Connected on the Road
Watching movies and TV shows on the road requires one or more of the following:
1. Access to an Internet connection (Wi-Fi, cellular or satellite connection) with sufficient bandwidth to support streaming.
2. Access to an over-the-air TV signal.
3. Availability of media such as a DVD library or digital files and a compatible player.
This is location and device-dependent and may not always be available. The challenges of wi-fi and cellular service for streaming video are complex, affected not only by your location but also by the cost of data. This topic is covered by a separate Knowledge Base article (Video Streaming Data) that goes into this detail.
This option is also not viable at all locations with your antenna system and distance from an available TV broadcast tower being the controlling factors.
When we first got our RV, it had the standard batwing TV antenna. It was difficult to tune to an available station and its range was limited. We then upgraded to an automated antenna, a Winegard Rayzar Automatic Hd Antenna, making this a viable option. Now, we just press a button and the antenna finds and tunes into the available OTA (Over The Air) TV channels.
When we first hit the road for long-term travel we brought along a small library of DVDs and a player. For short or occasional trips this can be a good solution for option 3 but it can become cumbersome and costly to update the content and keep it current. I then started looking for a digital media solution and found this to be a workable solution for us.
My solution was to build a multimedia server. A small computer with an HDMI port, such as a Mac Mini, or a tablet, such as an iPad with an HDMI adapter works great for this. Your multimedia server connects to the HDMI port on your TV. Sourcing your video library can take multiple forms and may be somewhat device-dependent. Some streaming services enable videos to be saved to your device, you can digitize your DVD collection and some media is available in the form of digital downloads. Our media library includes movies, TV show series, YouTube-like videos and digitized DVD content, all housed on a 3TB drive. We've always got something to watch.
We travel much of the year but spend a few months home in our sticks 'n bricks home where I have a reliable high-speed internet connection. As our media server is very portable, we bring it home between trips and use it in the same manner at home, augmented by streaming services. I update the content on the server before each trip, and with the right software, I can download additional content on the road, when internet access is available, by scheduling download in the middle of the night when it does not impact other RVers trying to use campsite Wi-Fi systems.
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