Google’s Chromecast works well for streaming videos from YouTube, Netflix, and other online services. But there isn’t an obvious way to stream local video files from your computer to your TV via the Chromecast.
All the options below require the Chrome web browser. VLC can stream to a Chromecast, but this feature is currently unstable and only available in experimental builds of VLC.
Fast and Easy: Videostream for Google Chromecast
We’ve been impressed with Videostream for Google Chromecast. It’s a Chrome app and you can use it for free. You’ll have to pay $0.99 if you want playlist support, but everything else is currently free.
Install it from the Chrome Web Store and launch it. After you do, you’ll be able to pick a local video file on your computer and select the Chromecast you want to stream to. Your Chromecast will stream the video from your computer without the graphical issues and stuttering that occur when using the tab-casting feature.
MP4 is the most efficient file type you can use, as it’s supported by the Chromecast natively. But Videostream actually supports practically any media file type. If necessary, Videostream will automatically transcode the file as it streams it to your Chromecast.
More Setup Required: The Plex Media Server
The Plex Media Server has integrated Chromecast support. Plex is a popular media-server solution you’ll need to install on one of your computers. After you do, you can access it from all your other devices. Plex has apps for a wide variety of devices, from mobile phones and video game consoles to the Apple TV and Roku.
If you have a Chromecast, you can open the Plex web app in Chrome and you’ll be able to “cast” videos and other media files directly to your Chromecast. Your Chromecast will stream the media from your Plex media server. Check out our guide for more info on setting everything up if you need a step-by-step.
If you just want to watch a few videos now and then, Videostream does the same thing without any setup process. But, if you want to set up a full-blown home media server, Plex will work for you.
Not Recommended: Browser Tab or Full Desktop Streaming
In a pinch, you could do this with the features included with the Google Cast extension for Chrome. Drag-and-drop a video file type Chrome supports — like an MP4 file — into the Chrome browser window and Chrome can play that video file back in a tab. Click the Google Cast extension icon, select your Chromecast, and you can Chromecast the current tab — and the video playing in it.
You could also play the video in another application on your desktop, such as VLC or another media player. Click the Google Cast icon in Chrome, click the down icon next to your Chromecast, and select “Cast Entire Desktop”. Make the video go full-screen and it’ll stream to your Chromecast.
These methods can work, but you probably won’t want to use them. The video won’t be as smooth and crisp as if it were streaming in the usual way
The Chromecast obviously doesn’t provide any way to plug in a USB drive and play local files, so you’re stuck streaming them over the network. Videostream and Plex take advantage of this, setting up one of your computers to function as a media server the Chromecast streams just the video file from. That’s why they’re so much more efficient than tab and desktop-streaming, which requires your computer to record the screen, encode a video, and stream it to your device on the fly.
Image Credit: iannnnn on Flickr
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