Video on the internet is an absolute mess. From Flash to QuickTime to Windows Video, there’s no single standard for video files.
It’s a chaotic free for all, a battleground of competing and conflicting standards and formats. H.264 has helped reduce the confusion, but has a long way to go. Fortunately, a few Mac apps help to smooth out the rough edges of incompatible video and audio files for Mac users. For free.
We Love Windows Media Video!
Just kidding. No we don’t. Windows Media Video (and audio) is just another of a dozen or so proprietary media file formats on the internet. Worse, Microsoft stopped development of Windows Media Player years ago.
When you come to a web site with embedded Windows media video what do you do?
Fortunately, there’s a mostly free Mac app which does what most of us need.
Flip4Mac is a player and plugin which lets Safari and other browsers view Windows Media Video files in a browser window (it also works in standalone mode).
What it does is rather straightforward. Flip4Mac’s WMV Player comes with components that work with Apple’s QuickTime Player to view WMV and listen to WMA files in your browser.
And it does it for free. Even better (if you consider adding another Microsoft product to your Mac as better), Flip4Mac can install Microsoft’s Silverlight, too. What’s that?
Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive applications for many screens across the Web, desktop, and mobile devices.
No matter. Just think of Silverlight as Microsoft’s version of Adobe’s Flash. Isn’t that just what we need? Another way to do the same thing?
Regardless, isn’t it nice of the Telestream folks to give Mac users a free Windows Media Player? What’s the catch? The free version just plays video and audio files. The Pro version lets you move WMV files to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
It also lets you import Windows Media Video files so you can edit them in QuickTime.
And, for the low, low price of $29 (operators may or may not be standing by), you can convert movies from your digital camera to edit in other Mac apps, such as Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Express, QuickTime Pro, or iMovie ‘06 (‘06? wasn’t that from, like, you know, four years ago?).
Wait! There’s more.
Just Add Money
For more money, there’s Flip4Mac Studio which lets you export Windows Media on your Mac using a number of built-in encoding templates. They’re all the rage, you know. For even more money, Windows Media geeks can do the same thing using custom encoding profiles (because customization is, you know, better than templates) in Studio Pro. For even more and more money there’s Studio Pro HD to export WMV HD files using 2-pass encoding (because 2-pass is twice as nice).
See what a mess all those different, competing, conflicting, and seemingly chaotic video files and formats do? I’m rather certain they’re the single greatest cause of civil unrest in the civilized (San Diego and Paris) and uncivilized world (anywhere else). Well, besides politicians and stupidity.
This wonderful chart (in four colors) displays the features in a nice side-by-side and stacked comparison so you can make a quick judgment about which version of Flip4Mac you need. The one that’s free or the one that costs $179 or the ones in between.
For now, I’m sticking with free.
Fortunately, Flip4Mac lets you Mac play a whole bunch more Windows Media Video and Audio files in various sizes and formats. Surprisingly, my experience using both Flip4Mac and Silverlight for Mac has been good—much better than my experience running Adobe’s Flash browser plug-in which still crashes every day (except the third Thursday of the month).