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Mac: Playing media is easier with VLC

I am by no means a video guy. I've got friends that understand all the variations in compression technology and formats, the best codecs to use and everything else. When they go into "video speak" my eyes glaze over and I imagine myself on a beach somewhere nice and warm until their mouths stop moving and I can change the subject.

When it comes to video, especially when I'm just viewing it on my computer, I just want the stuff to play. It happened to me on Windows and it's now happened to me on my Mac - someone sends me a media format and QuickTime can't play it. I don't know why, nor do I really care all that much. Sure, I'll change my tune at some point when I start getting into video editing on my Mac but that's tomorrow's challenge. Right now what I need is something that let's me play any of the files that people throw at me. Period.

With that simple requirement on my mind and a MOV file that I couldn't watch I looked around for a cheap (free) way to view different video formats on my machine. I found VLC pretty quickly.

Suffice it to say, VLC worked great for me. I threw a couple of different files at it and it played them great. The list of file formats that VLC supports is quite long and hit all of the types I had been struggling with.

There are also versions for Windows, lots of different Linux variations and even BeOS. It's released under the GNU license and according to the web site has been downloaded over 70M times.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

One nice alternative is to install Perian. It adds native Quicktime support for many formats. Before installing Perian I had problems with Quicktime playing videos with no sound. Since installing it I haven't come across a video (that I wanted to see) that it wouldn't play correctly.

David Alison said...

@Anon: Looks interesting - thanks for the link. I downloaded and installed it but it would not help QuickTime play the MPEG files a friend sent me. So far only VLC has pulled that one off. Still, a nice find - I appreciate it helpful nameless person!

Eldfisco said...

Hi David, maybe this tool can help you? Flip4mac

David Alison said...

@Eldfisco: Already had that installed but it couldn't play the MPEG file I was given. My friend's a Windows user and he used a small utility that would convert the MOD files he got from his Panasonic camera into an MPG format that worked with Windows Media Player. Very frustrating.

Sean said...

I've been using VLC for a while now. I first came across it when I started running an ubuntu partition a year or so ago.

The only gripe I have with it is ocasionally when I put several items into a play list it freezes. This could just be my experience though.

Glad you're liking VLC.

N45800 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martti said...

The MOD format tends to be an Mpeg 2 Video stream coupled with Dolby Audio (in AC3 format). (That seems to be the case with this camera according to the specs).

Now, for me, I simply *rename* the MOD file to MPG and QuickTime is intelligent enough to pick up the non-standard audio codec and should play it back - You may need the QuickTime Mpeg 2 components installed (although these tend to be for *writing* mpeg 2 files). I'm not sure what the Windows utility is doing, but it's probably working against you in this instance!!

Try grabbing the MOD raw from the camera and renaming it, and see how that goes!

For QuickTime mpeg 2 components (they're not free, but they are relatively inexpensive):
http://www.apple.com/quicktime/mpeg2/

[Before anyone grouches about apple not including them for free - Apple have to pay a licensing fee for mpeg 2, much like any other company, so instead of bundling them and charging everyone, they reduce the price of the OS by only charging those who need it]

BriBerry said...

Does VLC have to pay those same license fees?

David Alison said...

@BriBerry: Not that I'm aware of. Since it's open source and ships with everything you need I don't know if there were licenses involved in the initial building and deployment of it.

BriBerry said...

Yea I didn't think so what with the amount of copies they distribute. How does that work though, that Apple has to pay license fees but the writers and distributers of VLC don't? Is it because of the GNU public license?

David Alison said...

@BriBerry: I assume it's because they aren't using someone else's library and it's custom written - hence no license fees.

Bryan said...

David,

I have some troubles playing my downloaded x264 movies on my MBP. VLC seems to lag when trying to play these videos. Someone at work highly recommended MPlayer, which works just about on any platform. I know this is an older post but I have enjoyed reading your blogs today.

Download MPlayer