Top 5 Tools for Watching Windows Media Center Content on an iPhone or iPad

You would think recording a TV show on your Media Center system and the watching the show on your iPhone would be simple but it’s not, Windows Media Center produces WTV files and iOS devices work best with mp4 files so some kind of conversion is needed.

There are two ways of getting TV content on an iOS device, you can copy the file to the device or stream it from a PC.  Streaming solutions are great for instant access to a show but have the disadvantage of not working if your offline, where as copying the file works great if your offline but you have to convert the files and that can take time. Personally I like having the files on my iPad so I can watch recorded TV when I am traveling.

We have covered many of the solutions here on TDL so I thought I would bring together here, oh and the more observant of you will spot there are six solutions here but I thought the blog title Top 5 sounded better 🙂

 

Remote Potato

Remote Potato is streaming application that also has full EPG support as well as being able to stream TV, Music and pictures. Having the EPG supports means you can browse the Media Center guide data schedule recordings. So from an iPad or iPhone you can browse the EPG data and watch recorded TV. There is an is an iPhone app and a server application you install on your Windows Media Center box. Its a great services but does have the drawback of having to stream the content, you can’t watch TV offline. Remote Potato server is also used as a back end for many Remotes like Android Remote and Media Buddy for Windows Phone 7

Features:

  • Watch your movies and videos – almost all formats supported.
  • Browse your music library, listen to songs streamed direct from your home PC.
  • View your pictures library; download or email pictures to friends.
  • Sync up albums and songs for offline access.
  • Browse your TV Guide and schedule recordings.
  • Watch previously recorded TV shows – streamed live from your home PC
  • The first app in the world to directly stream WTV recorded TV files to your iPhone!

 

Orb

image

Orb has been around for a good few years and I had it installed on my XP Media Center box in 2005, with Orb you can stream content from a PC to a phone app (or browser) via the Orb Caster software. Orb Caster actually transcodes the files in to an approximate format and quality depending on your connection speed. There are limitations with Orb, the is no offline support but it does work well with a number of different devices.

 

SplashTop

photo

 

SplashTop is a remote desktop addin for the iPad that comprises of a server addin that you install on your PC and a iPad app or iPhone app. Once you have the server installed on the PC from the iPad you can browse your machines running Splashtop and then view and control the PC. From the iPad or iPhone you can start playback or recorded TV and the playback is pretty smooth, you are dependent on network bandwidth and some people found the playback was not that smooth. As with the above solutions there is no offline plackback.

Simple TV

simple.tv makes all of your Windows Media Center recorded TV shows and movies available on your iPad,  iPhone via iTunes. It works by converting WTV files to h.264, serving them as mp4 files and then syncing them with your device via iTunes as a podcast. With this solution you get to take the content with you on the go rather than streaming so its great if your going to be offline, like on a plane but there is no streaming option. Conversion can take some time but you can leave it watching a folder and it will automatically convert he files. The service is still in beta and you can signup at simple.tv

I tested this with Freeview HD recordings and it works fine

 

AirVideo

iPhone Screenshot 1

 

AirVideo is an app for iOS and a server component that you install on your PC.  This is streaming solution so it will stream TV from your PC to your iPad over your home network or if you setup port forwarding on your network you can watch content over the internet. There are two versions available, a free version and a paid version which costs just £1.79, the difference is the number of files visible in the free versions is limited.

 

DVRMSToolbox

DVRMSToolbox is fantastic and very powerful tool that among many other things can  perform automated file conversions.  So you can set it to convert your recorded TV files to an iOS friendly format, you can also use it to skip commercials and  move the file to other folders.  The application is very flexible and includes a file watcher so it can watch for new recordings and then automatically convert them. It’s a more complex tool than most of the other items on this list so its harder to use but it’s well worth putting in the time to learn it.

 

Finally I want to mention MCEBuddy. This only get a brief mention because version 2 is still in beta and version 1 doesn’t work with WTV files recorded with Freeview HD but it’s a nice solution. The application watches a specific folder and then automatically converts the files into iPad compatible format. It works with DVR-MS, WTV, TS, MPEG formats, it can remove commercials and work as a scheduled task. V2 lacks any automation features but it does work with Freeview HD shows.

mcebuddy2

 

I did look at some other solutions like Playon but looking at their forums it looks like it doesn’t support WTV files, also Airplayer for iOS works fine with DVR-MS files but not WTV, Aleesoft video converter doesn’t work with WTV files. I am sure there are other solutions that I have missed so if you have any suggestions let me know.

For converting Windows Media Center TV shows to iPad I found Simple.tv worked best, it works with any Media Center format and is fully automated.

Thanks to everyone on twitter that sent in their suggestions

About the author Ian Dixon:
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.
  • Hey, what a great round up!

    Thanks for mentioning Remote Potato too; the iPad app is also being released in the next few weeks; including HD quality streaming!

    • looking forward to seeing that

    • Tim

      Remote Potato is a huge disappointment. It’s $7 for the iPhone version and if you want the iPad “HD” version then it’s ANOTHER $7! They have no universal binary that runs on both platforms. Sorry but that’s just unacceptable. Cut the price in half or create a universal application that will run on both the iPhone and iPad at native resolutions.

  • I use Air Video on my iOS device, it works great and now plays WTV files. I even did some port forwarding yesterday as it happens and was able to stream AVI and HD MKV movies from the WHS at my house to my parents house where I was using their WIFI connection, it worked really well with no stuttering, I was suitably impressed.

    • Dan

      Mate, you’re a bloody legend. If it weren’t for your comment, I wouldn’t have known that InMethod had released a beta version of their Air Video server which supports WTV files. It works flawlessly!

      • Yes, Remote Potato and Air Video share the same backend – ffmpeg. In fact, Remote Potato even uses some of the GPL code from Air Video to enable its real-time streaming. We were just a bit quicker on the WTV patches for ffmpeg than they were, that’s all!

        In comparison terms though, I don’t think Air Video provides any access to your Music or Pictures libraries like Remote Potato does, or any of the Media Center integration (TV guide, etc.)

        Carlos

  • Mark Williamson

    I use Remote potato for streaming and MCE Buddy for offline but hate having to use itunes to sync. I dont even use itunes for audio with a media player plugin.

    What |I like about remote potato is you can down load pictures and audio of offline ( although pictures crash the iphone app if you navigate to another picture to download). What I hope carl will implement is an offline transfer and convert \9 even if it works with something like mce buddy to copy the show you want ready for offline,

    Mark

  • domininiquee

    There is a an easy way to convert WTV to TS by introducing a powerful WTV to TS converter – Avdshare Video Converter, you can have a try.

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