The internet has become a raucous place for videophiles. Everywhere you click there’s a web page with some video in it. The most conspicuous video format online is Flash, which usually works as a browser plugin for Macs and PCs.
Sometimes you visit a web site that has a video format that won’t play on your Mac. More often than not, those sites are using the popular Windows Media Video file format. Microsoft stopped making a media player for the Mac years ago. What can you do?
There’s nothing really wrong with your Mac. With the Flash plugin, Safari and most other browsers will play Flash videos just fine. Then, after awhile, your Mac’s memory dwindles and the plugin crashes.
That may not happen to you too often but it happens to me. OK, ending my anti-Adobe rant now.
What about those occasional Windows Media Video files? QuickTime, neither the new QuickTime X that came with Leopard, nor the retro installation of QT 7.5 will play Windows proprietary video format without help.
You may be asking, “What kind of help?” And, “How much is that help going to cost?” Fear not. It’s Friday. The most magical day of the week.
No Media Magic
Don’t ask me why we have so many different video file formats and why they’re all not compatible with every browser, Mac or PC. Personally, it’s a silly way to run an internet, but, since I didn’t start the fire, I guess I don’t have to put it out.
The most popular media players on the web are, and probably in the correct order, Flash, WMV, QuickTime. These players play many different kinds of video files. Why? Because there are so many to play.
QuickTime is Apple’s player and it runs on both Windows and Mac. Windows Media Player loves the WMV (video) and WMA (audio) format, and plays a few others besides. But not too many. Microsoft doesn’t want to get all tochie feelie with web standards.
The solution for Mac users is free. It’s Telestream’s Flip4Mac, a plugin that works with Apple’s QuickTime on Macs to ensure smooth playback of Windows Media Video.
Alright, it doesn’t ensure smooth playback, but it’s better than owning a PC. What does Flip4Mac do? It sits there as a component in QuickTime and works, more or less, like the Flash plugin. Except, in this case, Flip4Mac plays WMV videos.
It works in most of the recent versions of QuickTime, but also works in Apple’s non-linear video editing suite, Final Cut Pro, and for those of us who prefer applications that don’t really cost any money, iMovie.
Oh, but not any recent iMovie, like ‘08 and ‘09. Only very old iMovies. So, you do get what you pay for in life.
Assuming that you’re not satisfied by just watching Windows Media Video on your Mac, Telestream offers a way to part you from your hard earned money ($29). In exchange, WMV Player Pro lets you import WMV files and convert to the various QuickTime formats, which means you can put them on your iPod.
Or, you can cough up $99 and get WMV Studio Pro and receive import and export privileges with a bunch of cool settings, but only Standard Definition, 1-pass encoding, which is geek talk for better than average quality, but not great.
Great costs even more money. So, there’s WMV Studio Pro HD which is billed as the ultimate toolset, and for $179 it better narrate the video and make you a sandwich. In addition, you get High Definition import capability and 2-pass encoding, which everyone knows is twice as nice as 1-pass encoding.
Me? I go for free on Friday, and Flip4Mac is free. It downloads and installs easily and let’s your Mac browse those nasty mean raucous web sites with Windows Media Video.