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Getting the Video out of Your New iPod--for Cheap!

by Erica Sadun, author of Modding Mac OS X
11/18/2005

So I buy a video iPod, figuring it would be a cool toy. (Gotta get those toys.) It arrives and I'm ready to give it a whirl. I pony up my two bucks, download the pilot episode of Desperate Housewives, insert a standard A/V-to-RCA cable into the earphone jack and try to play it back on my TV.

Run Windows on your Intel Mac

No Luck. Damned Apple.

I'm here to tell you not to worry. You don't have to fork out for an outrageously priced "proprietary" Apple video cable. You don't even have to buy an expensive dock. You can connect your Video iPod directly to a TV, and you can do it with the ordinary camcorder A/V-to-RCA cable you probably already have lying around your house.

You just have to be tricky.

Here's how.

What You'll Need

In order to get your iPod connected properly to your TV, you'll need the following items on hand:

  • A video-capable iPod. Any color will do.
  • An iPod-compatible video. Load it onto your iPod through iTunes.
  • An A/V cable. If you don't already have an eighth-inch-to-RCA cable, you can pick one up on eBay for five or six bucks shipped. Search for "camcorder A/V cable." Remember, you want a three-plug yellow/red/white RCA connection at one end and a three-banded eighth-inch (3.5mm) A/V plug at the other.

figure 1
Figure 1. A camcorder A/V cable has a three-plug RCA connection at one end and a three-banded 1/8" plug at the other

Setting Up Your iPod Video Options

Setting up your iPod video options lets you control how you export video. The iPod Video Options screen selects how your iPod handles video file playback.

To open these settings, choose Videos -> Video Settings from your main iPod menu. This screen offers three settings: TV Out, TV Signal and Widescreen. Adjust to produce the video playback style you need.

figure 2
Figure 2. Videos -> Video Settings controls the way your iPod plays back video files

TV Out

Whenever you play a video file, your iPod must make a choice. Video iPods either play video on the built-in screen or they transmit a video signal out of the microphone jack. They don't do both. The TV Out option controls which behavior occurs.

Use this setting to choose from:

  • No. Playback remains on the iPod itself.
  • Yes. A TV signal is produced.
  • Ask. The iPod prompts you whenever you play a video file.

I always use the Ask option. Yes, it does add an extra step whenever I play a video file, but it gives me the flexibility to choose playback behavior on a case-by-case basis. I like that.

TV Signal

European and Australian television sets use a different signal standard than those used in America and Japan. If you live in the U.S., your TV works with the NTSC standard. European countries mostly use PAL. Make sure you've selected the correct signal for your country.

Widescreen

iPods can play back widescreen video, if only on exported video. The built-in screen uses a traditional 4:3 screen ratio, rather than widescreen's 16:9 proportions. Choose Yes to produce a widescreen signal, or No to export the traditional TV output.

Cult of iPod

Related Reading

Cult of iPod
By Leander Kahney

Pages: 1, 2

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