Pretty much all current Synology DiskStations and RackStations can function as a media server, including to an Apple TV, but I personally found it very difficult to find an actual how-to guide and wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out.
Step 1: Create a “MediaUsers” group/users
This is an optional step, but it can help simplify permissions later. It may actually be good to create two groups: MediaAdmins and MediaConsumers to better set who is allowed to write to (or copy off of) the actual shares and who is able to just play the content.
You may also want to consider making a MediaUser user account that is maybe a lower security account that is just used for playing content. Turn off their permissions for ftp and diskstation and any other features and just give it Media permissions. This way it can be a dedicated player.
So, consider how you want your security to work.
Step 2: Install Media Server Packages
Go to the Package Center and install the following packages:
- Audio Station
- Photo Station
- Video Station
- iTunes Server
Step 3: Set Up Your Folders
By default, the media services will create three new shares in the root of your primary volume: /music /video /photos This may not happen until you run and configure each server, but eventually they’ll show up. The photo one might not, actually. But you get the idea.
You can create your own media folder in the root and put everything in there, which I did, but the services will end up re-creating the music and video folders at the very least, so you’ll still be stuck with those sitting around in your root directory. I’ve tried getting rid of them, they won’t stay gone. So, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
All that to say, under /video, you should create subfolders for your Movies, TV Shows, and HomeVideos. And by HomeVideos, I mean anything that’s not likely to pull an IMDB listing for title and cast and such. The NAS automatically attempts to find IMDB entries for the videos in Movies and it does get them wrong sometimes. To prevent attempts at lookups, put them in HomeMovies and it’ll just use the file names.
Step 4: Set up Media Library Indexed Folders
This is under Control Panel, just make sure the /video, /music, and /photo folders are listed with their appropriate types for indexing. All the other apps will pull their content from this.
If you have any additional folders you want indexed, by all means add them in.
Step 5: Configure iTunes Server
Now, this isn’t a required step for the Apple TV bit, so if that’s all you’re interested in, you can skip this. (Apple TV can’t actually browse the NAS, it has to have content sent to it via AirPlay (more on this later), so this is just for your other iTunes clients on computers)
You can configure this (and the other apps) by running the app from the start-esk menu in the upper left corner.
There’s pretty much no configuration really needed for this, just the option of setting a password for the iTunes library.
Step 6: Set up Audio Station
Run the Audio Station app and then click Settings in the menu bar.
Turn on the privileges for all relevant users. You may actually have to log on individually for each user and set this, or you may be able to set this in the Control Panel –> Privileges section. Check both.
Also, click on the button next to the settings that say My Computer or similar and change it to show Apple TV. This is just changing the destination of the content to be streamed. Again, it’s AirPlay, not home sharing.
Step 7: Set up Video Station
Run the Video Station App and then click settings in the menu bar.
Make sure the location of Movies is pointed to the correct folder. If not, clear it out and re-set it to /video/movies.
Do the same for TV Shows and Home Videos.
Create a Custom location of Music Videos and point that to your music folder. That will pick up any music videos you may have in your iTunes collection and allow you to play them accordingly.
Under the Privileges tab, make sure everyone needed has the appropriate permissions.
Optionally, you can enable the AC3 passthrough on Apple TV on the advanced tab
Step 8: Add in Media
This is pretty obvious, but just open the shares normally on your computer and drag and drop content in. The NAS will get to work indexing it pretty quickly.
You may want to go into the Video Station app and look at the movies as they drop in and make sure it successfully looks up the IMDB info. Otherwise, you can change the media info by running searches yourself and selecting the right movie.
Step 9: Playing Media Using Web App
This is the part that really tripped me up:
As I’ve mentioned before, the Apple TV cannot PULL media using Home Sharing because the NAS doesn’t support it. So you must PUSH it from the NAS.
This means using the web app or using the iOS apps.
To use the web app, open up Video Station and select the movie you want to watch and click the play icon in the upper right corner of the window, then select Apple TV. It will open a player in a new window/tab, but it’ll send the content to the Apple TV. You can also use this player to control the video feed and select audio/subtitle tracks.
Step 10: Playing Media Using the iOS App
The easiest and most convenient way I think there is to play the media is using the iOS apps. Just search for Synology in the app store and download DS Video, DS Audio, etc.
Select the movie you want to play and, again, use the icon in the upper right to select a player. Send it to the Apple TV and continue using the app as a remote.
In hindsight, this really isn’t that hard to do once you truly accept in your heart that you can’t browse the NAS with the Apple TV. It’s all AirPlay based, that is to say, all push based. This does require an intermediary device, but with the iOS apps, it’s not that bad.
Hopefully this guide helps someone out, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.