a reality with Apple's newly re-vamped AppleTV and forthcoming Google TV devices, it's obvious that big technology companies plan to make couch potatoes out of all of us.

While these devices and what they offer is pretty slick, putting out the money for a new TV or device may not be necessary -- depending on what you plan to do in the living room and what you've already got there.

Many people have built up libraries of music and videos and photos over the years and those of us on the Mac have typically done so using programs like iTunes and iPhoto or Aperture. iTunes handles both music and video, and with many iPod-wielding and iPhone carrying people about, it makes sense to leverage what's already running on our Mac. And while Apple TV can do this quite nicely, so can existing devices like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, provided they have a little help.

And that's where Playback comes in. Playback allows you to share your photo and music libraries with these two gaming systems and a few other UPnP-compatible devices such as the Roku Soundbridge, WD TV Live, D-Link MediaLounge, and others.

Playback is extremely easy to set up. With drag-and-drop installation and easy configuration, you're ready within minutes to enjoy your iTunes and iPhoto library on your game console.

Playback lets you determine what to share; if you only want to share music and pictures, but not movies, you can do that. Under each media type are further options to limit what you will share; restrict it to iTunes or iPhoto, or share entire disks. You can throttle bandwidth usage if you need to, and you can specify access controls as well, specifying a specific device that can access Playback, or allow all compatible devices. Finally, it also allows you to use Growl notifications so that you know when someone is connected to your Mac and streaming movies or music.

On the Xbox 360, getting to the share content is easy. From the Xbox dashboard, head to My XBOX and from there select Music Library or Picture Library to listen to music or view pictures. Look for the Playback: [server name] entry and scroll through your pictures or tunes.

The PlayStation 3 is just as easy. On the PS3 dashboard, scroll over to Music, Photo, or Video, and then scroll down to the same Playback: [server name] entry. Oddly, on PS3 you will see Movies, Music, and Pictures listed under each entry, so you'll get an error if you try to get into Pictures from the Music menu, but that's a quirk in the PS3 interface, not Playback.

All told, Playback is hands-down the easiest way to get media from your Mac onto your gaming console. I've tried other software in the past that was flakey or way too complex. Playback is easy and within five minutes of installation I was browsing my iTunes library on the Xbox 360. You simply can't ask for anything easier than that.

While Apple TV and forthcoming Google TV devices certainly have their place if you want to rent movies or TV shows, when all you are interested in is making the media on your Mac available in the living room, give Playback a try. It has a six-day demo period to try it out, and if you like it, only costs $16 to license.

About

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

3 comments
malvord
malvord

Sounds like a great utility. I am guessing that Playback does not support Wii as it was not mentioned in the article. Bummer!

philip.robar
philip.robar

Title is missing leading, it should be "Stream...from your Mac...". People interested in UPnP/DLNA servers for the Windows, Mac, and Linux should also check out TVMObiLi and PS3 Media Server. Both are free and easy to set up. PS3 Media Server has been around for a while and has gained a very good reputation--though development has been slow for a while. On the other had it has transcoding now, while TVMObiLi, which is being actively developed, is promising it for the future.

vdanen
vdanen

Yeah, I don't know if UPnP is enabled or supported on the Wii "out of the box". I've done a bit of Googling and, although I've not tried anything, the question is definitely being asked so if you can get some kind of UPnP client or media player on the Wii, you could probably get Playback to work with it. But it isn't as straightforward as the 360 or PS3 for sure.

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