HOW-TO: Cheaply watch iPod videos on your TV

Sections: Apple, Features, How To, Portable Video, Video

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Why would you fork out $19 bucks for the Apple iPod AV Cable when you don’t have to? We were looking around for cheaper solutions for getting video over to you TV and came across an article on O’Reilly’s By following simple steps, you can get any AV cable (with yellow/red/white outputs) to work with your iPod. Read on to find out how.

All you’re going to need for this is an iPod video (obviously), an iPod compatible video on your iPod, and any A/V cable with eigth-inch-to-RCA (yellow/red/white) camcorder cable (get it from ebay if you don’t have one).

  1. Set up your iPod video options

    Go to Videos -> Video Settings from the main menu on your iPod. This screen offers three settings: TV Out, TV Signal and Widescreen. Adjust the selections to give the video playback options you need. We suggest you set the TV Out option to “Ask” so you always know it will play. If you live in the US, your TV Signal is NTSC. Make sure this is selected. If you’re outside the US, you might want to check which option to use.

    iPod video options

  2. Plugging the AV cable into the TV

    You’re probably thinking that you don’t need help doing this one. Well let me tell you, you do. Since Apple wants you to buy their proprietary cable, they decided to be sneaky. They send the video over the Red RCA cable (usually yellow). Therefore, they send the audio over the white and yellow cables. Oh you’re so tricky Apple, whatever will we do? In easier words, do the following:

    Red RCA plug -> TV’s yellow RCA jack
    Yellow RCA plug -> TV’s white RCA jack
    White RCA plug -> TV’s red RCA jack

If you can believe it, that’s all you have to do. Pretty much the only tricky thing was switching the Red and Yellow RCA cables. If you have any problems, let us know and we’ll get our directions fixed. Enjoy.

UPDATE: We’ve been informed this method works for the iPhone as well. Just plug the RCA cable into your old school iPod dock, set your iPhone in the dock, and you should be golden. [Thanks, Nate]

Read [MacDevCenter]

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  • Avatarpalin

    I tried this on my TV (AU PAL) and the results were pretty average, i toggled the NTSC and PAL settings and nothing came from it.. the picture was black and white adn incredibuly fuzzy… any ideas?

  • Funky

    Excellent article. I just bought a video iPod. I will have to try this when I get home. :)

  • Jill

    I'm a little skeptical that this will work, but I can tell you as a video producer for both web and television that the picture quality of your ipod video is going to be pretty cruddy. The video in your ipod is compressed for a little screen, which is why it looks so good on the ipod. What Avatarpalin is describing sounds like video coming across the wrong connector. If anything should have worked, it should have been Nick's set up. You can try switch the configuration, but don't expect great quality, especially if you have a big screen tv. Good luck!

  • nick

    i read this trick on another website and was horribly disappointed to learn the APPLE 1/8th inch to 3-way RCA cord i bought for my late-2001 iBook with the 1/8th inch a/v port doesn't work.

  • Chad

    Works Great! Thanks!! I was just about to by that cable from apple too. Instead I opened my Sony camcorder case and used that av cable. Yellow = Red. would have never guessed that one.

  • Leon

    I've been doing this for a couple weeks now since I got my Video Ipod and it works great.

    The quality is pretty much perfect. Better than any DVDs that I've managed to burn.

    The screen on the Ipod is tiny but it has the same resolution as regular TVs, so it looks great.

  • steve


    works fine for me!

  • luke

    Swapping the video and audio signals is standard practice in proprietary devices. If you want to use a camcorder A/V cable with pretty much anything that's not a camcorder, chances are you'll have to swap them around. I use a portable DVD player as a video monitor for my miniDV camera using the 1/8 inch input, and red carries the video from the camera just like the iPod. This not have even been a deliberate choice on Apple's part, and merely the way that the component they used was built.

  • josh in japan

    So I guess this would also have worked with my old ibook 2001 AV cable that I forked out AU$45 for.
    I had at first bought one of these generic camvorder cables. I'm pretty sure I tried all the different cable combinations before I bought the Apple branded one, of course now I'm not so sure.

  • mike

    The only problem is video cable is 75ohm, and audio cable is not.

    The result is, it works… but possibly black and white or with some kind of picture loss.

    Sorry guys, this isn't an easy way out of $19.

  • Brett

    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 😉

  • Tony

    I saw these threads and decided to try my Sony DV camera cable. Worked well by simply swapping red and yellow. Colour, picture quality and sound were all excellent. Ran my connection through my DVD Recorder to my plasma panel. I'm using PAL out here in Australia. Saved myself the price of the Apple cable.

  • Anthony

    I recently purchased the Sony A/V cable. When I initially hooked it up to my TV (red=yellow), the video was extremely choppy. Then I tried another TV…and the picture was fine, but it was in black and white. With the video still playing, I changed the signal from PAL to NTSC. Nothing changed…still black and white. Then I stopped the movie, played a mp3, and then went back and played the movie…SUCCESS! It works fine on both TVs now. So it might be necessary to completely exit the video mode before the TV signal type updates. Hope this helps.

  • john otello

    Its woks with me too…
    awasome ipod technlogy for me.

  • Rick in East L.A.

    I don't care what any of the skeptics are saying, they are full of crap. And Jill (comment #4) you should have tried the tip before you opened your big mouth, Quote: "I’m a little skeptical that this will work, but I can tell you as a video producer for both web and television that the picture quality of your ipod video is going to be pretty cruddy."

    This works! And, the video quality is flawless!! Thanks for the tip… you saved me some cash.

    Boyakasha, beeyotches!

  • Steve Shipp

    It works perfectly for me. The only thing it would not show on the Tv screen , by just clicking on the centre button when showing a pic on the ipod, I had to press on the bottom >" pl;ay /pause button , this then shows a three pic slideshow screen, choose the TV on, and then click in the centre, it then works.

  • Phdoni

    Can this still work with a black and yellow cable? Or does it have to be red/yellow/whit? COz I've tried it over and over and I get nothing!

  • John B.

    It took me all of 60 seconds to get this to work. It's brilliant! (Just don't forget to set your TV to "VIDEO". One button. Thank you for this post!

  • greg

    hmmm…mine doesn't seem to be working at all. I'm using the cord that came out of my canon camcorder and plugged it into an old tv directly, to a vcr attatched to the tv, and an LCD monitor with a tv tuner. It didn't seem to display any of my pictures under ask or tv out with the NTSC setting on. (for us products, right?) Is there something that I'm not getting?

  • David Parker

    Yes it works fine on my TV it has a 52" screen and the picture is good and the sound is good

  • Johnnymushio

    im using a rf modulator cuz i dont ahve the plugs in my tv, and its not working. i do the little switching things u guys say, when i plug it in it just flashes in and out a black screen and makes little noises whenever it is on the black screen. its set to tv out, bla bla bla, usa tv signal just like u all say and its not working, i have ipod video. does rf modulator not let it work??????????????

  • Elaine

    I would just like to say, thank you for this post, it worked a treat….as a total idiot when it comes to technology, it amazes me that people can get around ANYTHING if they want to. Thank you again for your advice, it is VERY much appreciated.

  • David

    No offense Jill, but you supply a lot of incorrect speculative statements.
    Brett was much more enlightening as to Apple's reasoning than the iPod critics who just love snagging up iPod products just to complain about how evil they are! Really? You shelled out all that money for a video ipod and then complain about a cheap cable? As for the adventurous ones out there…kudos! Whatever works! There are exceptions to rules of thumb. Most people report clear pictures on the tv, and are pleased with a product of which I have purchased two. The iPod with Video gives me space for music/videos/movies.
    I can play it on my stereo, my tv, and I can, of course, listen to music on my walks, or catch an ABFAB or COUPLING or Curb Your Enthusiasm on the bus ride home. Honestly, only a curmudgeon would complain. If you can't get it to work, please just shell out $19 for a cable, and stop your whining. You probably spend more ordering out a pizza. The iPod is love yours..I love mine…ADMIT IT! ADMIT IT! BE HAPPY!!!!


  • Mike

    I agree with Dave.

  • Free sony ps3

    some clever people out there.

  • Pete

    I also have one of those ibook a/v to the 4-pin thing, but it doesn't work, but you think it would since they made both, i guess i agree with the apple trying to make a few bucks

  • Rob

    I tried this with my Sony digital videorecorder and it works great on TV. It also works on my stereo, but the only minor problem is, that you have to pump up the volume on the stereo. Beware if you forgot to decrease volume, unplug the iPod and switch to radio or CD!
    Any idea why this is? Would the official Apple AV cable perform better on my stereo?

  • Robert

    Tried it and it works perfectly! Thank you so much for the information!

  • Bill

    I have an AV/cable for a sony (Handycam) but it only has yellow and black? plugs. Has anyone else used this? And will it work? And how much does the AV/cable with the R/W/Y plugs cost at like walmart of something? Thanks if you reply.

  • Tyler

    The ipod format is mp4. How can you put a dvd on the ipod and be able to watch it on the tv with good quality.

  • RYan

    I tried switching the colors and it had no effect… Just useing a regualr cable will be fine. I tried it with a Zune cable on my Ipod too and it had the same outcome. The picture is outstanding but getting the volume at a confortable level may be alittle hard…

  • midaks

    well i'm gunna go pick up an rca cable but i found one at home that has 1 black plug and 1 red plug will that work??

  • Cole

    hey man awesome idea, it made perfect sense, i scrounged around my house and found the right cord. I had no idea where it came from but i found it. I hooked it up just the way you said and bang there it was. thanks for the help

  • Tyler

    I got the videos playing and they look great. Is there anyway to put them on the ipod with a higher resolution. When I play the movies off my laptop onto the TV they look a lot better than the ipod.

  • Katie

    Well I have tried 2 other cables that were supposed to do the job of playing videos from the ipod to the TV and had no joy, one did nothing anf the other just gave me a fuzzy picture! So I tried what you suggested and used my camcorder lead and it worked better than the others but the picture was still in black and white. I tried everything to see if it was my TV and it definatley wasn't. Can you tell me what I might be doing wrong, not that your directions weren't easy as they were!

  • Gaetano

    Well, definitely for me it doesn't work the way I hoped.
    I use a Sony handycam cable swapping properly connecting red->yellow, etc and the picture is very poor. Moreover if I set the TV out to PAL (I am in a PAL region) I get black and white images while I get colors if I set it to NTSC and a widescreen image if it is set to off and viceversa. It seems that the "TV Signal" and "Widescreen" menu settings work inverted.

  • Sam

    This works so well, thank you so much for your advice.

  • stephen

    this works well but i cant get audio on the movies, i can hear audio great on songs but not on the videos… any ideas?? thanks

  • dash

    hi, i put the wires in the right order in my tv then all that happens is a large noise and the image is not coming properly, please help

  • Turmoil

    It's not working for me with a 30 Gig Ipod video… looks like scrambled tv channel, in both NTSC and Pal

  • Nico

    Hi There,
    I have seen this hack on a few pages and I have tried this out with a few different cables. My still camera's cable provided me with a the classic lost signal image, my JVC camcorder's cable gave me the black and white….

    But I found a SONY AV cable and this worked 100%.

    I use an iPod video 30GB with the PAL setting.


  • miguel

    I can hear the video but i don't watch it. why?

  • Scott Palmer

    This did not work for me, the picture I got kept freezing and was just not right, it was mostly just white fuzz. On the plus side the sound worked fine.
    Can anyone help me?

  • Erik

    This is the most helpful article yet and I've read at least a dozen. Thank you.

  • lee

    i neva try it yet so i cant coment

  • brian in az

    purchased a new 5g 80gb. any idea how to make it work with a phillips portable tv with i pod dock? apple and phillips tell me it wont work. also have a "dock" for my pioneer d2 tv in car that apple and pioneer said wont work. they say it must be an apple plug into bottom of ipod only. any answers or hacks?

  • Paula

    Ipod Touch 16 GB
    We tried switching the colour-cables by two different cables. The video format mpg4 isn't playing, so it doesn't work (in the Netherlands). It's a pity.

  • Joris

    Hi there,

    the fact is that the new generation iPods doesnt work with the AV-cable.. You have to buy the expensive apple version of it.. Really sad action from apple!

  • Luis

    Hi there, I just bought a 80 GB Classic and video and I tried watching videos in the TV, I tried a cable and a dockn both generic and it keeps me asking to conect the video cable even though it is already connected and I had also tried swapping cables, any ideas?

  • Luella

    I was so excited when I found out about this simple technique, however when I plugged it into my Ipod It asked "Do you want to enable TV out?" I selected "on” It wanted me to connect the video accessory into the bottom of my Ipod. When I selected "off” the Audio works on my television but Video did not. What am I doing wrong?

  • nathan

    sounded great, but i can't get video to work

  • andres santos

    i can’t get video to work…..but the sound is great

  • Doug Berger

    Nathan and Andres – What generation iPods are you using?

  • Nick

    i did everything thid article said but all i see is a blank screen! Why??????

  • GabrielleVictoria

    hey, i bought an adaptor for a cord with the three plugs on each end to make it fit my ipod, and i followed your instructions from there, but i cant get it to work, i have an ipod classic, it should still work though shouldnt it?

    can you tell me whats going wrong?

  • joanna

    i just purchased a universal av cable from inspire and i switch the cables and had my ipod set to the proper settings but i cant get it to work…any ideas? help is needed…i have an 80gb video ipod classic

  • Shadfly

    I'm in the same boat Joanna. I have the 80gb ipod classic and I'm having trouble. Is there a setting that the TV needs to be on?

  • Spencer

    my camcorder only has yellow and white and it doesn't work.

  • Matt

    AMG IT SAYS Please Put In Device llalalalalalallala :( i have it all right

  • abdullah

    i have a Iphone & i try it BUT it dosn't work :S

    only i have the audio but the video i cant get on the TV
    please help me
    becoz i buy the cable & still not working :S

  • Shannn

    Hi all,

    I tried this. Got audio, but no video. I have an iPod nano 4th gen. Any suggestions?

  • Agus

    i tried this method and it didn't work!
    i followed all the instructions and i checked that for my country (Uruguay, in South America) the TV signal is usualy PAL; anyway i tried with PAL and NTCS and had no results
    i do everythiong you say and the screen on my iPod says: tv out enable, please conect video accesory
    what should i do?

  • Jon

    I followed all your instructions, but it didn't work. My ipod tells me to insert a video accessory… Now what? If I tell it not to do video out, I can hear the sound okay, so I know the cable's working, but the video isn't working. I tried shuffling the red/yellow/white cables nto different spot, but that didn't work either.

  • nikkie

    now i have a cable that does plug in my ipod but at the end of the cable it only has a red and white i can hear it on my tv but i cant see no video, and wen i try to click the video it says tv out enabled please connext video accessory arghh wat do i do

  • matt

    how do you get a cord that fits in you ipod my camera cord does not go in the bottom of my ipod

  • Kathrine

    I can only hear the movie not see it on the screen. any help out there??????

  • Jenny

    I tried this but the picture is scrambled on my television and the sound comes out of my dock and not my television. What do I do?

  • Jack

    I'm trying to do this through an iPod docking system with my iPod classic. The only time it even begins to register is on "CD/DVD" setting on the dock, and then it reads "no disc", because there is no disc. My problem begins at the "iPod" setting, wherein its a black screen with "No signal" appearing across it. Using red/white/yellow RCA cables I connected my TV to my docking system. And still nothing. Inverting the cables as the original post dictates.
    Is this because it simply won't work with a Classic, or is there something else I need to do to get this to work?

  • ipodmovies

    Don't waste your time trying convert movies for your ipod. I gave up spending hours of my day converting ipod movies and just started download them at great iTunes alternative at a fraction of the price of iTunes!

  • jaga

    Need some help here….I tried what everyone else did with the RCA cable, but my Ipod kept showing message saying ….TV OUT ENABLED .. PLEASE CONNECT VIDEO ACCESSORY…(with the proprietary picture of their own cable)…when in fact the cable was already connected to Ipod and to TV on other end…What should I do ?

  • arsh

    im using the rca cables as well, and doing as directed.. but im still getting just the sound but NO VIDEO!!!
    wat am i supposed to do?

  • Mason

    I have ios 4 and there is not a setting that is shown in the directions that let's you change the iPods video output settings. Is there any way I can use a standard A/V cable to watch videos without that setting?

  • C

    THis does not work with newer ipods. Apple has put a chip into their cords that is needed to output video.

    Wish I would have know this before purchasing a cable.

  • kerry foster

    It is probably the another good chance for venders and netflix subscriibers.