If you ask a room full of tech savvy computer users what player will play pretty much anything you can download and then some, support subtitles, streaming etc etc etc ….the answer will 9 times out of 10 be VLC.
They are not wrong, VLC is a great player and it does do so many great things, its subtitles jog has saved me searching for subtitles to sync to my obscure release of a movie, or worse still, manually edit subtitle timecodes, and i have always loved the ability to crank the volume way past 100%, saving me a stretch to my amplifier :)
However there are times when VLC simply doesn’t play ball, whether it is dropping frames in 1080 BluRay movies, or simply stuttering to a giant fail on the 1080’s, subtitles that it just didn’t like the look of, etc etc.
I can compare VLC to the Finder in OS X, when it works it does what it does perfectly, but when it fails, it does so in the most useless uninformative fashion one could imagine (try copying 5,000 photos in finder only for one to be corrupt :) ).
I always had an alternative though, in fact, due to the borderless player in an age when everything was being covered in swathes of brush metal, a preferred alternative. MPlayer.
MPlayer was ported from its origins as a Linux media player, it did everything VLC did, it rarely complained, it just did it. …however development for MPlayer stopped in 2005, and although i stuck with it for a while, by 2007 it lay dormant on my HD, a testament to times gone by.
The other day i spent just under an hour search for subtitles to my BluRay version of District 13 – Ultimatum (a fantastic film in case your wondering, a must see!!), the problem was that i knew the subs file was good, i checked it in TextEdit, but whatever i did VLC just wouldn’t play.
I was annoyed, …so i decided to do some research into what happened to MPlayer, ..actually i just wanted to see if my old version would load the subs, …and what did i find, ..
MPlayer Extended. It turns out that late in 2008 the development was picked up by a rather lovely swiss guy called Adrian Stutz (he may not be lovely, but as he enabled me to watch the film and re-ignited my love with MPlayer, i think this is a safe assumption to make) who has been continuing to release updates along the way, with the omission of version number with the following promise:
MPlayer OSX Extended is not aimed at long release cycles and maintaining stable branches. To keep development simple and to focus on bringing the project forward, there’s only one branch and no release numbers. Just ongoing revisions, of which each should be better than the one before.
So now once again VLC has been demoted to second place, I now download the full 1080 HD movies as i know they will play (to those that know me well enough to know my projector is only 720 – that’s you Stefan, ..i can’t hear you la la la :) ) without a hitch.
A very welcome lightweight re-addition to my app arsenal. Thank you Adrian.