Playing downloaded H.264 content on an unjailbroken Apple TV 2

H.264 content out there in the wild is often produced using the open source x264 encoding library. This article focuses on playing that content back on your Apple TV 2 in an unjailbroken state.

This article presumes you have purchased legal copies of the movies you’ve downloaded on DVD or Blu-Ray and are too lazy to rip them yourself, or are unable to do so due to hardware/time constraints.

The Apple TV 2 is not able to playback .mkv files, so we are going to re-wrap the video and audio tracks into an .m4v container which the ATV can playback.

Tools you’ll need

  • Subler
  • iTunes


  1. Load your downloaded file into Subler.
  2. Save the file as a Movie-MPEG4. If the file is larger than 4GB, tick the box “64 bits chunk offset”.
  3. Rename the file to an .m4v extension. The .mp4 container format does not support AC3, .m4v does.
  4. Click on Movies in iTunes and drag your file in. This will copy the movie to your Library.
  5. Enable Home Sharing on both the Apple TV and iTunes.

You should then be able to see and playback content from iTunes on your Apple TV.

When playing back content with AC3 tracks, you MUST set Dolby Digital to On instead of Auto on the Apple TV, otherwise you’ll get an error during playback. You’ll find the option in Settings -> Audio & Video.

The Apple TV 2 is optimised for H.264 playback ONLY. Standard definition Xvid content will playback but will not be hardware accelerated, as a result may be choppy, same with HD Xvid content.

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