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Watch your downloaded anime on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with Air Video (Updated)

Update 2014-06-16: The folks behind Air Video have put out a brand new, even better app, Air Video HD. Not only does it stream your videos in stunning HD quality, but it also perfectly renders subtitles, even complex ones like SSA/ASS! Check out our video review of Air Video HD.

I hope you’ll excuse this slightly off-topic posting, but I just found something that I had to share with you.

We’ve all got anime on our hard drives. Might as well man up and admit it. OK, so maybe it’s anime you legally purchased through an online service like iTunes; or maybe it’s content that you ripped from DVD’s that you own (technically illegal under the DMCA, but we’ve never heard of individuals who only do this for their own personal use [and don’t share the files they create] being prosecuted); or maybe it’s something that you downloaded via teh torrents (definitely illegal, but most anime companies have traditionally turned a begrudgingly blind eye toward fansubs). But I’m sure that many of us have some anime hanging around on their hard drives.

Playing this downloaded anime, however, can prove to be a problem. There are over 9,000 video formats out there. (Not really, but it sure feels like it!) And with different bitrates, options, etc., this can prove quite confusing for most computers to play. Add different audio formats (AAC? AC3? PCM? WAV? MP3???!) and different subtitling methods (SSA? ASS? SRT??!) and that makes the complexity even worse. Fortunately, for desktop PC’s and Macs, there are excellent “swiss army knife” video players such as VLC (Mac, Windows, and Linux/UNIX) and Perian (Mac only) that do a pretty good job of playing back the various video formats out there.

But what about portable devices? Devices such as the Archos 5 do a fairly good job of playing back the most common video formats, but many files still require transcoding, which takes lots of time and CPU power. But if you have an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you’ve got an even harder challenge, as these devices support a very limited set of formats (basically only MPEG-4 and H.264 of a certain resolution and bit rate). Also, with any portable device, your storage space is limited – anywhere from 8 to 64 GB for flash players, and maybe 250-500 GB max for hard drive based players. Which is a problem for those of us with, erm, larger anime collections.

What to do, what to do?

Enter Air Video. This fantastic app for the iPhone and iPod touch lets you stream video files from your computer over either WiFi or the 3G cellular network. The kicker here is that, if the file is in a format that your device can’t play natively, it will transcode it – on the fly! And it also supports the display of embedded subtitles. It’s pretty solid too. I’ve thrown just about every oddball video I’ve got at it, and it works perfectly.

The program is available right now for the iPhone and iPod touch. They’ve already upgraded it for the iPad and have submitted it to Apple for approval, so hopefully the iPad version will be out soon. Best of all, the iPad version will be a free upgrade to those who already own the iPhone/iPod version, so feel free to buy it now – the iPod/iPhone version works just fine on the iPad.

Get it today for the amazingly low price of $2.99 at the iTunes Store. There’s also a free version with limited features. You’ll also want to head over to the Air Video website to download the accompanying server software for your desktop computer (versions available for both Mac and Windows).

A few days ago I wrote about how the iPad will appeal to anime and manga fans. This, my friends, is a concrete example of that.

(UPDATE 04/09/2010: The iPad version of Air Video is released and is on the App Store, and once again, is a FREE update if you’ve already purchased the program. Just go to the Apps section in your copy of iTunes and click the “check for updates” button at the lower right corner of the window, and you should automatically download it.)

4 comments to Watch your downloaded anime on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with Air Video (Updated)

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