Mac OS X ships with QuickTime X, a powerful media player that most people will find fits their needs pretty well. However, there is an abundance of media players, managers and encoders available on the Mac App Store if you want a taste of something different.
MPlayerX is a multi-format, multi-touch, multi-monitor multimedia player. MPlayerX plugs it’s application as a powerful media player that fuses the power of ffmpeg and mplayer, allowing for faster decoding of almost any file format. And clearly, MPlayerX was heavily inspired by Apple’s moves both in software and technology.
MPlayerX has an interface that’s similar to Apple’s stock QuickTime X. In fact, it’s almost indistinguishable from Apple’s counterpart, complete with fade out interface upon hover out. In it’s most simple form, MPlayerX is just a media player with the standard controls you’d expect: play/pause, volume, scrubbing and full screen toggle. You can also control volume with the hyphen and equal keys.
The first step would be to venture into the playback menu, where you can enable auxiliary controls. These allow you to change additional variables in your video such as speed, audio delay and sub delay to numeric values with ease.
MPlayerX automatically loads your video at its native resolution (if possible on your display). However, in the view menu one can increase or decrease player size with ease and it can be stretched to any aspect ratio. Changing the aspect ratio in the player itself can then be locked so further scaling maintains a specific aspect ratio.
There’s a selection of options in the preferences menu. One of these is the convenient ability to keep the video window on top during a number of circumstances – such as during play. The interface can also be manipulated with controls to change the opacity of the hover-over controls.
Compatibility and Files
MPlayerX advertises itself as a player that is capable of opening almost any file format, which it does, mostly. I could open an mp4 file with ease and the same applied to most other file types, including Windows’ WMV format. The player would also launch and play audio files in the same way with no problems.
MPlayerX will also handle subtitle files with relative ease. Options in the preferences menu also allow you to modify text font, size and colour for changing subtitles to suit your needs.
Listed on the player’s website suggests the application also works alongside Apple’s hardware remote which offers an easier way of controlling media playback, especially from afar when your Mac is connected to a larger external display such as a TV. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this feature due to my MacBook Air not having a built-in IR sensor.
Another advantageous feature is continuous playback, which plays files in succession automatically without any additional user interaction. Therefore, a series of TV episodes or album of podcasts will all play away while you do other things.
As is expected, MPlayerX will remember the position during the video so, if you come back to it later, the video launches directly from the same point. This works nicely and even adds a few seconds buffer so, should you start playing mid-sentence, you are quickly recapped on the immediately preceding events or dialog.
An innovative feature of the player is the ability to tune a playing video in a number of ways. Once a video is playing, it can be manipulated with sliders in a similar way to performing such modifications on a photo.
The video tuning popup allows items like brightness, saturation and gamma which are all applied in real time to the video. They act more like a “skin” over the video and the results are evident immediately after the user modifies them.
Noise reduction and even sharpness can both be modified straight from within the same window with the same ease as the previous options.
Audio aficionados can use the built in equaliser to modify the currently playing sound too, if they so wish. Both visual and audio edits can be easily reset with the click of a button which is a great feature!
So you’ve got a movie playing on your MacBook Air, or maybe on your Mac Mini home theatre system, and you want to use that big trackpad (either built in or wireless) to control your media. Sure, you have the good old cursor to navigate through the controls. However, the developers of MPlayerX have added a number of multi-touch gestures on top of the player.
A two fingered scroll in the player will allow for easy audio adjusting. A three-finger swipe to the left scrubs the video back by ten seconds. Pinching the trackpad will also increase (or decrease) the overall player size up to a screen-filling dimension.
After recently seeing a video review of TwelveSouth’s Magic Wand product, it became apparent to me that, for home theatre setups, a combination of Apple’s wireless keyboard and trackpad is actually great. The multi-touch gestures in this particular app just heighten my positive views of this particular type of setup.
A combination of both QuickTime X (for personal files) and iTunes (for store downloads) is a very attractive offer, especially as they both come built right into your Mac as soon as you open the box. Naturally, this is the first setup you’ll try as a new user. However, it’s pleasant to see the different offerings available to Mac users in the App Store.
MPlayerX feels much like a lightweight clone of QuickTime X. The interface has an uncanny resemblance to its Apple-made counterpart so there isn’t much in this respect to prefer. However, the real strength is beneath-the-hood where files of foreign formats (such as those with a Windows origin) can be played back seamlessly, just as if they were in an Apple-supported format.
For me, the video tuning and equalisation options are quite nice just to have there – but they could be really useful to some. This can be especially important if the average user encounters a file which really needs an alternative contrast (for example) to enhance the viewing experience.
Personally, I loved the multi-touch gestures such as window resizing with pinch-to-zoom. However, vital issues such as protected file playback let the application down considerably. It just seems like, for the majority of users, the stock QuickTime X will be fine for them.
Although the app is executed very well, it doesn’t offer a huge improvement to QuickTime X unless you crave those video tuning options and multi-touch gestures…