#Chromecast Add-Ons to Play Various Video File Formats


Overview:
This blog entry shares my first attempts to use a Chromecast HDMI dongle to stream non-supported Chrome browser video formats (MKV, AVI) using Chrome add-ons, as well as shares 3 tips. The 3 tips include: 1) Dealing with Non-HDMI television; 2) Chromecast Unfriendly Networks; 3) Streaming from Mobile Devices.

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Question:
I have some digital video files in MP4, AVI, MKV formats on my computer in my upstairs office. I want to watch them on my HDMI capable television without hooking the computer up directly to my television using my home wireless network and a Chromecast--which I bought this holiday. How do I do that?
Response:
As I considered this question, I realized that I'd done practically no research on this prior to purchasing the Chromecast device! As such, it was a fun learning experience. Although "casting" video using Chromecast is pretty easy, various video formats I have available resulted in a few wrinkles that forced me to dig deeper. I found this tips and tricks video about Chromecast to be pretty straightforward....



BTW, here's another video that provides some intro background on the Chromecast (as well as this Top 5 Ways to Use Chromecast) if you're familiar with it.

VIDEO FORMATS
Although your Chrome browser has support for some video/audio formats--such as .3gp, .avi, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .m4a, .mp3, .mkv, .ogv, .ogm, .ogg, .oga, .webm, .wav--it doesn't support others like some AVI videos and MKV.

A quick note about video formats that were encountered:
  • Audio Video Interleave - The filename extension for this format is AVI. This video format was developed by Microsoft and I occasionally run into some of my old files that are in this format. Although Chromebooks support this video file type, my LubuntuLinux computer running Chrome did not play AVIs in browser.
  • Matroska - The filename extension for this format is MKV. It's a popular, open source video format that I've encountered a few times when working with others.
  • MP4 - The filename extension is MP4 and is quite popular. In fact, I try to convert everything I have into this format because it's so web-friendly and cross-platform.
The main wrinkle I ran into is that while the Chrome browser will support MP4 video format, it does NOT natively support Matroska (MKV) and AVI formatted files I had. That is, I can drag an MP4 file into the browser window and it will auto-play...but not MKV and AVI; it will just try to save a copy to my Downloads folder. So a follow-up question is, how do you play those video formats via your Chrome browser so that you can "cast" it via your Chromecast to a television?

Here are some of the add-ons or extensions I ended up using to get everything working fine:

Essential Tools:

  • Chromecast device - "Stream online video, music, photos and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Supports a growing number of apps including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio. Allows to cast a Chrome browser tab."
  • Google Cast extension - "The Google Cast extension enables you to find and play content on your Chromecast device from your Chrome browser. When on Cast optimized sites like YouTube and Netflix, you'll see new options that let you play video on your TV via Chromecast - using your computer as a remote to browse for videos and to control playback. You can also cast any of your tabs in Chrome to your TV, letting you enjoy sites, photos, or even video from the best screen in your home."

Some nice to have tools that I reference in this blog post:
  • Videostream for Chromecast - "Play your own local videos on your Chromecast from your PC - Subtitles supported!" This allows you to play weird video formats not necessarily supported by a Chrome browser such as MKV and AVI. Videostream also supports MP4, though.
  • H.265/HEVC player - "H.265 / HEVC player" is a standalone video player using libde265 to playback H.265 / HEVC content. It currently supports Matroska video files with common audio codecs." I found this capable of playing AVI, MKV, and MP4 video formats, although for MP4, Chrome browser has built-in support. Problem is that it "pops" out a window so you can Chromecast it unless you cast the whole desktop (as opposed to Chromecast a browser tab). Still, great for local playback on a Chromebook of out of the ordinary video formats.
  • Chrome Remote Desktop - "Chrome Remote Desktop allows users to remotely access another computer through Chrome browser or a Chromebook.  Computers can be made available on an short-term basis for scenarios such as ad hoc remote support, or on a more long-term basis for remote access to your applications and files.  All connections are fully secured."

The end result was that I was able to use Videostream for Chromecast to accomplish streaming MKV and AVI videos to my HDMI television (again, VideoStream isn't needed for MP4 format). Videostream for Chromecast is essentially free, but does have a Premium plan that's worth considering because of playlists, as GizMag notes in their article:
The Videostream app is free, but there's also premium plan with additional features like creating playlists for videos, beta features, premium support, and a completely ad-free environment. Premium plans start at US $1.49 monthly, $14.99 per year, or $34.99 for life.
If you want to use Chromecast as your main streaming device for your video collection, then I think playlists alone make the premium plan worth the price of admission. With it you can reorder your shows, skip files, or entirely delete them from the list.
I was able to navigate to videos saved on my machine using this tip:
Simply enter “file:///” (Mac/Linux) or “file:///c:/” (PC) in the address bar, find a piece of media and you can tabcast it to your Chromecast. via Chromecast Tips and Tweaks

Since I was using the free version, I chose to load new videos using Chrome Remote Desktop, which allowed me to remote-control my upstairs computer with the videos using a Chromebook. While that was fun, I decided that going up and down the stairs to start the next movie might assuage my guilt at being a couch potato.
;-)

Oh, you could use a Plex Video Server (free, awesome) solution but I decided not to do that in this situation. ;-)

For bonus, here are some additional problems and solutions you can try that I ran into while reading/watching videos about Chromecasts.

ISSUE #1 - DEALING WITH NON-HDMI TELEVISION
By the way, if you're like me, you're probably stuck dealing with an old television without HDMI support. Sigh. You may want to take advantage of the wisdom in this YouTube video that walks you through how to convert your HDMI signal to S-Video, which will work on older televisions. I'm considering whether I want to do this or just "junk" my old televisions that are VERY old. In the meantime, this advice is golden:
HDMI2AV Converter:http://www.amazon.com/Mini-White-Comp... 
3 RCA Male AV Cable 6 ft: http://www.amazon.com/Cable-Wholesale... 
High-Speed HDMI Cable (6.5 Feet/2.0 Meters) - Supports Ethernet, 3D, and Audio Return: http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Hi...
ISSUE #2 - DEALING WITH LOCKED DOWN NETWORKS
In a school district, workplace, or hotel, you'll encounter the issue of not being able to authenticate your Chromecast. I've had this request and, unfortunately, things just didn't work well. How to bypass that? Here's one approach that will certainly get you in trouble in a work environment with the network services folks (buy hey, why not?).


You can read about this problem in this HowToGeek article...here's an excerpt from their article (the whole thing is worth reading!):
...you can bridge the Wi-Fi gap on your own terms by using a travel router. All you need is a compact travel router like the HooToo Tripmate (read review), an Ethernet cable, and you’re ready to rock. 
Just plug in the portable router to the Ethernet jack in your room, fire up the router, and connect to the router with your smartphone, tablet, or computer to configure the Chromecast just like you would at home.

Pretty neat idea! I'll have to try this somewhere...hmm.
;-)

ISSUE #3 - How to Stream from Mobile Device
I found information about these apps to be helpful...

Android Device:

  • Google Chromecast App - Use the Chromecast app to: Set up your Chromecast and connect it to your Wi-Fi network, Set up backdrop and personalize your TV screen with art, personal photos, news and more; Manage your Chromecast settings (such as changing your device name, Wi-Fi password, etc.)
  • AllCast - "AllCast lets you send photos, music, and videos on your Android to your TV!" Also works with other devices aside from Chromecast,such as Apple TV, Roku, XBox and many others.

iOS Device (e.g. iPad/iPhone):
  • PixoCast ($1.99) - Send videos or photos to your Chromecast connected television! "PixoCast streams your photos and videos from iPhone, iPad or iPod directly to your TV screen!"
EVERYTHING CHROMECAST
Finally, there are tons of resources on Chromecast I'll be exploring. Here are a few of those:


  1. WonderHowTo Chromecast site:
    1. Cast Facebook and Twitter Feeds (useful at a conference or edcamp, right?)
    2. How to Root Your Chromecast



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Comments

petardun said…
there is a new app for android that transcodes the files on the fly on the phone and can stream avi, mkv, 3gp and any other file to Chromecast, its called Megacast
betterpluse said…
You can use Avdshare Video Converter to convert MKV to Chromecast supported MP4 or WebM with H.264 High Profile Level 4.1 or VP8 codec etc,step by step at http://www.avdshare.com/mkv-to-chromecast-converter-for-mac-windows

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