Out of the box, the Apple TV can quickly be configured to turn any HDTV into a stunning holiday decoration, even without an Apple ID or iTunes account. In addition to an HDTV and Apple TV, all you really need is connectivity to the internet via Ethernet or Wi-Fi and an HDMI cable. Here’s how to get started, as well as some more advanced tips.
Quick and easy
Using Apple’s ability to connect to Flickr, as well as its Internet Radio features, you can easily have a stunning backdrop to your holiday events in three easy steps:
- Choose your music. On your Apple TV, from the “Internet” find the “Radio” sub-section. To find a holiday station, first try looking under the categories “Religious” or “Golden Oldies,” but it’s likely a lot of radio stations are playing holiday tracks right around now.
- Search Flickr photos. Once music is taken care of, also under the “Internet” section of the Apple TV you’ll find “Flickr.” Perform a search on Flickr for something very descriptive like “Glass Christmas Ornaments” for best results.
- Start the slide show. After previewing your search results, change the default settings to shuffle images and allow the slide show to repeat itself once it’s shown every image. Be sure to select the “Holiday Mobile” transition theme before starting the slide show for bonus cheer.
A more personal touch
If you’re looking to show off your own photos rather than someone else’s, and you want to play your own music,too, then there’s a little more work involved. With the Apple TV, there are two ways to access your music library: Either via Home Sharing or iTunes Match. Here’s how to use Home Sharing, which is available free to all Apple TV owners:
- Create a holiday photo album in iPhoto. In iPhoto, create a new album by highlighting the photos you want and choose ”New Album” from the File menu.
- Create a holiday playlist in iTunes on your Mac. To quickly create a new playlist, highlight the music you want to listen to and select “New Playlist from Selection” from the File menu in iTunes.
- Enable Home Sharing from your Mac. From the Advanced menu in iTunes, select “Turn on Home Sharing” and enter your iTunes account information to set up Home Sharing in iTunes on your Mac.
- Add your iPhoto library to your Mac’s Home Sharing. You also need to add your iPhoto library to your Home Share. This is also done from the Advanced menu in iTunes, by picking “Choose Photos to Share…” and selecting iPhoto.
- Enable Home Sharing on your Apple TV. Now that everything is set up and ready to go on your Mac, you need to be able to access Home Sharing from your Apple TV. Enable Home Sharing on the Apple TV using the same iTunes account information you used to turn it on with your Mac.
- Play your shared playlist. Navigate to the “Computer” section and select the music library shared from your Mac. Go to the “Playlist” section under “Music” to select the holiday playlist you created on your Mac.
- Start your shared slide show. Finally from the “Computer“ section on your Apple TV, pick “Photos.” Here you can select the Photo Album you created in iPhoto.
NOTE: To use iTunes Match rather than Home Sharing on your Mac and Apple TV, you just need to enable iTunes Match. Once you sync your iTunes Match library, the holiday playlist you create on your Mac will be available.
Holiday cheer anywhere with AirPlay
This third method requires only that you’re at somewhere with an Apple TV, and have an iPhone capable of AirPlay. From Spotify, to Google Music and Pandora, you can use whatever music source you choose with this method, as well as your own on-device iTunes library.
- Ensure AirPlay is enabled on your Apple TV. You don’t need to log into your iTunes account on the target Apple TV with this method, but you do need to make sure AirPlay is enabled. Find AirPlay options under “Settings” on your Apple TV’s main menu.
- Choose your favorite holiday music app. Most popular music apps in the App Store support streaming music over AirPlay. Choose one, and once the music is playing, simply tap on the AirPlay icon (usually located next to playback controls), and choose the Apple TV from the menu that comes up (note that both devices have to be on the same local Wi-Fi network for it to appear).
- Pick a holiday-themed album from your device’s Photos app. If you haven’t synced any photos from your iTunes library or you don’t have any ready to go, you could just take some around the house of any decorations or trees, create a dedicated album for them, and use that.
- Start the slide show. From your device’s Photos app, tap the AirPlay icon and choose the same Apple TV you’re using to stream music. You can stream both music and photos from the same iOS device at the same time.
That’s three easy ways to make your Apple TV part of the festive holiday action. Got any more suggestions? Let us know in the comments.