Streaming online media to Chromecast is easy and almost every major streaming app out there supports Chromecast. What’s trickier though is streaming local content. That’s something none of Google’s official apps support. So we’ll have to think outside the box for this one.
Streaming Local Media from PC or Mac
Open Media in Chrome for Desktop and Cast the Tab
This is something I didn’t know Chrome could do because I couldn’t see past the “browser-ness” of Chrome. But Chrome can actually play a lot of video and audio formats.
Here’s a list of supported formats: 3gp, .avi, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .m4a, .mp3, .mkv, .ogv, .ogm, .ogg, .oga, .webm, .wav.
If the file in question is in one of the above formats, simply drag it to a Chrome tab or use the shortcut Ctrl (Cmd for Mac) + O to bring up the file picker.
Once the media is playing in the Chrome tab, just click the Cast extension and choose your Chromecast.
Support for formats like mp4 and mkv in Chrome browser is huge.
While the built-in support for Chrome is certainly welcome, it can’t do it all. For instance, it can’t let you play avi or flv formats. There’s also no support for subtitles. And Chrome can only cast tabs at 720p. So even if you load up a 1080p movie, it won’t play at native resolution.
This brings us to the next option.
Using Videostream to Cast Movies in HD with Subtitles from PC/Mac
Videostream is a free app for Chrome that, once installed, will let you pick any file from your hard drive and will then cast it to a Chromecast nearby.
It has support for subtitles and frankly I’m amazed by the quality it streams out. Usually when you’re throwing stuff to a TV wirelessly, you expect issues like color distortion or transcoding problems. But if you’ve got a powerful enough PC/Mac (which I’m sure you do) and your Wi-Fi signal is strong, Videostream’s playback will be utterly flawless.
It streamed a 1080p mp4 file at native resolution without any problems. Videostream has options to lower the quality if you’re having problems at native resolution. Click the speech bubble button and you can select a subtitle file from your hard drive. It syncs perfectly. The Chrome app’s tab also has volume controls.
Videostream itself is free but you can upgrade to a $15 a year premium plan to get pro features including more control over subtitle settings and playlist support.
Videostream also has an Android remote control app. While the app won’t let you pick the file from the PC/Mac to stream (that you’ll need to do from the desktop itself), it will let you control the playback and volume. There’s no iOS remote app right now but the developers say it’s coming soon.
Streaming Local Media from Android
Thanks to Android’s open nature, you can browse through any folder you want, pick any media file and throw it to Chromecast using the apps listed below.
Here’s what you can stream:
- Photos (including slideshows)
- Music (including playlists)
- Videos (including queues)
There’s no shortage of great Chromecast streaming apps for Android. I’ve highlighted the best below.
If you’re a fan of connected streaming devices, AllCast is a must have. Not only does it support Chromecast, it can also stream content to devices like Apple TV, Roku and even a PC/Mac running Chrome.
The free app lets you stream content without any limits but it will show a watermark and display ads in the app. You can upgrade to the pro version for $4.99 get rid of them.
Once you’ve selected the Chromecast, AllCast will list all the media resources on your device.
This includes your photos, music, videos, everything. Just select the media type, browse through and tap to stream it.
The great thing about AllCast is that it can do the same thing for media stored on Dropbox or Google Drive as well. Once you’ve connected with the apps, your media on cloud storage will show up. If you have your movies or videos stored in Google Drive, AllCast is a great way to stream it.
LocalCast is the all round streaming app for Chromecast. Don’t go by the name, it supports streaming from Plex Media Server, shared files on PC and even from Google Drive.
The app is fully optimized for Android Lollipop and looks great. The app is free, but again, laden with ads. You can pay $2 or more to unlock lots of pro features and hide ads.
If you’re serious about streaming all sorts of content from your PC/Android phone to Chromecast, LocalCast with the Premium upgrade is the app you should get.
By default, LocalCast will show you all the folders on your Android device. Bring up the sidebar and tap Library to sort through video, pictures and music.
Shuttle+ Music Player
While LocalCast lets you cast music to Chromecast and even lets you create playlists, it’s not the best way to do it. Shuttle+ Music Player ($1.99) is a really good media player on its own merit.
You can use it to add metadata to your music, organize it the way you want, integrate lyrics from MusiXmatch, create custom playlists easily and then instantly stream it to Chromecast.
Casting Photos Using Dayframe
Just as Shuttle+ specializes on sending music to Chromecast, Dayframe does it for photos. The app asks you to sign in to services like Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Google and fetches all your photos from there. It adds photos from your local device and creates a smooth, animated slideshow.
In section 2 we saw how you could turn your TV into a personal digital frame using the Backdrop feature. Dayframe is Backdrop on steroids.
Streaming Local Media from iPhone and iPad
Unlike Android, iOS doesn’t allow you to access the file system. One app can’t access data from other apps directly either. This means that while apps like AllCast are available, they’re not as feature rich. For one thing, they can’t just access any file or folder stored on your device.
If you plan on casting videos in formats not supported by iOS’s Video app to Chromecast, you need to get an app like VideoCast for Chromecast, transfer the video to the app and then play it on Chromecast.
Cinch for Chromecast
Cinch is the most basic Chromecast streaming app for iOS. It looks great, isn’t bloated with ads, actually works and is free.
You’ll have to give it access to your photos to stream photos and videos.
I found the music support in Cinch to be great. All your playlists and metadata from the Music app shows up here. No extra work needed. The only problem is that there’s 3-5 second delay between track changes.
AllCast for iOS just catalogues the music, videos and photos stored on your device – the ones you synced through iTunes. AllCast can also recognize media centers and shared PC folders on the same network. What’s more, you can link to cloud accounts like Dropbox, Google Drive and cast photos stored in your cloud accounts directly to Chromecast.
AllCast is free to use but it’ll add a splash screen before streaming to Chromecast. You can pay $4.99 to remove that, the ads and the limit on video streams.
Speed-wise, AllCast is really good. I did not encounter any major lag or delay between switching songs or flipping through photos.
Between Cinch and AllCast, I’d say AllCast is the better bet. But Cinch is completely free and doesn’t run any ads.