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How to get colour composite-video from an Apple TV

Got a standard def 16:9 telly? Now you too can use an Apple TV

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Replacing these units with the Apple TV loses me my Squeezebox, with it's easy-to-read-from-the-sofa user interface, but allows me to keep one device powered up instead of two. And it'll play the songs I've purchased from the iTunes Music Store as well as the ripped ones.

I mentioned earlier that I'm not a HD TV owner. I'm not a big watcher of broadcast TV, so I'm waiting for true free-to-air HD before I ditch my 28in CRT. The Apple TV only has component-video and HDMI ports, none of which my telly posesses, but a quirk of the machine allows me to get a monochrome signal out of the green component channel and in through my TV's composite-video port.

It's no good for photo or video playback, but it works just fine for music selection. Apple TV supports PAL-friendly 576i and NTSC-ready 480i resolutions so it's easy to switch to a picture size that'll work on a standard-definition widescreen TV - and possibly a 4:3 ratio model too, if it has an option to compress the image vertically into 16:9.

One Apple TV owner, Mauricio Pastrana, recently posted a YouTube video apparently showing him fooling the device into outputting a colour signal via the green component video. If it's not a hoax - and the guy claims he doesn't know why it worked - the process involves clipping in an HDMI device to then quickly removing it. Why that should persuade the Apple TV to reformat the signal being sent out of the green component port is anyone's guess.


Mauricio Pastrana's YouTube video
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Here's the procedure:

  • Plug your composite-video cable into the Apple TV's green component-video
  • Go to Settings/TV Resolution
  • Move the cursor onto 576p but don't press Play (OK) on the remote
  • Unplug the composite cable
  • Plug an HDMI-DVI adaptor that's connected to a DVI-VGA adaptor
  • Now press Play (OK) on the remote and count to five
  • Unplug the HDMI-DVI adaptor
  • Reconnect the composite video cable

When the picture comes back, it should be in colour, or so Mauricio claimed.

There's also a way of tricking the Apple TV to produce the same effect using software, but I didn't try it - the Apple TV's not mine, and the software approach requires a lot of hackery. Instead, I decided to give the quick hardware hack a go.

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