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Non-Apple OS X DVD Players:Return to News Page


Non-Apple OS X DVD Players
First Posted: 5/28/2002
(last updated: 4/5/2005 for more reader feedback/tips)

(original info from 2002)

Alternative (non-Apple) DVD Players For OS X (from the 5/28/2002 www.xlr8yourmac.com main news page)

A reader sent a link to a page that notes there's an alternative DVD Player (Mplayer, based on a linux version) for OS X at http://www.fi.muni.cz/~xpridal/mplayerosx/. Here's a clip from that page:

    " What is MPlayerOSX Package?
    MPlayerOSX Package is an installation package (.pkg) for MacOSX. It contains MacOSX port of MPlayer (The Movie Player for Linux) and MPlayerOSXgui. After installation you can play almost all 3ivx, DivX 3,4,5 and other codecs files in the fullscreen mode with sound under MacOSX. Very nice antialiased text-based subtitles are also displayed."

I asked the reader if this player would run on Macs with 'unsupported' Graphics chips like the Beige G3's ATI RagePro/RageII (the Apple DVD player requires a Rage128 or better graphics chip). He didn't know the answer to this referring me to the player's author. If any readers try the player I'd welcome Comments on performance and if it works with RageII/RagePro graphics chips or other unsupported video cards in OS X.

Another OS X DVD/DIVX player (VideoLan)
Last year I posted a note about VideoLan but there wasn't an installable version for OS X that I remember back then. In reply to the Mplayer news today (see below) here's a few reader mails about VideoLan for OS X:

    " Hi Mike,
    Try this program out:

    It works really great on my iBook 500Mhz, especially playing DIVX movie, no more audio track fixing the DIVX movie before playing, and play smoothly on my iBook. It also support VCD, free, very nice.
    [(Mike) I asked how well it played standard DVD movies and he replied:]
    Well, not as good as the Apple DVD Player on my iBook. "

Another reader wrote:

    " Mike,
    Not strictly a review of Mplayer but more of a heads up on a better product, VideoLAN http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
    I've not tried it in a RagePro equipped machine since I have none to test, but in playback on my G4 tower I've found consistently better video quality, a much more mature user interface and less bugs than with Mplayer. VideoLAN is also a port from Linux but uses a fully Cocoa GUI instead of a pseudo command line interface. It's fantastic for playing back DiVX encoded AVI files!
    Check it out!
    http://www.nekochan.net "

Reader Feedback on Mplayer, VideoLan and XinePlayer: (most recent reports first)

XinePlayer for OS X (from the 4/5/2005 news page)

" Hey, Mike. Just noticed the section on Non-Apple OS X DVD/Media Players (this page-Mike) and no one has mentioned XinePlayer. Developer's website.


  • Support for many popular formats including MPEG 1/2, QuickTime (MOV), DivX (AVI) and some Windows Media formats (WMV).
  • DVD playback (using the VideoLan libdvdcss decoding library).
  • DVD menu support for advanced navigation features.
  • Playlists.
  • Fullscreen playback.
  • Software deinterlacing.

I have not tested it extensively but I have played a few DVD's and it works fine for me.
Best Regards, Cayetano "

Tip for no sound in MplayerX (from the 4/4/2005 news page)

"Solution to no sound in MplayerX; Also subtitles now work.
Mike, Just in case anyone else is having this problem:
Recent versions of MPlayerX (after 2.0b7; currently b9) often are reported as having no sound output. This is apparently because it inherited an obsolete pref from b7. I hunted around on the internet, found one comment that -ao option has to be set to the right audio driver, and another comment that starting with b8, it is compiled under MacOsX without support for "sdl" (a platform independent media library) and should instead be set to "macosx" (but it mistakenly gave the option as -vo instead of -ao).
I noticed that b7 (which worked) had -ao sdl set in the pref (pull down menu under the app), and this was inherited by later versions. I changed this to -ao macosx under b9, and the sound started working. Later, I discovered this was the default (at least for b9), so just erasing "-ao sdl" is sufficient.

In summary, my pref setting is now:
-vo quartz -ao macosx (although the -ao option is not needed), and for subtitle support while playing a divx avi video: -vo quartz -ao macosx -sub (path)/subtitleFile.srt (this didn't work under b7).

The -vo quartz option was also inherited and I have no idea if you really need it. I got .srt-type subtitles to work, but there are many other formats I haven't tried yet. The PC world is way ahead on subtitle processing. I used a PC prog called SubRip to rip them from the DVD's vob files, using its built-in OCR, to a .srt file (a simple text file with timing and subtitle text). Mencoder (called from ffmpegx in my case) under OSX can theoretically do the job, but the OCR interface (to give hints for difficult characters) is practically unusable.
Thanks. - Paul"

(NOTE: reports below are from 2002-2003 and may note problems not in the current versions of the players.)

VideoLan on PowerBook G3 Lombard w/BlueChip G4/500 Upgrade:

    I downloaded and ran videolan on my Lombard Powerbook G3 (w/ Powerlogix BlueChip G4 upgrade). Frame rates were not too hot, but it did work and sound was OK with "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" on DVD. Not bad for alpha software.

    Mplayer, on the other hand, didn't seem to work. The DVD would spin up, then spin down, and it never did display anything.

    I haven't tried knocking down the color depth. I'll give that a try and see if it improves the frame rate.
    Don M "

iBook SE Owner Comments:

    "Mike, I tried it on the iBook SE with Rage MobilityL chip. It's OCed to 433, but just isn't enough speed. I used a video_TS folder of my Toy Story 2 DVD to try it out (won't play the folder, but you can play individual VOB pieces), since the iBook has no DVD drive.
    Anyway, I get about 20fps in full screen mode, less in windowed mode. I am guessing at 20 fps, as it is choppy, especially during fast moving scenes, but in SlowMo (1/2x), there are no dropped frames that I can tell.

    The rendering is beautiful though, and sound never drops out. I tried the second application you listed (vlc [VideoLan]), not the first one [Mplayer]. Also, it properly resolved the anamorphic footage except for one chapter, where it got confused and didn't stretch it. For some reason Jesse's Song was not rendered correctly.

    Thing is, the iBook only uses between 80 and 90 percent of processor when running this vls application. Not sure why the app doesn't peg the processor, but would be interested in knowing how to set it to use 100% of the processing available.

    Also wish this app offered a smaller than full size option. Most players offer 1/2 size, and this might allow movies to be played, but vls only allows full size.
    Michael K.
    He later wrote with Mplayer comments on the iBook SE

    Tried mplayer. doesn't work at all on this machine with VOB files. just has harsh digital buzzing sound, and gets maybe 1 frame for every 3 or 4 seconds. pretty disappointing there. "

VideoLan/Mplayer Comments (OC Digital Audio G4/733, GF2MX):

    "Mike, I tried both VideoLan and Mplayer OS X DVD on my Powermac. I have a 2001 733Mhz G4 Digital Audio overclocked to 867Mhz (report coming soon, I'm still watching stability), with 768MB RAM. In all other areas it's standard. It has a stock GeForce 2MX video card, a Sony G220 17" monitor and is running MacOS10.1.4.

    I dropped in an ASUS E608 DVD ROM that I have not been able to get to play any DVD movies in the past using the Apple DVD players in 9.x.x or OS X. I couldn't get Mplayer to play any discs, the closest it came was to blank out the screen and then fail with numerous errors given on the terminal window it was run from.

    I then tried VideoLan. It took me a while to realize how to properly use it but it did successfully play 6 out of 8 DVD's I tried. Everything was perfectly watchable although the audio did seem to vary a little in pitch at higher screen resolutions. At 800x600 everything seemed to play fine. In terms of video quality, for regular 4x3 ratio titles (I tried both PAL and NTSC) every second scan line looked like it was shifted to the left slightly (This does not appear playing the same discs on my Playstation 2 through an RGB cable). Widescreen titles on the other hand (I only have PAL ones) looked perfect, it was every clear and crisp...definitely up there with the best players I've seen. On one disc I turned on English subtitles which also seemed to work correctly.

    The discs that worked were from various regions (1,2,4 and region free) and video formats (PAL, NTSC and PAL 16x9 Enhanced titles all played). Of the two that didn't, one was a NTSC disc supporting Regions 1,2 & 4 which stopped on the first section of every scene (usually the first few frames) and the other was a Region 4 PAL disc that kept spinning but never brought up a window . I can only assume it never broke the CSS key.

    Overall I was impressed by this player and it seemed to perform well on my machine. I could quite happily watch DVD's on it although I'd run at a resolution no higher that 800x600 (DVD's use less anyway) and would sit well back from the screen for 4x3 ratio titles. The user interface still needs some work but it is functional. Given some more development I think this could become a very nice player although it does appear it needs some CPU power to run effectively.
    Matt "

G4/500 AGP (w/PCI Radeon) Owner VideoLan Comments:

    " Good Day, I Downloaded VideoLan Client after reading about it here. It works acceptably for me, though the video seems a tiny bit choppy at times when displayed on the TV in the living room (compared to the rock solid image on the computer monitors - still somewhat better than the "signal" Rogers extrudes through the cable hookup). Looks as good as Apple DVD Player on both computer monitors, though.

    The really nice thing is that VideoLan can be convinced to display a movie on my TV via my PCI Radeon, which DVD Player will not and I assume never will. Now I only need to boot into OS 9 once a month to run Norton.

    Another victory for Open Source Software.
    G4 500 AGP single processor (Sawtooth)
    512 MB
    OEM Rage 128 Pro with Dell 20"
    PCI Radeon with Sony CPD200 17"
    OS 10.1.4
    ATI March 2002 Update
    DVD Player 3.1.1
    VideoLan Client 0.4.0 "

Beige G3/500 (w/PCI Radeon) Owner Comments:

    " This past week I got a Divx encoded AVI that I wanted to play in OS X. The day turned into one gigantic and nasty event that spanned both my and my roommate's machine. I have a Beige G3 500MHz with a PCI Radeon and a Sonnet Tempo ATA100 card. My roommate has a 400MHz TiBook, everything standard. The outcome was the same on each machine. (Just to cut to the chase on the ATA card: I tried running the video off the onboard IDE bus as well.)

    Of course we tried all the conversion programs first (Avi2Mov, ConvertToQt, Divx Doctor, everything else that showed up on Versiontracker); everything failed. So then we try the QuickTime plugins (DivX 5.0 Alpha, 3ivx Delto 4.0 PR1, ffmpeg, everything else on Versiontracker); again, no dice. We got the most headway with DivX 5.0 Alpha, which looked perfect and had the sound in sync, but only played for 15 minutes when the file was an hour and a half long. This leads me to believe the file is corrupt, but I carried on.

    Which brings me to Mplayer and VideoLAN. Surprisingly, they both played the AVI to the end, but both were unacceptable. VideoLAN started giving audio artifacts within 30 seconds, and never stops. The video is okay (watchable), but any kind of disk activity gets its underpants into granny knots. Threading, anyone? Mplayer plays the whole thing, too, with no audio artifacts, but the framerate is abysmal, making it pretty much unwatchable.

    However, I'm pretty excited to see these two programs in action. I'm pretty sure both are open source, so it's only a matter of time before more OS X specific porting changes get made. But right now, both of these programs are probably better suited to those who have a lot more clock speed than either my roommate or I have to spare.
    Jeff, aka wrongforum "

Beige G3/466 w/Onboard Video Owner Comments:

    " Thought I'd get this in quickly to let others share the good news! Read the news re Mplayer and VideoLan earlier on your great site, downloaded them both right away, but just had time to install, try VideoLan a few minutes aga. My configuration=Beige G3-RevA, standard graphics card(RagePro-6mb) [Rev A Beige G3's had the RageII chip, Rev B and later had the RagePro-Mike], upgraded with 466 ZIF, 448mb ram, 80g Seagate Atlas II. AppleVision 17" monitor; Sys. 10.1.4. LG 4120b Combo CDRW/DVD (8x DVD)

    Tried VideoLan only-but it seemed least complicated, just a drag/drop installation rather than an installer and it works!!!

    Stuck in a DVD; set VideoLan to DVD and the disc played-not bad at default VideoLan resolution; a bit jerky full screen. (Monitor set at 1152x870, thousands of colours)
    Then I tried a VCD I'd made from a downloaded Mpeg (bootleg quality)-also played no problem. The big test was with a few Divxx/avi files that I'd downloaded, had finally managed to play with Quicktime after conversions with latest Divxx Doctor, 3ivx D4 PR1 Decoder extension in OS9.2.2(this gave me a 1.5g file from 700mb original) I tried the original, unconverted, as-is file, and it worked too! Reasonably smooth, even at full screen...

    Haven't tried either of these on my Wallstreet 300 w/DVD, encoder card but I don't have any problems playing DVD on it on OS 9.2.2 and just haven't bothered to even try in OSX since both DVD's and VCD's play great in OS9.2.2 ;-)
    But I'll let you know when I do...

    Anyway, looks like this may be a viable method to at least preview films on my "Big Screen", until I find a PCI Radeon card (just missed the last ones OWC had on sale) Almost grabbed a Radeon 7000 as soon as they came out, but I guess there's still no support in OSX with a Beige G3. May upgrade to G4/533 soon, since price at OWC seems to have dropped again.

    Thanks again for your great Mac resource-will let you know when I've tried Mplayer...
    HJS "

Performance Tips:

    " Mike,
    The Videolan readme says that they do not use and HW acceleration on their video...

      4. The video is choppy ! It's like we're dropping frames
      That's the normal behavior when the CPU isn't fast enough to decode all frames. Though there is some room for improvement, do never expect VLC to be able to decode MPEG-2 streams on a low-end G3 machine. Apple DVD player uses specific hardware accelerations from the video board of those systems, and we currently lack documentation to do the same. If you think you have information which might help us, please contact us, otherwise please don't complain about this.

      If VLC is slow on your G4 system, try and quit or hide all running applications. See with top -u in a terminal window which applications take the CPU. Minimizing the VLC controller window might help, too. Be aware of bouncing icons in the dock. Bounces seriously effect the performance of VLC. The same goes for any time interval process (Checking mail every 2 minutes).

    John "

One general OS X performance tip for slower machines/graphics chips is to set the color depth to thousands colors vs millions.

PowerBook G4 2002 Owner Comments:

    " After reading the reports about VideoLan and Mplayer I downloaded both and tried them on my new PowerBook DVI. I couldn't get Mplayer to work (always displays garbled video and makes "rude" sounds). However, VideoLan does play DVDs and you can also use the PowerBook-bundled "Snapz Pro X" to make still captures from the DVD. Although VideoLan doesn't navigate the DVD as well as OS X's DVD Player the ability to perform DVD still captures (with VideoLan) is a welcome addition to the DVD utilities on the Mac. [Note - using Apple's DVD player, you can't do movie captures with the ATI cards which use an overlay for DVD, but you can capture DVD screens with nvidia cards with the standard Apple DVD player, per comments at Ambrosia's site. Non-Apple players don't use the overlay technique even with ATI cards (Waymen noted screen captures worked with VideoLan and an ATI card.)-Mike]

    Second. In my hands, DVD playback on the Mac is still a little problematic. One quality issue that really bothers me is that __all__ video-sourced DVDs seem to have rather severe deinterlacing artifacts when played on a Mac. By video-sourced I mean DVD material that was produced for TV or that was originally recorded on video rather than film. Products like music and concert videos, PBS documentaries, classic TV programs, etc. The lack of quality varies somewhat from DVD to DVD, but it appears the same on every Mac I've tried (G3 desktops, G4 PowerBooks, G4 towers).

    The sad part is that these very same DVDs look fine on my home DVD player and they also look particularly __outstanding__ on my Celeron PC running the PowerDVD player software. I've also seen similar deinterlacing defects on a few film-based DVDs (which also look fine on my PC). The problem appears whenever there is any subject or camera motion or during scene cuts. What you see is a horizontal combing effect that can really degrade the image quality. On some DVDs it is so distracting that it makes the viewing experience somewhat uncomfortable (i.e. you become engrossed in the picture quality and then combing, combing, combing). All of the DVDs in question are U.S. retail releases (i.e. no DVD copies or pirated material).
    [I see this issue at times - the ATI march 2002 retail card driver update has an adaptive deinterlacing option for DVD, but it only seems to be available if you have a retail card installed. (That control panel option did not appear in OS X with a PowerBook G4 and onboard ATI Radeon mobility chip, but is an option with the retail cards - see my 8500 Radeon review's OS X software page for a pix of the control panel, etc.) The ATI cards in my experience have better DVD image quality and lower cpu usage than the Nvidia cards, at least with the current OS X/DVD player software.-Mike]

    A number of users have complained about this problem over on the Apple forums. However, just as many have responded that they've never seen this problem. Admittedly it doesn't happen on all DVDs and if you typically view your DVDs over the computer's S-video interface while connected to a small and/or low-quality TV display you might not even notice the problem (unless you look very carefully). Nevertheless, I'm certain that this problem does exist so I'm hoping that someone has a solution or that a future software release from Apple will provide a fix .

    By the way, VideoLan shows this same defect and considering that I've seem this same problem on both ATI and NVIDIA graphics hardware I'm certain that it is only a software limitation in the Mac DVD players.
    Wayman "

Dual G4/500 w/Radeon 8500 Owner Comments:

    " Hi xlr8yourmac, tried mplayer last week, but found it to be limited at was not able to play all my divx files properly with sound. However over the weekend I downloaded the newest version of videolan (I tried an earlier version last year when they got the DVD functions working in Mac OS X 10.0 before 10.1.) this version now works flawlessly.
    Able to play files from DVD discs or from .vob files from DVD's if copied from the disc to the hard drive. If fact I was able to play a James bond DVD the world is not enough from apple DVD player AND with videolan play the star wars episode 1 DVD extracted from disc (for fair use) to my hard drive at the same time!!. No frame dropping. Watching darth maul kick bit and 007 speeding across the river Thames at 1600 x 1200 pretty cool.
    Power mac g4 dual 500
    1.5gb ram
    Radeon 8500 graphics card
    Mac os x 10.1.4
    Lacie 19 monitor "

Comments on VideoLan Keyboard Commands:

    " Hey Mike,
    Continuing the DVD/VCD player theme right now, I tried out VLC [videolan] as linked to on your site. It worked great, and played Tron perfectly though Apple's DVD Player kept crashing during the intro. My only complaints with it are that it's keyboard commands are somewhat ambiguous- Space, the traditional start/pause key of most players did nothing, as did Escape. Be sure to memorize the keyboard commands before you start or you'll be stuck in it like me... (command-q for quit was the only one that I could figure out on the fly.)
    -Dogcow "moof!"
    G4 QS 733, 640mb ram, GF 2MX (stock.) DDV/CD-RW Combo. "

I asked him about this mac model/graphics chip info.

PowerBook G3 Wallstreet1 owner comments on VideoLan Player:

    " Mike-
    VideoLan does in fact also run on my Wallstreet (466) under OSX. It even runs *without* the DVD decoder card! Amazing. [Actually I don't think any of these players use the decoder card hardware - even apple's doesn't-Mike]

    Still plenty of dropped frames from a 466mhz G3, but a lot fewer than under Mplayer, which supposedly offloaded much of its work to the decoder card.

    as i'm typing this message (with the video player working in the background) i can certainly tell that lots more frames are dropped when i'm working, and even the soundtrack is significantly broken up.

    but heck, if you want to sit back and watch a DVD on an upgraded Wallstreet without rebooting (or without a decoder card), I'd have to say VideoLan is the only way to go.
    -marc "

See below for Marc's previous comments on the Mplayer DVD player with his wallstreet.

PowerBook G3 Wallstreet1 owner comments on Mplayer OS X DVD Player:
I finally received a reader email regarding using the Mplayer DVD player (noted earlier today) on a RageII/RagePro based Mac. (RageLT chip w/4MB Vram is used in the PB G3 wallstreet1) Considering it's a RageII based chip with only 4MB of video ram, I'm not surprised at the comments on performance. (Even Apple used a hardware decoder for DVD in those models.)

    "Hey, it works (sort of)
    Mplayer does, in fact, work on my old Wallstreet1 (upgraded w/ Powerlogix 466hz).

    This is the first time I've seen a DVD on this machine (under OSX) at all.

    The bad news is that 1) it still seems to require the presence of the PCMCIA decoder card, and 2) the frame rate is completely deplorable....
    [FYI - the wallstreet1 had a RageLT, not the RageProLT of the wallstreet2 and lombard series. Even with the RageProLT, Apple used a DVD decoder card (WS) or onboard Decoder chip (lombard 400) for DVD, and no Apple player support in OS X yet at least for any RagePro/RageII based Mac or hardware decoder card.-Mike]

    I'll try out the VideoLan player next, but I don't really imagine it'll work really well, either.
    -marc c.
    Just as a PS, I didn't see it noted on the site (though I was out of touch recently) but this morning I discovered an update to the AppleHeathrowKEXT for the Wallstreets. Of course, it's at http://www.lycestra.com/darwincode/ and it appears to have resolved the creeping sleep-problems of my OSX Wallstreet yet again.... "

(There was a news item and FAQ addition on a reader fix for the PB G3 wallstreet fans on during OS X sleep issue which linked to http://homepage.mac.com/juancabanela/WallStreetFix.html. That page was later updated to link to http://www.lycestra.com/darwincode/ also.)

First Reader Comments on Mplayer DVD Player For OS X

    " my configuration:
    TiBook 400 / 512 ram / 48 gig / X 10.1.4 german latest ATI drivers
    mike, ... my experiences with mplayerosx are as follows:

    -installed fine
    -gui is next to horrible
    -loads movie fast
    -plays avi's with sound that quicktime only did after using divxdoctor
    -picture quality is not as good as quicktime player's
    -even when pausing/fast-winding the movie, it does not go out of sync with the audio.
    -even if it does, you can adjust the sync with + and - keys.
    -couldn't get it to use all of my screen (pbook g4): i have black bars at the sides.
    -behaves weird when trying to quit
    -crashes when trying to toggle fullscreen off (but then, this is a good and fast way of quitting the app. press 'f'.)

    more to come (i wish i had more time to watch movies aqt the mo)
    kai (from germany)"

Another reader wrote:

    " I downloaded and ran the program on various files. I was most interested in it's ability to play MPEG2 video from a file. It was able to play all the videos (MPEG2) that Quicktime couldn't, but the quality/performace was varied. The computer it was tested on is a Powermac G4 dual 450Mhz, 512MB ram, original video card, and MacOSX 10.1.4.

    Some MPEG2 played with sound, some with out, but what really annoyed me was that the video would play full-screen, but when I tried to switch out of full-screen mode it would crash. Some video looked okay (full motion, sound sync, and decent quality)-- I don't know why, and some would be in slow motion, no sound, and low frame rate. I don't have a DVD video at work, but I will try one later and let you know if you want.

If any other readers try the player I'd welcome Comments on performance and if it works with RageII/RagePro graphics chips or other unsupported video cards in OS X.

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