Cinemas are horrible places, really. With the talkers and the phone users, the noisy eaters and the loud breathers, all those people… How are you supposed to concentrate on the film you paid £13.50 to watch? It’s impossible.
Admittedly, the screen is a little smaller, but watching the film on your iPad instead has a lot of advantages. It’s more portable than your local Odeon, making it ideal for flights or train journeys; it’s also cheaper on a film-by-film basis. Besides, the iPad has a terrific battery life and a wonderfully sharp screen.
Here are some ways you can go to the pictures from the comfort of your iPad.
View video online
You can stream LoveFilm’s catalogue of movies, TV shows and documentaries straight to your iPad using the LoveFilm Player app. There’s another app just for managing your account
This method is easy, provided you can find the movies, short films or TV clips you want to watch on the web. The built-in Safari browser cleverly optimises almost any online video for iPad viewing.
YouTube has been compatible with iOS since the very first iPhone. Back then, you needed the dedicated YouTube app to access video content. Nowadays, although the app is still available, it has become largely redundant, since you can view the clips directly with Safari – YouTube detects that you’re using an iPad and brings up an H.264 version of the video you wish to enjoy (as opposed to the default Flash-based one).
Furthermore, in response to the immense popularity of Apple’s iOS devices, other video sharing sites that had based their network on Flash are now offering H.264 alternatives, which makes the experience seamless for iPad users. Suitable sites to try include Vimeo, Blip, Viddler and Dailymotion, to name but four.
The iPad won’t let you download any video off the web, however (unless you’ve purchased it through the iTunes Store), so if you want to grab some online video for later viewing, you’ll have to resort to your tried and trusted Mac or PC. Be aware, however, that downloading copyright-protected material without the owner’s permission is illegal.
Rip and convert dvds
If you’d rather not purchase a video from iTunes when you’ve got a perfectly good copy of the movie on DVD, it’s time to convert your film library into iPad-compatible files. The process is a bit time-consuming, but well worth it; and the government has pledged to make it legal to make a copy of DVDs you own, as long as it’s for your personal use.
Various applications can deal with a DVD’s built-in copy protection. On Mac, check out the excellent RipIt (www.thelittleappfactory.com/ripit). PC users have more choice, and a search will reveal a host of options, such as DVD Decrypter (dvddecrypter.org.uk). All these packages make an unprotected copy of the DVD files on your computer.
The next step is to convert the video you want into one compatible with the iPad. In this case, the program you need is Handbrake (www.handbrake.fr). This free software is amazing. It has a host of presets if you’re not comfortable with tweaking parameters: just select your DVD, choose a preset and you’re good to go. Once the file has been converted, add it to your copy of iTunes where you can pepper it with metadata. All that’s left to do now is sync your iPad with your computer.
Stream video from your PC
With StreamToMe and its companion software, you can watch any video stored on your computer from your iPad. Tap on a movie to stream it from your computer on to your iPad. You can choose to have it full screen or with a sidebar on the left
There’s a problem with converting all your DVDs: your collection of films and TV shows is likely to be too big to fit on an iPad – even the 64GB version. Instead, why not keep the video content on a computer and stream it?
There’s no built-in way to stream your videos from a computer to your iPad, but a few developers have come up with solutions to do just that. One of these is StreamToMe (£1.99, itun.es/i6jW2N4); as well as the app, you’ll need to install the free ServeToMe software from www.projectswithlove.com.
The process is remarkably simple: launch ServeToMe on your computer and after a few seconds the server component will run automatically. Your iTunes library is now ready to be shared, so if your movies have already been catalogued within it, there’s nothing else for you to do. You can, however, also specify other folders to share, if some videos are stored elsewhere on your machine.
Next, go to your iPad (or any other iOS device) and launch StreamToMe. Most video formats will work as is, but perhaps the best feature is the app’s ability to play back DRM-protected files (those purchased from the iTunes Store). As long as such a video has been synced to your iPad in the past, StreamToMe will be able to play it directly.
Being able to access all your videos from your iPad is a huge boon; and you’re not limited to your home Wi-Fi network, either. When running, ServeToMe displays an ‘External address’. Type that value when setting up a server manually in StreamToMe and the setting should work wherever you are. Although it will obviously be more cost-effective to do this within range of another Wi-Fi network, as the cost of streaming large video files over 3G will be prohibitive.
Stream video on demand
We’ve already looked at ways to stream videos from the web, but plenty of apps and on-demand services offer a wider and better-quality range of streaming options.
FilmOn Free TV Live (itun.es/i6jW7rM), for example, gives you access to the main British TV channels, along with many foreign ones, and lets you watch TV live. You could also try TVCatchup (itun.es/i6jW2zf). Both are free. Tap the channel you want to watch and after a few seconds, you’ve got a TV channel on your iOS device. Make sure you have a TV licence, as this live content requires one.
If this isn’t enough for you, then check out the BBC iPlayer app (itun.es/i6jv4BF). With it, you gain access to all films and TV series available on that network, on demand. Although as you would expect, this service only works as long as you’re in the UK.
LoveFilm offers a compelling alternative when it comes to mail order DVD rental. Along with its regular service of renting out DVDs for you to enjoy on your TV, you also gain access to its online streaming service via the free LoveFilm Player (itun.es/i6jW2zs). With it – assuming your subscription allows it – you can browse through a vast selection of movies, read their synopses, view trailers and ultimately stream them to your iPad.