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Announcing VLC for Apple TV

Today, we are proud to announce VLC on the Apple TV. It’s a full port of VLC media player combined with platform specific features.

VLC for Apple TV integrates with a plethora of devices and services on your local network and includes a custom way of casting files directly to the TV from your other computers using a web browser!

Background
Immediately after Apple announced the future of television, we started to develop for the new box and now it is finally ready to be published. This is the first app we release with the increased limit of 2000 TestFlight beta testers, who had access to our app since mid November and greatly influenced the result. We were excited about the amazing amount of feedback we received.

Our mission for VLC for the Apple TV was to fulfill our claim “plays it all” and we got close:  it supports virtually all formats under the sun (like the iOS version of VLC). Before demonstrating VLC’s advanced playback experience on the Apple TV, let’s discuss about ways how to actually access content!

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Content Discovery
VLC on the Apple TV automatically discovers storage and shares on your local network (using the SMB, UPnP media server, FTP and PLEX protocols). You can browse them with the clicker or the Remote, select the content you want and it will play.

During playback, you’ll be able to add subtitles from OpenSubtitles.org. Login credentials can be securely stored on your Apple TV and will be synchronized to your iPad or iPhone (and the other way around) to ease access.

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Remote Playback
However, what about network streams and files you don’t have stored on your server? This is where Remote Playback steps in. On this view, VLC shows an address (and an IP) on your Apple TV. Open it using your web browser. Drop a file to play it on the big screen, drop multiple files to queue them. Until storage hits its limits on the Apple TV, the files will remain available locally on device.

For playback of a network stream URL on your TV, just paste it to the field and push return. Once playback concludes, you will find it in the Network Stream view for future use. Like for files, you can send multiple URLs rows in a row and they will be attached to the playback queue.

Finally, the web interface can be used for play/pause and seeking.

remote playback web interface

Speaking about network streams. URLs recently played on iPad or iPhone will appear along with the ones played on the big screen automatically.

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Playback
VLC for the Apple TV supports the basic play, pause and seek. Additionally, you can navigate by chapter and titles or pick from multiple audio and subtitles tracks.
Watching a talk and you’d wish the speaker would be a bit quicker? Set your custom playback speed, a feature we missed from any other player on the Apple TV so far. As VLC is increasingly used to watch talks and documentation in education, it was naturally of high importance for us to include this feature from the start.
You enjoy listening to web radio or music? We believe that just showing album art is a bit boring so we integrated with the community service hatchet.is to show artist imagery and biographies – give it a go!

Let’s go back to subtitles for a second: VLC on the Apple TV supports any kind of text (srt, SSA, WebVTT, …) or bitmap subtitles including full support for Right-to-Left languages like Arabic and Hebrew, complex text layout for Malayalam as well as further Asian languages.
What to do when subtitles are not included with your media? Within the playback view, you can find VLC’s first integration on embedded platforms ever with OpenSubtitles.org!

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Outlook
When looking closely, one content source known from VLC’s iOS port is missing so far: Cloud Services! Support for Dropbox, OneDrive and Box is currently in beta testing using the TestFlight platform. It will appear shortly after.

The day Apple announced the new device, we immediately started porting VLC to their new operating system and finally, our initial version was approved! We are excited about this first new port of VLC in 2016 after concluding 2015 with a port to Chrome OS and are really looking forward to your feedback!

I can’t thank Tobias enough for his dedication during the last quarter to make this possible.

36 thoughts on “Announcing VLC for Apple TV”

  1. Outstanding – thank you very much!

    Details regarding this seem a bit hard to come by in my various searches – does the iOS/tvOS API provide enough low-level access to allow native hardware-decoding, or will this forever be software-decoded? If the latter, what are your thoughts on the impact of that on heat, performance, etc.?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hardware Decoding is supported on iOS, but for tvOS, there is no such public low level API. As soon as there is one, we will support it!

      1. I tried to play some MKV video from my Synology Diskstation on ATV4. But not all MKV videos plays with sound. Some are playing without sound. Playing with my Enigma Receiver without problem.

        1. We hope to find a solution for that in subsequent releases. We might need to wait for an update of the Apple TV operating system to solve this properly.

  2. Please support 80%, 85%, 90% playback speeds, as those are the best for slowing down speech in a second language with useful pitch correction. 75% gets very metallic sounding with speech.

  3. It would be great to list directories in various ways. The list format would be awesome with a small movie icon – title – runtime etc. Also if the app would keep track of which files have been played and how much of it, that would make it outstanding from a user perspective. Also support for AFP shares would be very helpful.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. We will see how to add support for custom list styles. Note that playback duration will only be available for media servers like UPnP or PLEX, as SMB or FTP don’t provide that info. We could show the file size instead maybe.
      AFP is currently not a priority for us as the protocol was discontinued by Apple and will disappear not too far in the future. However, NFS support is currently in the works and will arrive shortly.

  4. MKV files will not play for me from a NAS. For example I have Ant Man iTunes movie download stored in the NAS. VLC correctly identifies the movie, as it does all others, when it attempts to play nothing happens.

  5. I have an Airport TimeCapsule and get a ‘Empty Folder’ message when login in. There is an app called Free File Explorer for TV with an option to login to a TimeCapsule and it worked flawlessly. So please add this feature.

  6. First of all, this is AMAZING work. It somehow supports 10-bit h.264 (in 720p at least) — the first portable device to do so!! The subtitle rendering is perfect, except for a slight stutter in playback when a font appears for the first time. My only complaint is that, so far, it looks like everything 5.1 is downmixed to Stereo. I certainly hope 5.1 is on the road map.
    Looking forward to new features. Even without 5.1 I’m ready to declare this my AppleTV’s Killer App. (And I can finally unhook my old Boxee box!)

      1. Those were .ass subtitles in an MKV. There may have been embedded fonts but I can’t be sure.
        I did notice that some AC3 5.1 tracks did not play at all. This isn’t due to Dolby licensing issues, is it? I know AppleTV supports Dolby AC3+, but no idea if Apple allows any APIs to access it.

    1. Only the latest 4th generation Apple TV is supported. Apple did not publish the App Store or tvOS 9.0 for previous devices and explicitly announced that they are not going to do it. Regrettably, we can’t do anything about it. Note that the 3rd generation Apple TV consists of hardware borrowed from iPhone 4S, while the 4th generation Apple TV is an iPhone 6 with added RAM and in turn a drastically more powerful device.

  7. While playing movie I have picture but no sound. Other applications on new Apple Tv do have the sound. Checked connections, volume, etc. What is wrong?

      1. I found only such info by making swipe down: A52 (aka AC3). Is that it? Apparently some movies do have sound. So I guess it depends on the file. Up till now I have used NAS Synology via iPhone app and old AppleTV to video center and thought new AppleTV would replace unnecessary transfers thanks to VLC. I guess I need to wait for a new release.

      1. That makes sense. Love this.

        I am only somewhat savvy. Is there a “how to” for connecting to a DLNA server somewhere?

        I am in the process of getting a new router that supports DLNA, but I really do not know what that means. I have been converting DVDs with HandBrake.

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