Better video players than Winamp and Quicktime?

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Phil Cartwright

Feb 3, 2008, 4:53:22 PM2/3/08
Does anyone know of a better video player than Winamp and Quicktime?

Winamp is excellent for music, but I'm finding it has some "issues" with
videos that no amount of updating (nor making sure the divx codec pack
is installed) seems to fix. It also doesn't to Quicktime format videos,
and the Quicktime player has its own problems.

The latter is shorter so I'll detail it first:
a) Somehow the Quicktime install gets corrupted and it will crash on
startup until reinstalled.
b) Getting the installer seems to require giving Apple your e-mail
address and unchecking a bunch of "spam me please" checkboxes on a web
form. I'd prefer that anything that will need frequent reinstalling have
an installer you can get without any fuss or registration hassles, just
a click of a link.
c) Quicktime phones home, as revealed by my firewall. Blocking it
doesn't stop it working, but does cause weird glitches in the UI.
d) Certain videos seem to hijack the Web browser and send it to some
site apparently determined by the makers of the video. This is annoying,
especially as the browser grabs focus, typically covering up the video
I'm trying to watch, and especially if it does it repeatedly, as it
sometimes does. This behavior is NOT stopped by denying Quicktime
internet access by firewall, nor by not using IE as the default browser.
I can't find any settings in either a) Quicktime or b) Firefox to
suppress this behavior at either end.

So, I'd like a video player that isn't Quicktime and gives the user much
more control, yet can read Quicktime movies. In particular it needs to
be possible to turn off (without side effects) any "features" that phone
home, plus turn off the ability of a quicktime-format video to direct
your web browser without impairing playback in the process.

Winamp, aside from not providing quicktime-format capability, presents a
few other issues. Most of these are buggy behaviors that seem to be
triggered by specific videos. Those that occur randomly or occur always
are noted specifically; unless so noted, a problem occurs for some
videos consistently and consistently does not occur for most videos.

* Seek bar thumb doesn't work correctly -- duration is wrong. The video
is considerably longer than indicated, and it's impossible to see how
long it actually is or to seek outside of the first bit of the video.
* Seek is completely broken -- the seek bar thumb moves during playback
and indicates the correct duration, and pause works, but dragging it
results in it "snapping back" to where it was, which is clearly
incorrect, and no other skip/etc. functions seem to work either.
* Seek bar thumb is missing completely and the video does not play. For
a subset of the affected videos, hitting pause and then play starts it
playing normally. For a lot of them, however, nothing seems to get the
video to play, rendering the video completely useless.
* Video freezes, while the thumb continues to advance. Pausing/seeking
and hitting play may get you back to just after it froze and continue
normally, but you can't just sit back and watch it play properly all the
way through; it needs nursemaiding.
* No fast forward/rewind type functions that actually speed up, slow
down, reverse, etc. the playback; only pause and play. (This affects all
videos; these are simply missing features of Winamp rather than bugs, as
near as I can tell.)
* Video goes to black two seconds before the actual end, and (if there
is any) the end of the sound. (Usually not a problem, since most videos
fade out or have credits instead of real content right at the very end;
only affects some versions of Winamp, in which it affects all videos).
* Some videos work in one version and exhibit the "no seek bar thumb, no
playback" problem in another, and others vice versa. No one version
seems to play all videos flawlessly, or even all videos flawlessly that
at least one version plays flawlessly.
* Fullscreen mode has, on mouse movement, some UI widgets including a
progress meter and playback controls, but for some videos these garble
or fail to display, particularly longer videos.

FWIW, AVI format videos seem much more prone to random playback problems
than MPG format videos, though I've seen MPGs exhibit the
seeking-doesn't-work behavior.

So, does anyone know of a video player that:
* Does quicktime, AVI, and MPG, and preferably at least some of the WM*
and ASF type Windows Media formats too?
* Has the ability to play backwards, sped up, and slowed down, and
advance frame-by-frame while paused?
* If the video itself isn't corrupt, and any required codecs are
missing, actually tells you this and what codec is needed?
* If the video itself isn't corrupt, and all required codecs are
present, plays back flawlessly with seek, rewind, fast-forward, and etc.
all working correctly, and the seek bar/duration correct for the video's
actual duration?
* Does not phone home, grab focus, or exhibit other nuisance behaviors?
* Does not, at least if configured appropriately, ever hijack the user's
web browser?
* Does not blank out before the actual end of the video, even by a few
* Does have a fullscreen mode, and does have some way of accessing the
playback controls from fullscreen mode, without any glitchy behavior.

Basically, the feature set and reliability of WinDVD, minus the DVD
"prohibited UOP" nonsense, possibly minus DVD support, but with MPG,
AVI, and MOV/QT support and, if possible, WMV/ASF support. DVD support
would be a nice bonus (and would be legal here; there's no DMCA-alike
where I live so DeCSS is legal here).

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