I watch movies on my Mac. I’ve been ripping my DVDs to DivX or h.264 to my hard drive simply because it’s easier to double-click a file than hunt around for a particular configuration of atoms. I used to use VLC for any files that Quicktime Player couldn’t play, but I’ve recently come across a better solution.
NicePlayer — “Quite simply, the nicest media player for Mac.”
Perian — “The Swiss-army knife for QuickTime.”
Perian is a collection of common codecs encased in a Quicktime component so any QuickTime application can view DivX, Xvid, FLV, AVI, etc. files. This means FrontRow, Finder previews, or QuickTime Player will all now work with these files. Just drop it into the “QuickTime” folder in your “Library” and you’re done.
NicePlayer is a video player that uses the QuickTime /CoreVideo frameworks of Mac OS X so it is an effective replacement to Quicktime Player. Unlike QuickTime Player, it’s 10 time smaller, uses much less CPU, and can do full-screen mode (without needing to spend money for a “Pro” version). For instance, on my Mac Mini, I can watch a DivX AVI file in VLC or NicePlayer, but it will stutter and be unwatchable in QuickTime Player.
Since NicePlayer uses the QuickTime/CoreVideo frameworks it performs all the nice post-processing of the video that VLC lacks. Movies played with NicePlayer just look better than with VLC. The low-light and gradient processing is particularly nice and makes even low-bitrate AVIs pleasant.
VLC seems to have problems properly buffering video from a network drive, while NicePlayer does not. I’ve spent many an hour trying to adjust various buffer settings in VLC to make it not stutter, all to no avail. Perhaps related, scanning forward or backward in a video works as it should in NicePlayer, instead of the odd playback-with-broken-video-blocks-until-the-next-I-frame that VLC does.
Basically, NicePlayer gives you all the benefits of VLC and QuickTime Player with neither of their deficiencies.
The NicePlayer GUI is nicely minimal and virtually perfect. It uses no window decoration: the entire window is video. You can grab anywhere on the movie window to move it. Window title bar and movie controls display when you mouse over where they should be and disappear when they’re no longer needed. The focus is on the video, which is how it should be.
Both pieces of software are less than a 1 MB download and “Just Work”. The “functionalty per byte” of these two is the highest of any software I use, I think.
I do have a few minor quibbles with NicePlayer. For instance, sometimes it opens movies halfway off my screen. Also, I wish there was a setting to open new videos in the existing window instead of a new one. And, a control to adjust audio offset would be nice. But other than that I have ditched VLC for NicePlayer.