Wireless Video Streaming from OS X to your TV?

[This has also been posted at MacDevCenter.com].

The short story is that I bought a house and, with it, a new wireless router (the D-Link DGL-4300, quite nice) to penetrate the walls my previous apartment never had. With a strong wireless network on the second floor connecting to my entertainment on the first, I've my game consoles and laptop satisfied, but would like to focus on video streaming. In short: I want to wirelessly stream movies (of MPEG, DivX, and XviD persuasion) to my TV.

My current workflow is to burn digital movie files onto DVD-Rs and then play them through my Philips DVP-62, which is a cheapie throw-away player that supports all the formats I care about. This has slowly become costly and inefficient: with over 100 DVD-Rs now burnt, it's a pain to find the right movie on the right disc (and heaven-forbid I'd like to watch a marathon spanning multiple discs), much less pay the cost for media (which is roughly the same amount as the player itself).

Recently, an update to the Xbox 360 promised the ability to stream video from sources other than Windows Media Center machines and, while possible on OS X (with the help of shareware Connect 360), you need to convert your files to WMV/WMA, a feat that only Flip4Mac can currently accomplish. VLC can apparently do it on Windows, but doesn't support WMA encoding on OS X in my tests.

With over 100 DVD-Rs containing six or seven movies a piece, and Flip4Mac encoding times taking roughly the duration of the file itself, this isn't entirely ideal either. I've yet to find a live transcoding solution (i.e., convert at time of play request) for OS X, though a few exist on Windows (TVersity's latest version has specific support for this, but doesn't run on OS X).

Yes, I do have Parallels on my MacBook Pro. Yes, I have BootCamp too. Do I want to run my laptop for 15+ hours to support a movie marathon? Do I REALLY want to pipe video through my Xbox 360, or use a non-Mac solution? No. Could I save myself a lot of effort if I just settle for second best? Absolutely, but it'll take me a few more weeks to resolve myself to that.

So, of late, I've been looking around for "digital media receivers", which are boxes that specifically support what I'm looking for (again: wireless streaming video of MPEG, DivX, or XviD from my Mac upstairs to my television downstairs). Unfortunately, I haven't found a lot of satisfying results that'd fill me with such confidence that I'm ready to plunk down "definitely" as opposed to "experimental" money.

  • The KiSS DP-600 plays all the formats I'm looking for, has a clean interface, and specifically supports OS X with its (ugh, brushed-metal) MacLink application. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available in the US, and I'm not entirely willing to make this my first (non-PayPal, more than $100) overseas transaction. It is also a DVD player which seems to (though I've yet to get perfect confirmation on this) do the same thing as my current Philips box - play files stored on a DVD-R. Unfortunately, the site isn't entirely "robust" and hasn't reported any news since late 2005 (though new firmware has recently been released). Has anyone used this? If it's a DVD player, what region is it encoded for? Are there any American distributors that I've missed?
  • TwonkyMedia is a general purpose UPnP server for videos, photos, and music. The software is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows and they list a number of supported systems, such as the D-Link DSM-520 and the Zensonic Z500, which both have their pros and cons. The Z500 is an unsexy DVD player (which I don't really need) and has a horrific interface, while the DSM-520 (the better of the two, IMO) has had various reviews saying its interface was slow (though some have suggested this is due to their shipped Windows-only media server, which I wouldn't be using) or that the newest firmware has broken some types of XviD and DivX playback. Both come in around the "experimental" $200 mark.
  • Apple's planned iTV is a non-starter - without S-Video or composite video, I can do nothing with it (unless I buy a new TV, which isn't going to happen anytime soon), and iTunes cheerfully ignored any of the DivX and XviD files I dropped over it (and yes, these same files playback fine in QuickTime). Whilst I'm sure enterprising hackers will either add extra formats to iTunes or otherwise route around those particular requirements, I still don't plan to replace my TV when other potentially cheaper alternatives may exist.

Any readers have any of their own experience or thoughts to report?