Google's little Chromecast dongle is a godsend if you're the kind of person that watches a lot of YouTube or Netflix or Presto or Stan streaming video on your laptop or Android phone. But if you have a large local video library, you'll need a workaround or two to get them up on the big screen.
A lot of smart TVs these days have built-in streaming video apps, for both those streaming movie and TV services like Netflix and for networked storage drives and apps like Plex. If you don't have a smart TV, though, or if you have a Chromecast just sitting around waiting to be used, there are a bunch of different apps available — but how do they stack up?
I've recently discovered Videostream for Chromecast, a little Chrome for Windows or Mac app (with complementary Android remote control extension, also for iOS) that hooks into your PC or laptop's local video and/or audio library, letting you stream video smoothly in up to 1080p quality directly to a Chromecast on your local network.
Videostream is built around the open-source FFMPEG video transcoder — that is, it'll take any video file you feed into it and convert it on-the-fly to the h.264/MP4 format that Chromecast can decode natively. It doesn't seem to be too processor-intensive, though, so it won't drain your laptop's battery in the space of a couple of Game of Thrones episodes.
I can tell you from experience, setting up Videostream is a breeze — just as easy as setting up a Chromecast in the first place. Install the Chrome app (it's not an extension, since it's a little more powerful) on your laptop or PC — wherever all your media files are stored — then find your media files and your local Chromecast from the app.
Here's the Videostream Android app — it'll show your PC's video library and let you throw it directly to Chromecast.
If you have a network storage drive, you can install Videostream on any PC that can access it remotely, and it'll work seamlessly. Best of all for anime or foreign language film aficionados, Videostream has support in beta for subtitles, although with some file formats you'll need to add in that external subtitle file separately for it to display correctly.
The app also handles less than perfect networks pretty well; I streamed a 5GB 1080p movie to a Chromecast with minimal buffering with my Wi-Fi router a couple of rooms away. Just about the only caveat with Videostream is that your PC will have to be switched on and not sleeping for both the Android app and for the Chromecast to operate — this might be an annoyance if you're trying to use it via the laptop sitting on your couch next to you for the entire evening. If you're using a desktop, that's not an issue, and if you're on a laptop then it's just a matter of keeping it charged whenever you're planning on a full night of Chromecast movie or TV binging.
I didn't use my Chromecast dongles too much in the past, unless I was already streaming something like Netflix on my smartphone and then settled down to watch it on TV. But with access to a much larger and higher quality local library of downloaded and ripped video files, I'm getting a lot more use out of Google's bargain little media streamer.
If you have any alternative apps or experience with Chromecast streaming to share, let us know in the comments below.