Watching DVDs on your Apple TV with AirPlay

For a long time, I was looking for an easy way to play DVDs with my Apple TV without the time-consuming task of ripping the DVDs before watching them. In this article, I will show you how to immediately stream DVDs to your Apple TV with the help of AirPlay Mirroring.

The problem with DVDs and Apple TV

Many people have a lot of DVDs (technically, the specification is called DVD-Video). You probably know the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders with the VOB files. The problem is: This format is not compatible with your Apple TV and can’t be streamed directly via AirPlay. So you have to re-encode it first (for instance with Handbrake, an open source video transcoder).

The Drawbacks are obvious: Beside the legal issues (possibly breaking DRM) you can’t start immediately to watch because the re-encoding takes some time, needs software & know-how and eventually some space on your hard disc.

Playing DVDs with AirPlay

Mac with DVD drive

Here’s my hardware. Just a common Macbook Pro with the Superdrive (an external USB CD/DVD drive). But you can use any another Mac with DVD drive, as long as it is compatible with AirPlay Mirroring (Mac requirements for AirPlay Mirroring).

mac-dvd-video-drive

Apple DVD Player Software won’t work

The first thing that comes into your mind is probably using the DVD Player Software that usually opens when you insert a DVD. But this won’t work and will just show you the error message “The viewer could not be moved to selected screen.” Why? Seems like a copyright thing that it’s just not legally allowed and therefore suppressed by Apple.

dvd-player-apple-airplay-error

AirPlay DVDs with VLC

When it comes to playing videos, in most cases VLC is the answer. Go to “File > Open Disc…” in VLC and open your DVD.

playing-dvd-vlc-airplay

Enable AirPlay Mirroring and make sure that you see the VLC window on your TV. Double Click in the video window for fullscreen and start your movie. Here we go… video and audio is streamed to your TV.

Just in case if there are any performance troubles: Here are some Tips for improving AirPlay Mirroring Performance.

And what about the legal thing? Seems like the combination of open source software and French law helps us here because software is not recognised as patentable in France/EU (details see If VLC can ship a free DVD player, why can’t Microsoft?)

I haven’t tried this for Blu-Ray disc (because I neither have a drive nor discs) but I think this should work for Blu-Ray, too.

I would say that this is a great solution which will replace my Phillips DVD Player (saves some space in the living room). What do you think? Just leave a comment.

57 comments

  1. Thanks! I am having issues with the audio.. I can not get the audio to play on the TV. I changed all the setting in VLC to airplay.. then the audio does not work.. in the settings, it will not let me select apple tv as my output… any ideas?

  2. I’m jealous of all of you who had no trouble with VLC. I followed the directions exactly, and it doesn’t work for me. I have an iMac with 10.10.1, and an Apple TV box that lets me use AirPlay to see my computer screen. It just doesn’t show the video. I get an error message that says “Could not connect to “Apple TV”

    I feel confident the set-up is correct because I can see this screen on my TV. But the DVD doesn’t show up. Any thoughts?

  3. Thanks! I just got the external drive and was irritated beyond belief that it wasn’t working with Air Play. All these issues makes me want to go back to the PC!

    1. I have noticed, at least on mine, playing with AIR Play for some time is that I MUST have Apple TV set up FIRST and ready to go before I click on the “Connect to Air Display” or whatever it says. Sometimes it can be tricky and if it doesnt work, Ifind it best to shut down whatever program I am using whether it be VLC or iTunes (depending on the job), turn off Air Display and then click on it again. Ive learned to get into the habit of always setting up whatever I need to do on the TV and only then when its ready to go, go to VLC and turn it on.
      Im using the 27″ retina iMac and latest OSX but still find it a bit finnicky Once you figure it out once, I find it works the same way everytime, but yes a bit finicky

  4. Thank u! You’re a lifesaver! I got so nervous when it didn’t work with my apple tv I thought I had got myself a useless piece of XXX… But it works wonderful with vlc – it never crossed my mind that I would try it myself! Merry Christmas and again thank you so much for the helpful instruction!

  5. We just today opened up our new Apple TV and this question (how do we easily stream our DVD collection?) came to mind immediately. I found this article and can’t wait to give it a try — have to buy an external DVD drive as our 2 Macs don’t have one. Anyway, look forward to trying this and reporting back. No clue what VLC is but assume it’s a software we can use for this.

    Merry Christmas all!

  6. Hi Flo, you seem to know a bit about VLC and AirPlay… I recently started having problems with playing movies from VLC on my iPad to my TV using AirPlay. Only audio comes through but not the video picture? It used to work but for some reason it doesn’t anymore. Any ideas why? Is VLC not compatible with iPad anymore? Appreciate your help.

    1. @Carl: Mmhh … it seems like the video file is your problem (probably a not supported video coded). Have you tried it with a video file that worked in the past?

  7. Has anyone here heard of outclass? It’s a way of getting data from CD’s DVD’s and blu-ray’s onto an Apple TV.

  8. I have the same problem as Carl – the audio can stream fine, but the DVD image window simply appears grey on the TV. I have a suspicion that Apple have identified your work-around and conjoured up some clever way of supressing the image by simply greying it out. Have you found a work-around to their work-around perchance? Thanks!

    1. Are you talking about VLC on the iPad (like Carl) or not? The article is about playing videos with VLC on the Mac (and still works).

  9. Hey Flo, now if only I could watch a movie playing on my home theatre DVD player connected to the TV and from the TV to my Apple TV… I have a macbook pro like you, but don’t have the superdrive, then I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this haha… well except the part about VLC.

  10. Never thought to use VLC; drop dead simple. Thanks for writing this up! It worked perfectly with my MBP and ATV.

  11. Just got new Mac Book PRO 13′. Downloaded VLC. I can mirror DVD video but no audio to myTV via AppleTV. PLEASE HELP…

  12. Hi, sorry for my english, I’am wrinting from Italy.
    I woluld like know with sure if I buy a iMAC27 with DVD Playr Apple connecet by USB,
    and I download VLC from Internet (I have got already Apple TV connect with mi TV-HD)
    I can do straming of all my DVD movie originals from iMac to Apple TV
    and I’ll see film on my TV ? And again, I can streaming also CD Music for listen on my Apple TV
    / TV HD.
    Thanks, for you collaboration.
    I’m not sure if buy a iMAC 27 and to use Mirroring or buy a MacBook for use hdmi cable (with adapter Thunderbolt-HDMI).
    Please answer me, in Italy non easy know this information.
    Many many thanks.

    1. In general, the instructions above don’t depend on the hardware (iMac or Macbook) … so yes, it’s possible. Perhaps in some cases the HDMI solution could be easier and more stable (and just by the way: HDMI is possible with iMac as well as Macbook). In the end, I wouldn’t make the buying decision just because of this use case.

      I think playing cds should also work, but I have to check it out (probably I’ll write a new post about that).

  13. I’m having problems with the audio too.
    no matter what video-file i play with vlc, there is no audio via airplay.
    i tried it with avi, mp4, and mkv.
    when i select internal output the sound comes over the speakers of my mbp.
    but on airplay, no matter if screen-mirrored or selected in VLC, the audio will not be played.
    also funny: when i change the audio output (in vlc) from airplay to internal, i have to restart vlc to make it work again.
    i guess i’m searching for a solution now for more than an hour and found nothing that solved the problem.
    i used that function very often in the past and i know that it was working just fine, not sure if it stopped working with the update to Yosemite. is that possible?

    please help

    best regards
    stefan

  14. Hm, I have the same setup as you….MacBook Pro and external DVD drive. I downloaded VLC and that seems to work fine but the Airplay is not working properly. It doesn’t display the exact same screen I have on my computer (seems to pull parts). I can hear the video going but the video freezes. My wifi is working properly….as far as I can tell. Any other ideas?

  15. So helpful. I gave up on this years ago and I’ve had VLC installed this whole time to watch other vid’s. Now I can start using the part of Netflix I’ve been paying for all these years.

  16. Hello Flo,
    I encountered the same problem when trying to stream a DVD from my brand new Superdrive to Apple TV.
    But when opening VLC and following your instructions (open disc etc.) as soon as I push the DVD in the player, the programme DVD-player starts, leaving VLC. In system preferences I changed ‘when playing a DVD’ in open VLC player, but this doesn’t help/? What;s wrong??

    1. Just change the order: Push the dvd in the player. The dvd player software opens -> close the software (quit). Then open VLC and follow the instructions …

  17. Hello Flow, I found that when the Superdrive is shown in Finder I can select the Video_TS file and open it in VLC: perfect! But no sound is transmitted to Apple TV. How to fix that?

  18. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! After wrestling with the geeks at our local computer shop, I finally found the answer to how to stream my DVDs on Apple TV.

  19. Works streaming to my TV, but I cannot redirect my audio to external speakers connected via an Airport Express. Holding down the OK ket on the remote does not bring up the dialog box that controls Subtitles, Audio, and Speakers.

  20. I am using VLC to play DVDs ( which is awesome, thanks) and I am tech lame. How can i make the video not so skippy or slow? HELP

  21. I’ve been looking for a solution to this for years! Thank you, I now have some very happy children.
    Initially didn’t have any sound though, but went to Audio>Audio Device>AirPlay and also increased volume to maximum 200%. Sorry if I’m repeating instructions already given, I haven’t read every response!
    Thanks again x

  22. Man, you just made my day! I was thinking that my macbook’s DVD player was on the blitz, and it seriously bummed me out, especially as I just started watching the first season of Game of Thrones (finally!) on DVD and really really wanted it on the big TV screen. and now suddenly I can!
    Thank you for taking the time to publish this awesome article!

  23. Thank you so much for posting this info!!! Such a simple solution. I’ve been struggling to do this for a while.

  24. I made this work but for some reason my screen is very tall and thin?? Any idea about formatting it easily so we all don’t look like we crash dieted ourselves to death? lol

    1. We are watching old recently converted home movies and the formatting to the tv screen is WAY off but wasn’t when we were using Apple’s player and wired it direct to the tv.

  25. Wow! You’re this geezers hero today. I’ve been around since Fortran cards and even as an old dog willing to learn new tricks but this is all just so tiresome. Spending thousands of dollars legally purchasing media and then not being able to watch it unless we screw around with formatting for hours I should have jumped on bit-torrent band wagon 15 years ago and stolen stuff like everyone else. In any event, thanks for immediately explain and solving my problem. Best-Ron

  26. For those of you who have had trouble with the audio not playing on the TV:

    This happened to me as well, I opened my DVD in VLC and then connected the AirPlay. When the audio didn’t come through I was worried that something was wrong and unfixable like other comments made it seem. The fix however was pretty simple – in settings go to sound, make sure your Apple TV is selected (and if you are already connected via AirPlay then there shouldn’t be any reason why your Apple TV isn’t listed as a device), and then at the bottom of the window make sure the output volume is turned up. Mine was automatically turned all the way down which is why I didn’t hear anything. Also, when your Apple TV is selected as the device for sound output, both the volume icon in the upper right menu bar as well as the volume buttons on your keyboard can also be used to control the output volume on your TV; I just left mine all the way up and then controlled the volume with my remote, but you can also easily control the volume through your computer this way without having to go back through the settings.

    Hope this helps some folks, I’m not super tech savvy but was pleased when I figured this out.

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