It's frustrating that Apple doesn't supply an easy "Mac-like" way to stream media (specifically movies and TV shows) from iTunes to the iPad. I first tried Air Video as a possible solution, but it will not stream DRM protected media (nearly everything purchased from the iTunes Store) because Apple doesn't permit playing such files over the network -- unless you're using iTunes Home Sharing. However, Home Sharing is not (yet, Apple?) available on the iPad, and from my experience Home Sharing can be buggy.
Googling around I found this article titled, "Stream Videos and Music from Your Mac to Your iPhone or iPad". It's a great solution, but I needed to stream media from my Mac OS X Server (not Mac OS X client). With a bit of testing I discovered it's even easier with Mac OS X Server:
- Turn on Web services in Server Admin, or if you already have it running then add a new site. I called mine "itunes".
- Set Port: I was already using port 80, so I changed my port to 1234.
- Set Web Folder: select the "Choose" button and navigate to your Music library (where all your albums are organized, typically in ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music.) Despite the name, this is also where the "Movies" and "TV Show" folders are are located.
- Under the Options tab enable "Folder Listing" (this is a critical step, so don't skip it).
- If security is a concern (it should be) then also add your Music folder under Realms, and set the permission accordingly (Everyone = None, Your User or Group = Browse Only)
- Hit Save, then navigate to your new Media Server using Safari from your iPad or iPhone!
The list of folder names won't look great (think web 0.2), but the iPad and iPhone will play (nearly) everything in your iTunes library, including DRM content. It will also play videos fast, with no stuttering (tested over Airport Extreme Wireless-N 5GHz) and full frame (hit the two-arrows icon in the lower right). I found that the iPad will play mp3 and m4a audio files, but will not play m4p files. It will also not play mp4 video, but it will play m4v and that is the majority of my video content.
I tried to use KavaTunes as a promising way to turn the mundane folder listing into a spicy iTunes lookalike, but this solution doesn't work well with the iPad and did not allow for full frame viewing. Also beware that running Safari in Mac OS X Snow Leopard did not fair as well as the iPad and iPhone when it came to playing videos. Some videos wouldn't play at all or would play with no picture or sound -- but the iPad/iPhone plays them all fantastically!
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