Hole in Mac video playback plugged

Something I've been waiting for.

While those of you who don't use a Mac or have large collection of video it may have gone unnoticed, there has been a weird and annoying hole in video playback compatibility in Mac platform. Specifically, AVI videos that use Windows Media Video 9 (a.k.a. WMV9 and also called WMV3) codec could not be played, let alone viewed with subtitles. Due to the availability of the 'WMV9 VCM' for Windows it has been possible to use that video codec in AVI container instead of the WMV container originally intended. However, in Macs playing this sort of file (and preferably with accompanying subtitle file) had following roadblocks until early this year.

Playback Problems:
1. Microsoft's Windows Media Player 9 for Mac was only limited to playing WMV containers. No AVI files could be played back.
2. Flip4Mac's solution to the WMV playback, an encoding/decoding component for QuickTime, did not work with AVI files either.
3. VLC Media Player, which has integrated codecs and subtitle overlaying functions, does not support WMV9 because there is no open-source implementation of WMV9 codec available yet.

Subtitle Problems:
1. Windows Media Player 9 for Mac had subtitle display encoding locked to Western alphabet, preventing proper display of, say, Korean subtitles.
2. QuickTime does not support native importing of conventional subtitle files like SMI. It needs to be converted to a format QuickTime understands using tools such as TitleLab.
3. Cellulo, which uses QuickTime to playback video and can automatically import many subtitle file formats, was not compatible with Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4).

This problem has been nagging me from the day I bought a Mac mini 14 months ago and set it up as my primary computer. I was hoping that ffmpeg team would come up with open-source WMV9 codec so that VLC could play back the files, but there has been very little progress. Meanwhile, it was apparent that Microsoft has largely abandoned development of Windows Media Player 9 for Mac, while Cellulo stopped development for nearly two years.

The only active company in relation to this problem was Flip4Mac.

Interestingly, Microsoft has basically handed over the support of WMV on Mac platform to Flip4Mac's WMV component recently, and officially ending their own Windows Media Player 9 for Mac. And along with that Flip4Mac came out with version 2 of the component, which was supposed to add AVI playback support. It looked like the solution was near.

The AVI files with WMV9 video that I had, however, did not work with it, and QuickTime produced error messages. To remedy this problem I sent some of these files to Flip4Mac so they might find a way to make the component work with it. Apparently the development team found the fix, because the most recent version of the component, version 2.0.2, finally succeeded in playing back most of the files. There is a couple of them that simply crashes QuickTime, but I think that can be resolved soon enough.

Meanwhile, I found out that Cellulo came back to life late last year with fix for making it working with Tiger. This meant that I could use Cellulo to overlay subtitles on video again. As the screen capture on the top of the page shows, now I can watch AVI files with WMV9 video, subtitled.

It's better late than never.


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