Getting movies onto iPad

I have a rarely used iPad Air (a few years old) which I’m trying to use a bit.

I’ll be doing some off-grid camping in the next few months and I thought the iPad might be a nice way to watch movies in the camper as it’s very economical on power and the 24" USB-C screen in the camper will charge the iPad while connected.

My problem is getting movies onto the iPad. I will have no internet connection where I’m going so it can’t be streamed. I also don’t want to store it anywhere it will sync when back in civilisation - I want to have these movies on the iPad ONLY. I’m thinking if I put anything into the Music or AppleTV libraries they’ll end up syncing everywhere.

Can someone recommend a way of getting my movies independently onto my iPad? FWIW, all the movies are stored on my home server which I can access via the Files app - but I obviously won’t be able to access them when I’m away. Every article I’ve seen from Apple Support talks about syncing via the various libraries.

I do this often and it works great. The question is where are your movies coming from? There are several solutions. The major streaming services (AppleTV+, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.) all let you download most movies/shows to your device. I do this just before I go on a trip and then I don’t have to worry about not having an internet connection while I’m camping. Note that most of these services won’t let you keep a movie downloaded for more than 30 days so you may have to “refresh” or download the shows again between trips. (This even works on Vision Pro, at least for AT+ and Prime, which have apps for the device.)

I also have Plex, which lets me stream my own movie collection (ripped from my DVDs) to my TV via the Plex app. It also has a feature that lets me download those to my iPad for watching later without internet access.

Another option for your own movie files is to use an app like GoodReader which lets you store all kinds of media in it (PDFs, pictures, music, video files, etc.). GoodReader can connect via local network, Dropbox, and other methods to read in the files and later you can access them even if you don’t have network access. You can delete the movies/shows once you’ve watched them to free up space on your iPad.

All of these solutions will only store stuff on your iPad and won’t sync to other devices, like you want. They do require lots of space on your iPad, however. I have 256GB iPad that’s about half empty so I can store 100GB or so of shows and movies, which is quite a bit.

Another option, if you’re low on space, depending on your iPad model, is putting the movie files on a portable hard drive. Recent iPads with USB-C connection can access such files on a thumb or disk drive. I’m not sure about older iPads (some used to be able to connect via an adapter).


They’re all movies and TV Series I’ve ripped from DVD. They live on my OS X Server and I either play them directly from the server or copy them to whatever machine I want to use (typically my MBP).

I had thought about VLC for iPad - I’ll download it and see if it has some local iPad storage. I have about 25Gb of free space but I’d only be doing 2 or 3 movies or shows so probably about 10 GB.

I’ll investigate the download option for the streaming services. We have Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Netflix and probably others I’m forgetting. I assume I need to access them from the iPad and then look for the download option - I’ll give that a go shortly.

I was very impressed with the quality of the video I was getting on the external screen. I looked at a short iPhone movie file on the iPad and it was very, very good.

Yes, their download options are all in different places and not always available for every show/movie (depending on the rights the service obtained). The download UI can also be different for TV shows versus movies, and some will conveniently let you download an entire season with one click.

If you surpass the 30-day limit, the shows will display as “expired” but most let you click on them while connected to the internet and “refresh” the download without requiring it to be downloaded again. But sometimes that doesn’t work (I notice this especially with Prime or if it’s been a really long time since I originally downloaded the content, like 6+ months). When I’m traveling I sometimes will temporarily using my phone as a hot spot to connect the iPad to the internet just to refresh an expired download. I don’t want to use that to download a full movie since I have limited hot spot bandwidth, but refresh just takes a few seconds.

I, too, have been impressed with the quality of my DVD rips. While not technically HD, they upscale well and look great, especially on smaller devices while traveling. Even on my 75" at home they don’t look that bad (though I can tell it’s not HD). The convenience is definitely worth the tradeoff in quality.

I don’t think VLC lets you store content in its app, but I could be wrong. I haven’t used it on iPad in years (on the Mac it’s just a player). But there are lots of iPad apps that will store content if you want to go that route and many are free.

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I’ve managed to download from both AppleTV and Netflix but it took me a while to find their download buttons - arghhh!

Maybe I was trying to do too much too quickly but AppleTV kept failing (can’t download - not enough storage) despite still have 18 Gb available. If I left it for a few minutes then did one episode at a time it was OK. Amazon Prime sorted now.
I’ve installed VLC and it created an “On My iPad” folder called VLC so I assume I could copy files there for access. I’ll try it later - need to connect a few drives up to the server…

Drive to Survive on the viewing list.

For non-protected movies and TV shows that you can open on your Mac use the Mac Finder (right click-Share) to Airdrop the files to the iPad. In my case they end up as videos in the Photos app - they can then be played directly from Photos. Otherwise they might show up as Downloaded videos in the AppleTv app.

Another option is to store the video files on an SD card and connect to iPad using the Apple SD card adapter. Again they should be playable from the Photos app (but might need to be temporarily copied to the iPad). I am assuming it is an iPad with a Lightning port - not USB-c.

I don’t want them to be in Photos because they’ll sync back to the cloud when I return. I can’t do it on a USB as I connect to the monitor with USB-C.

I do this often for flights. Sometimes, yes, I’ll predownload from the sync services, but there was also the time that the old HBO app wouldn’t play a downloaded movie offline (it basically wouldn’t open until it could show options). These days things are better that way.

For pre-ripped movies I do use one of the sync services in the Files app to download and then copy the movies to the “on your iPad” section, but you say you don’t want to have them sync, which I understand. So you can use the Files app instead to connect to a file share on your Mac and copy the file that way. (Tap the icon with three dots within a circle to the top-right of the sidebar in the Files app and tap “connect to server”).

And then you can play the file right from the Files app just by tapping the file. One caveat: playing this way won’t (or may not) remember your position in the movie if you pause and open another app. But the free VLC app will work better if that’s a possible way you watch content.

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You can also put them on a USB drive (I use USB C) and use something like VLC to access them and view them. But that would preclude a second screen

A friend of mine used to travel with a wireless portable hard drive. Something like this:

You can load them up with video files, from whatever sources you have, and stream them from the drive to computers and tablets using either DLNA or Plex protocols. You’ll need to install an app for this, but it should work.

(If anyone here has actually tried this, please share your experiences.)

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Why not? Copy them to the On My iPad Location in Files.

Get a free player app such as nPlayer or Infuse. Load your movies into the local library of the app. I do this when I take my iPad on a trip and can watch them in an airplane (without an internet connection). When done, you can just delete them on the iPad.

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Temporarily disable syncing to iCloud (for the trip) and delete the videos after you watch them? I often do this for trips.

I haven’t tried that, but it might be easier to use a USB-C thumb drive. (Easier to carry, and will work the same way, and probably will get adequate power from the USB port.)

Well, I hadn’t tried it, but just did - it worked absolutely fine. (iPad Air 4). And it’s probably a good way to save storage space on the iPad itself.

I meant can’t access them from my server while I’m away. I can copy them locally but need to have something to play them with so I’ve now installed VLC.

It stops me using the USB-C monitor. I’ll have to check if the monitor can accept a USB drive and feed it back to the iPad - that would be interesting.

I don’t understand the statement that if you sync the files via the AppleTV app it synchronises everything and everywhere.

I used to have a lot of movies in the old iTunes era and they were stored on an external drive and I could watch them streamed to my old AppleTV (I did even have a first generation AppleTV that required the files to be synced to its internal hard drive, but that is history).

Today the same files remains on external drive and I can access them via the AppleTV app. I can sync them to my iPad by connecting it to my Mac and selecting exactly what files to sync. It does for not sync the files to any other device. (I can stream them to any of my devices if I have my Mac on and I am at my home. The old fashioned way of streaming.)

It is however much more job than just selecting the files you want to watch offline from your favourite streaming service. So that is what I usually do nowadays. Just as proposed by everyone else. But it is possible to use the AppleTV app to watch any offline movies if they are converted to a format that is supported by the app.

Attached is screenshot of my some of movies currently stored on my iPhone AppleTV app. iPad works the same way.

This was the point of the question, I can’t see a way of moving my files to AppleTV without syncing everything. On my iPad, I have a Library tab, under which is Home Sharing. In here is every video/movie in my AppleTV library (primarily created on my MBP) which is clearly syncing via the cloud. I’ve never physically attached my iPad to my Mac and don’t see why this should be a necessary step for organising my iPad.

Of course this is all a moot point now. I’ve already been able to download AppleTV shows, Amazon Prime shows, Netflix shows and files from my ripped collections via VLC - all directly on my iPad. More than enough to keep me entertained.

No doubt about it. The advantage of a wireless SSD over a thumb drive is:

  • Higher capacity. If you want to transport your whole movie collection with you, you probably will need at least 250 GB, and probably a lot more. If you travel with family members (especially kids) who don’t know what they want to watch until you’re already on the road, this may be a big deal.

    In the case of my friend, it wasn’t an SSD, but was a large hard drive with several TB, loaded with his entire movie library. I’m pretty sure it was too big for battery power, but its primary use was for road trips, and was powered by the car’s 12V power port.

  • Multi-user. My friend who travels this way does so so each of his kids (each with their respective phones) can all connect to it and each can stream what he wants.

Whether or not this is useful to you (or can justify the price) is of course, up to you and your own situation.

Great, and yes, as far as I understand you cannot sync your iPad/iPhone without physically connecting it at least once to your Mac. Then you should be able to activate sync via WiFi but I have not done that for years so I can’t say if it works well or not. WiFi syncing never did work well in the old days when you had to sync to iTunes so I would not count on it working well.
I have not found any other method of transferring the ring tones I have made my self so I will probably keep syncing manually at least once, but if someone has a way of doing without connecting the iPhone physically it would be great to know.