back to article How to get colour composite-video from an Apple TV

I've been playing with Apple's Apple TV set-top box this week, and I have to say I like it. But Apple's missing a trick by not allowing those of us - me included - without HD TVs to make the most of the device. No matter: a simple hardware trick solves the problem. I've found Apple TV to be a great way of getting content not …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    Reminds me of when I brought home my HD-PVR...

    I brought home a moderately-expensive dual-tuner HD satellite PVR. I spent days installing the new dish and running about 400-feet of coax cable and aligning the dish. I plugged the new PVR into my old 1999 SD TV via component cable. When I powered it all up, it was displaying two columns of squiched video (a symptom of 480p video on a 480i TV). I searched through the menus (while squinting at half-width menus displayed twice), and the only options were 480p, 720p or 1080i. My big TV is only compatible with 480i. I thought I was SOL. I powered it off and had supper. After supper I powered it up and noticed that it had automatically downloaded new software and was now offering a 4th video output option: 480i. Perfect.

    "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many from which to choose."

  2. Peter D'Hoye
    Thumb Down


    1) use Apple-tv in stead of the Squeezebox? You really don't care for quality at all? Oh wait, you bought from iTunes, that explains it all....

    2) This hardware trick seems to be what it is, a trick. Nowhere near a solution.

    3) Until Apple stops selling consumer lock-in crap, I'm not buying any of it. Would have been nice if you could run slimserver on the apple-tv to feed the squeezebox.

    *goes listening to some more music (ripped from CD) using his squeezebox*

  3. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re. Uurgh

    There's no question, the Squeezbox has the best audio quality of the two boxes - that's one reason why it scored so highly when we reviewed it a few years back - but if quality was the only consideration, I'd stick with my CDs. As it is, bit-rate MP3 is good enough for me.

    Then there's a convenience factor as well as the quality factor: the Squeezebox is needs a separate server so it's a two-box solution. Logitech does a Squeezebox with an integrated 2.5in hard drive, they've got themselves a customer. Again.

  4. voshkin
    Jobs Horns

    Xbox 1

    And yet again, for standard definition one cannot fault a (modified) Xbox 1 running XBMC – play any format, and I mean any format – from .qt to latest versions of XviD or DivX – from any source (shares on a PC, various media streamers, even live from the net)

    Absolutely perfect for standard definition, even has optical out for true 5.1 and, you can pick one up for about £50 second hand, with a remote control and high quality RGB SCART cable.

    I know of no other device on the market that can do half the things XBMC does, at the quality that it does. Peace of piss to mod the XBOX 1, no need to even open it up.

  5. Andre Carneiro

    Mac for Mac's sake?

    Errr... doesn't it strike anyone else as it being a bit pointless to own a piece of kit which won't work, and having to resort to trickery in order to get it to fulfil it's most simple design?

    I mean, "here is this TV playing device which doesn't actually play on my TV unless I do such-and-such". Bit like saying "here is a car which doesn't actually take me where I want to go unless I reconfigure the fuel system"? Would it not make more sense to wait for the manufacturer to sort themselves out and build a product that does what you want it to? Or (shock horror!) buy another brand of product?

    Me, I'm waiting for the ability to play DivX files and ISO files before even considering the Apple TV.

  6. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Do I see this right here?

    There are people who have problems with the AppleTV only giving component video?

    First of all, it's moderately simple to convert component to RGB. You only need a few good operational amplifiers and some resistors.

    Second, every analogue TV has component signals inside so you just need to cut some traces and feed it into it at the right place.

    Third, you can probably just switch the encoder at the output of the box to RGB or composite. Just get the manual of the video encoder and send it the appropiate commands via the I2C bus.

    And come on, this is an Apple product, it's not designed towards dummies, it's designed towards people who have a degree in electronics and informatics. It's the company philosophy since the Apple I.

    What I however don't understand, the AppleTV seems to have VGA outputs, why do you need video then? VGA monitors of good quality are now considerably cheaper than TV monitors of the same quality.

  7. Gareth Irwin

    Why the hubub?

    Firstly when using optical out into decent hifi DACs, the difference between a SB and AppleTV is diminished massively, the big SB being an exception, but then it is around 7 times the price.

    Secondly, why are people bitching and moaning that people shouldn't have to hack the AppleTV to work? Apple stated from day one it was designed to be used with HDTVs. They never mentioned or implied it could be used with anything else. Therefore if the idea of work rounds or hacks disturbs you, don't purchase the damn device.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Lack of DiVX XViD fo kcaL

    Lack of DIVX is the deal breaker for me, and lack of XVID is the deal breaker for em.

    It needs to play more formats, MPeg2, DIVX, XVID, what is the point of a media centre that doesn't play the media? If I have to add a PC to play these formats then why would I have the AppleTV?

    A stupid omission, if they'd fix that I'd have bought it long ago.

  9. jolly
    Jobs Horns

    Sounds like a lot of fannying around to me

    This will score a 0/10 on the WAF (wife acceptance factor).

    Does everything apple makes have to be tinkered with to get it to do something that other manufacturers build in as standard? I've never bought anything made by apple as everything, at least from my "outsider's" point of view, seems to be tied down by limiting software.

  10. Frank Bough

    What the Apple TV Isn't

    ...ANY of the things that my fellow commentators seem to think it is. What it IS - a really smooth iPod for your living room.

    If you've never tried an Apple TV, don't waste your time telling us what's wrong with it. It does a few things extremely well, and that's it - it the best designed media box I've seen. Quiet, discreet, simple, high enough quality - plug in and go, set and forget - the Apple philosophy of computers as appliances for the rest of us made real. The only way they could make it easier would be to build it into a 30" screen and...

    I was a proper sceptic until I tried the thing. Tony Smith's got this one absolutely right.

  11. Scott Mckenzie


    How can the device be classed as not working when it's designed to work with a Component or HDMI device - something it does perfectly well.

    It doesn't work very well at something it wasn't designed to do - hardly a design flaw!

    Of all the devices of this type, the Apple TV is the most reliable i've tried, i actually have a Netgear EVA8000 as i want Xvid files to be playable, if the Apple TV could do that, i'd have one instead, but it can't so i didn't buy one to do something it can't do.

    It's nothing to do with Apple being awkward, it's about buying a product to do the job it was designed to do.

  12. Nano nano

    SCART ?!

    You can buy a SCART to component adaptor from Argos for about £9.99

    That should go into the back of your telly somewhere ...

  13. Cameron Colley
    Jobs Horns

    re: What the Apple TV Isn't


    Quiet, discreet, simple, high enough quality - plug in and go, set and forget - the Apple philosophy of computers as appliances for the rest of us made real


    Really? Do you have to put conditioner in your washing machine and remove it again before you can use liquid rather than powder to wash your clothes with? Have to rewire the plug to your microwave before you can heat up supermarket brand beans?

    What a strange world Apple fans live in...

  14. Mr Tony Gittens

    Component to RGB/VGA

    I got arround the problem of connecting an Apple TV to my non-HD TV by getting a converter unit produced by J.S. Technology which I think was reviewed on here earlier in the year.

    What I do not understand about the design of the Apple TV is why they did not give it an on/off switch!

  15. A J Stiles


    What's unusual about this is that it didn't just have a normal SCART socket from the word go. One cable to plug in, and it works with anything: composite or RGB, stereo or mono audio, and even self-switching (well, at least until you remove pin 8 with a pair of wire cutters, on account of the annoying way some tellies refuse to display a picture from any other source). Really, it's a no-brainer. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a TV set without a SCART socket?

    The real mystery, as far as I'm concerned, is why is everyone moving to Y/R-Y/B-Y component? It's a horrible kludge that only ever made sense for one purpose: broadcasting colour pictures in a way that could be displayed on existing mono sets. Nowadays, all sets are colour; and since the signals are digital anyway, it's little extra work to generate a mono signal (for that matter, the Y component is exactly just a mono video signal). RGB is the "native" format used by both CRTs and LCDs; so why couldn't we just adapt the existing SCART connector (which has always been able to carry RGB signals) to work with high-def analogue pictures? (Probably use the data pins to attempt to exchange resolution information and if nothing is forthcoming, default to a low-definition, 625-line picture)

  16. IanKRolfe


    Why not just spend $10 on a component-to-scart cable and plug it in the back? If your TV scart socket doesn't support RGB component video, then it's not a huge amount to get a convertor.

    Or you could just jiggle the plugs every time you switch on.... Naaah!

  17. Frank Bough


    If you're the kind of person who wants to watch things in composite video, you're probably not the kind of person who spends £250 on a living room iPod. If, on the other hand, you're a wannabe geek who has the ambition but none of the technical know-how to save money by bodging a well designed gadget into a nightmare of adapters and hastily lashed-up wiring, then go right ahead and perform this ridiculous 'hack' (don't bother using a component - SCART RGB adapter, that might actually give you a decent picture).

    Christ on a Raleigh Chopper.

  18. A J Stiles

    @Ian K Rolfe

    The point is, "component" video using the red, green and blue audio plugs *ISN'T* RGB; it's Y/R-Y/B-Y (where Y = 0.6G + 0.3R + 0.1B + S and is basically a mono composite signal). SCART uses RGB and timing.

  19. Frank Bough

    J Stiles

    The reason you're mystified by all of this is because you don't realise that a) SCART/Peritel is a European notion invented by Philips and b) most CE devices are designed for the US market principally and then adapted for the rest of the world IF we're lucky. Yankee-doodlers don't use SCART - they DID use S-Video (which is why the S-Video input on so many TVs gives the best picture...) and they DO use component. Apple designs things in California, which is a subset of the USA.

    We're lucky the the Apple TV isn't locked at 29.97fps from the get go.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    apple fanboys

    Geez, they just dont get it do they, If the thing was not designed to handle composite video why does this hack work?

    Really, a very simple software change would fix that issue, but not for the fanboys noooo,

    thats the way apple designed it so it must be the best way is the response.

    The fans should get back to their graphic design (Crayons and finger paint?)and leave the tech people alone to do real work.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019