Has this happened to you? You got a new digital camera which also takes movies. Press the right buttons and begin recording.
When you’re done, plug the camera into your Mac and move the movies to iMovie or iPhoto. You edit the movie, add titles and transitions, and you’re ready to export the movie to give to family and friends. Which video file format do you choose? How do you know which is best?
My Big Video Gripe
What set my hair on fire was yet another update to VLC—the little video player that does what QuickTime or Windows Media Player refuse to do. Play whatever movie files exist.
VLC is a great little tool for what it does.
What I don’t fully understand is why VLC has to exist at all. Why? There must be a few dozen audio and video file formats floating around.
Why can’t we all just get along? I give Apple some credit for understanding the video file format problem and hiding the complexities as much as they can. Fire up a video in iMovie and the export or share choices are limited but sufficient for most of us.
That is, until your imagination kicks in and you want to do the simplest thing beyond the options provided by Apple.
Many Video Formats, Many Video Players
It’s almost as if there’s a video player for every kind of video. My video cameras of yesteryear used DV tapes. iMovie handled DV with ease. QuickTime played back DV movies (or whatever file format I chose to save) with ease.
To get the movie to Flash required, well, Adobe’s Flash or some other utility to convert the movie to Flash so it could play in a web browser for both Mac and Windows PC users.
VLC is a cross platform utility that does what QuickTime and Windows Media Player usually don’t—play audio and video files they cannot. Not bad for free, huh?
The list of video and audio formats that VLC Player can handle is remarkable for two reasons. First, that there are so many. Second, that there are so many that won’t play on your Mac or PC using QuickTime or WMP.
“It Plays Everything”
Not only will VLC play the basic video files that are typical on your Mac, it plays DVDs, audio CDs, web streams, video formats that I thought died years ago, and both video and audio formats I didn’t know exist and still don’t care.
The various flavors of MPEG I can understand. But who sits around and listens to music recorded in Ogg? Didn’t Real go out of business? WAV? Sure. FLV (Flash). Naturally. But who uses Matroska and why?
You can be sure that Apple and Microsoft don’t play such esoteric video formats. Yet.
Still, it’s maddening that here we are 10 years into the 21st century and the internet—and the world wide web that brings together everyone on the planet doesn’t have a video format that everyone can agree to play in their respective web browsers.
This is why Flash became the de facto video standard on the web. At least it works (mostly) on Macs and PCs and most web sites. Uh, except for the 100-million people who have smart phones to browse the web—no Flash for you. Yet.
I like VLC. It’s a great player and a good framework to help fill in the gaps created by Microsoft and Apple’s proprietary efforts, but it’s a shame we need VLC at all. It’s criminal.