How to get video out of your iPod

Apple AV Cable

Having a blog with a bit of readers is a wonderful thing. You can post articles about stuff that makes you angry. And then realize that you are completely wrong!

Have a look at the comments. Thanks, Magnus and Tor Erik.

Apple should still consider their strategy concerning FairPlay and a couple of other things. Regarding their AV cable they did the right thing.

The original post:
Apple is a company that makes wonderful software and hardware. Still, sometimes they do their best to make their products difficult to use and annoying for the consumer.

The connector on top of the new video iPod can also be used to deliver video to a television set. Video cameras and other equipment use standard AV cables to deliver stereo sound and composite video out of a mini jack like the one on top of your iPod.

However, Apple has decided to make it difficult for their users by making the connector on top of the iPod non standard. They say that you have to buy Apple’s own cable if you want to connect your iPod to a television set.

For starters, that’s a lie. You can buy a standard AV cable. You just have to connect it in a very stupid and non logic way. Someone at some point made some thinking and managed to make some kind of standard out of the typical RCA connectors you use for audio and video. White and red for left and right audio. Yellow for video. Great.

If you buy a standard AV cable for your iPod you have to connect it like this:
* Plug the red RCA plug into your TV’s yellow RCA jack
* Plug the yellow RCA plug into your TV’s white RCA jack
* Plug the white RCA plug into your TV’s red RCA jack

Detailed description here.

How stupid is that? Yes I know, Apple think they’re going to rule the world and get stinking rich by selling the special AV cable where the connectors have been messed up to match the iPod.

Well, this is amazingly stupid thinking:
1. It gives great room for confusion
2. It is a classic example of bad usability
3. Last but not least:
Apple, please start trusting yourself. I bought your expensive and special cable. Not because I was unable to connect the red to the yellow, using a cheap standard cable. I knew that already. I did it because Apple’s original cable is one of the best built, wonderfully designed and sexy AV cables ever made. I would buy another one for my video camera as well if it had been built using the standards.

The reason why I bought this cable is the exact same as the reason for buying an iPod in the first place. It is more expensive than the competitors, but it is also better built, in a league of its own when it comes to looks and in general a pleasure to use.

This is a tiny issue and not a very important example on its own. Still it illustrates an unintelligent strategy from Apple.

Apple, I love your products. Now please, open your FairPlay DRM. Open the Firmware in the iPod. Open your Front Row Experience for third party content providers…

How to get video out of your iPod

6 thoughts on “How to get video out of your iPod

  1. Tor Erik says:

    Sikker på dette ikke er fordi fordelingen av polene på minijacken må være annerledes på ipod (enn på f.eks. videokameraer) fordi kontakten også skal passe til vanlige hodetelefoner?

    Eller for å snu det litt: Vil du få rett stereolyd hvis du plugger hodetelefoner i av-minijacken på et videokamera?

    Admin note:
    This comment translated

    Are you sure this isn’t because the connections on the mini jack has to be different on the iPod (compared to video cameras). Simply because the iPod jack also has to fit regular stereo headphones?

    Would you get correct stereo sound if you plug your headphones into the AV connection on a video camera?

  2. Magnus says:

    Tor Erik is right. A typical video camera will not work with headphones plugged into the 3,5 mm minijack.

    Apple has decided to use the same port for headphones and line out (which is a good decision for a small device), and this faces them with two alternatives:

    1. Use standard headphones and non-standard(*) A/V cable
    2. Use a standard(*) A/V cable and non-standard headphones.

    I guess we all are glad that they did not choose the second alternative. Being limited to only use Apple headphones (or carrying an adapter) would not be acceptable.

    So Erik, you have a wonderful blog but on this post I have to disagree.

    PS. I bougt the Apple A/V cable with my iPod 5G as well. Expensive, allright, but it deffinately oozes with quality.

    (*) What I (and Erik) refer to as standard is actually not a standard. According to what I’ve read on the net, different brands of videocameras use different cables from 3.5 mm jack to RCA.

  3. And this one is from the comments over at the guide that I link to in this post:

    An Engineer’s Thoughts…
    2005-12-20 19:20:10 iPod_Brett [Reply | View]

    Honestly, everyone is saying apple F’d us on purpose to make more money. And while I don’t doubt that they love to make money off of accessories, I don’t believe they did this on purpose.

    As an engineer of portable devices, I can honestly say I probably would have done the same thing as Apple.

    Here’s why:

    If you look first at the IPOD AUDIO vs STANDARD AUDIO, you’ll notice the LEFT and RIGHT channels are reversed. I’m not sure why they did that but it’s bunk. Something to keep in mind when using any standard audio cable as well.

    Now look at the difference between STANDARD A/V and STANDARD AUDIO. LEFT and GROUND stay put on the same pin, but for some bizarro reason the standard is to put VIDEO where the RIGHT channel would be, and move the RIGHT channel to the new 4th pin.

    Now what Apple did, is they said.. hey, we have to make our iPod work with standard headphones and audio cables, but since we have to make our own custom A/V cables.. let’s just put the VIDEO output on the 4th pin. This makes it’s easy for them because they don’t need any extra circuitry to switch the VIDEO and LEFT signals. In fact, it’s not a cheap or space saving solution to have to switch those signals.

    So in my opinion, Apple just tried to save some money and PCB space and give us audio and video from the same jack.

    If you look at standard a/v and audio cables, they are not interchangeable with each other. The reason why when you put headphones into a camcorder’s A/V jack you only hear the LEFT channel, and you may get some static on the RIGHT channel because it’s actually a VIDEO signal.

    If Apple wanted to totally screw us, they would have swapped the GROUND and LEFT signals in their jack on the iPOD. This would render a standard cable useless, and require you to cut the wires and reconnect them in the proper order. However, this would also make all standard headphones and audio cables not work.. I think if they messed with it too much people would really look down on them with disgust.

    It could be viewed as them just tweaking it to trap the average joe into purchasing their A/V cable, but honestly I think they just took the easy path in engineering the iPOD output circuitry.

    Hope that was enlightening 😉

    Yes, that was enlightening. And just made my ramblings even more stupid. Oh, well…

  4. Hector Herrera says:

    Hey Brett, it sounds like you know plenty in wiring!!! I know nothing, but I like to know if you can tell me how to re-connect my Monster cable to my (i.EEE 1394) digital interface. Or may be make a connection to a USB cable end. ??? Do you understand me? I am not too good at this but I am very persistant at trying to figure things up.!
    I have a Sony camcorder with an av mini rc jack output, and I’d like to connect it to my Sony Laptop that has the firewire connection. Can you show me how to do it? I guess it’s a matter of knowing what wire goes where?
    Please help, or if you have any comments please do so.
    Yours Truly: Hector

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