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Create quality iPad 2 product demos with Apple TV and EyeTV

After much effort, we've found a solid TUAW solution for screencasting the iPad 2 to desktop computers. Steve Sande and I have been documenting our attempts at this challenge for several months now.

Back in March, Steve got basic 480p mirroring working. I then improved that to 720p/720i, although my solutions did have a slight aspect ratio problem. I also wrote about adding audio narration and pointer effects.

Now, by modifying my setup and adding in technology introduced in Steve Jobs' keynote this past Monday, I've built a really reliable system with great responsiveness, minimal wires, and good video details. It's built, as you've already guessed, around AirPlay Mirroring, so it is limited to the iPad 2. And, because it uses AirPlay's announced but not-yet-shipping features, I can't offer screenshots or talk about how to set it up on the iPad side.

That's okay, because from the iPad side it's just a matter of setting the AirPlay options as required. The hardware is the interesting bit, and none of that is specific to iOS 5. I'm going to describe how I set up things on my computer, with equipment you can purchase and test today, even if you're not in the developer program.

What I'm going to describe is not capturing video from the iPad, it's capturing video from your Apple TV. When iOS 5 is released, you'll be able to use the wireless screencasting from Monday's keynote to send your iPad video to Apple TV. Right now, unless you are in the beta program and have an iPad 2, you will only be able to record your Apple TV screen with whatever content is on it today.

Like my previous efforts, this solution is built around the Elgato EyeTV HD (street price around $170). The EyeTV HD accepts component (RGB/RW) input and can ably display and record 720p HD video.

I was met with complete failure when I first tried converting the iPad 2's HDMI cable output to composite video. I had bought an HDMI-to-Component converter box from Amazon. For that failed effort, I was personally out about $55 dollars plus a bit of time. The box didn't work with Apple's multimedia cable and the iPad 2, and I never ended up posting about the solution -- there was nothing more to say than "it didn't work."

Fortunately, the converter was still on-hand this week. I had tossed it into a box of outdated and failed equipment. When I realized I might be able to use the Apple TV's HDMI output for product demos, I connected the converter up to the EyeTV HD and ran the Apple TV HDMI cable to it.

Success!

So what do you get for your approximately-$325 solution (EyeTV, component converter and Apple TV)? You get very good quality capture, as shown in the screen shot at the top of this post. Don't expect pixel-perfect accuracy. EyeTV will compress your video and you will experience some blurriness. What's more, wireless video almost always involves some bandwidth compromises, so don't expect perfection there either for when you do get access to iOS 5.

Instead, expect a really workable answer to your iPad 2 demonstration-recording needs. This setup works well for both product videos and screencasting. As a bonus, the iPad 2 isn't tethered to an awkward cable adapter, and your various boxes can stack neatly next to your computer (or TV, as the case may be).

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