Monday, August 08, 2005

Windows Media now"usable" on Macs

[originally posted 2005, april 25]

Although Microsoft released Windows Media Player for Mac in autumn 2003, playing .wmv files kept being a major pain for many Mac users. All too obviously the Mac version was Microsoft's halfhearted attempt not to look to bad in antitrust cases. Nonetheless in 2004 the European Commission sued them to pay $500 million because of illegal practices regarding their media format. And most likely this was not the last time the giant from Redmond had to open his wallets.

Now what's so bad with the Mac version? In short:

- lack of post processing: Video containing movements or sharp color contrasts looks badly pixelated... kinda mid 90s style. Every other video player on the market ships with compensating algorithms. Not so the Mac WMP release. Compare a shaking boob - using the same clip/WMP Mac vs Windows - even somebody almost blind will notice the difference.

- extremely sluggish performance: takes a loooong breath to load. When going fullscreen it will always change the display resolution ... WHY???... so it usually stalls a few seconds............. Finally finding a particular scene is almost impossible, because of a super pathetic implementation of the search feature. Not to mention Quicktime's great scrubbing feature here.

Last week California based Telestream released their WMV Player ($US 9.99), as one product of their flip4mac solutions. It's actually a package of recent wmv codecs that the user has to map to the quicktime player (via the Get Info menu/cmd + i). Not the most elegant solution, but behind that little obstacle comes a quantum jump. Indeed now all (rsp. nearly most of) .wmv movies will play with the quicktime player (after doubleclicking them), combined with all the great features the standard Mac player has to offer. Like scrubbing, marking segments of the clip and playing them as loops.

So yes, fine playback post processing is implemented. And no lags anymore when going to/quitting fullscreen PB Finally it's fun to watch Windows Media on the Mac.

There's an upgrade option to WMV Player Pro ($US 49 minus the price for the standard player in case it was bought before) which gives access to Quicktime's basic editing capabilities like copy + paste (into a new empty player window) plus exporting wmv to other quicktime supported formats, even DivX provided the codec is installed.

This may look a bit pricey. But i understand that flip4mac is charged royalties by Microsoft for the use of their codec, unlike VLC and MPlayer who have reverse engineered parts of the wmv codecs (and do not yet support WMP 9 content), something they could do because of the different software patents situation in Europe where their developers are based. Actually to have means to re-edit my favorite porn flicks fast is worth the price for me.

Nonetheless the flip4mac WMV player has a few downsides:

- it can't handle DRM protected wmv content yet. Telestream/flip4mac however promised to release an update soon that will take care of that.

- the browser plugin allegedly capable of assigning .wmv streams to Quicktime apparently is useless with adult content. It may work with some other sites around but, as it seems, most adult sites are using scripts to detect the proper player (WMP) and sometimes even the right browser (IE 6) and will give error notifications.. morons!!!! ......As i would expect fixing these scripting issues will give flip4mac a long shot.

There is a way to re-assign Microsoft's WMP as the standard browser plugin. Flip4mac maintains a support forum where these isues are addressed.

1 comment:

supportlady said...

Thanks for reviewing Flip4Mac on your blog! We appreciate the time you've taken to evaluate and post those findings.

Since we are close to releasing an updated version of Flip4Mac, we would like to invite you to become a beta tester. We expect to have a beta release available next week and hope you would consider testing it.

If you are able to take part in the Flip4Mac beta testing process, please email me and I will send you the beta build as soon as its available along with instructions for reporting your findings.