With the new aluminum "unibody" Mac Mini being the first Apple computer to come with a built-in HDMI port, Apple has felt it necessary to outline both the uses for the HDMI connector in a recently released FAQ on the Mac Mini. In addition, the final version 1.1 release of the VideoLAN Client media player is available.… Read more
Perhaps the best-known alternative media player for Windows and Mac, VLC's popularity has been driven by its open-source and cross-platform nature. The latest update, for Windows, Mac, and Linux, goes to great lengths to keep the player current.
VLC 1.1 adds in hardware acceleration on Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Linux computers; supports encoding and decoding the HTML5 video and audio codec WebM; better MKV HD support and 40 percent faster HD decoding; introduces lua-based extensions; and has overall better performance because of the removal of "tens of thousands of lines" of code.
There's also … Read more
The VideoLAN organization has released a new build of VLC Media Player for OS X. The version 1.1.0-rc of the player has been updated with numerous changes and fixes, including a major reworking of the VLCKit framework, CoreText-based text renderer for subtitles, and support for new codecs and enhanced features of current codecs.… Read more
The third-party video codec pack for QuickTime "Perian" has been updated to version 1.2.1, which adds support for more codecs and fix a number of bugs that caused crashes. The application is a popular plugin for QuickTime that allows many non-standard and obscure codecs to be played in Apple's default media player.… Read more
There are a number of video formats that are used for compressing and distributing videos these days. While most use common and open standards such as H.264 that are readily viewable, others may be more obscure and will require you to install a codec to view videos encoded in them.… Read more
If Firefox and iTunes hooked up, their hatchling could very well be Songbird. Basic usage bugs have gone the way of last season's molting, so this fun app that's part music player, part Web browser, and all about music discovery, management, and playback is ready for every day use.
During installation, it'll ask if you want to load your iTunes music directory or another media directory, or perform the task later. Processing 5,000 songs took about 3 minutes, which is not a bad pace. It then asks you which of the preinstalled Songbird extensions you want … Read more
Update (2x): VideoLAN has issued some clarification on this development (read below)
VideoLAN Client, or VLC, has been a popular media player for OS X that has developed and progressed over the years. It has been a great alternative to QuickTime because of its support for a vast array of codecs and robust capability to play even corrupt videos. If a file has been damaged or improperly encoded, when QuickTime displays errors and does not play the file, VLC may be able to work. Unfortunately, at this point because of the lack of Mac developers helping the project, support for OS X is nearly dead.… Read more
A recent review of Corel Digital Studio 2010 got me close and personal with the consumer-oriented multimedia suite. Corel's studio excelled at providing a consistent, unified look, navigation, and toolset across its applications for editing photos and videos, making movies, burning content, and playing videos. It also copies photos, videos, and music to your mobile device, and can create photo projects like photo books and cards.
All good stuff, but it doesn't come cheap. Multimedia suites like this will put you out about $100. They're worth the price if you frequently use the tools, or if you vastly prefer the convenience and accessibility of a consumer-friendly setup. However, if you don't mind being scrappy, you can cobble together a spread of multimedia tools--your own "suite"--for next to nothing.
Edit and create
Photo editing, video editing, and making movies are the three largest focal points of multimedia suites like Corel Digital Studio 2010 and Roxio Creator 2010 (unfortunately, no download trial is available for the latter). Google's Picasa is one of my favorite freeware tools for casual users, and one of the closest direct matches to what's offered in a multimedia suite. Its uses are multifarious: organizing your photos and videos into albums, editing images and videos, sharing online, creating projects like collages and movies, and ordering prints.
The image-editing tools are serviceable, with red-eye removal, one-click lighting fixes, cropping and straightening, and finer tools for addressing blemishes and lighting. There are also 12 effects, like sepia tones and soft focus. This contrasts with Picasa's low-grade video editor, which can at least rotate videos and trim them. The movie maker has many more controls, but is basic; it doesn't build in the polished templates of a premium program. Picasa does, however, offer to sell you prints from a choice of providers (choice is good), and can help create a collage.
For standalone photo editing, the freeware applications FastStone Image Viewer, IrfanView, Paint.NET, and GIMP range in features from the accessible to the powerful. Read more about them in this resource guide.
Vista and Windows 7 users can try out Microsft's new Windows Live Movie Maker (review), freeware that can slap photos and video clips into a new movie in seconds. Deeper controls let you tweak transitions, captions, and effects after the automation. Editing tools include splitting, trimming, and applying fade points. As a point of comparison, video editors in these consumer-focused multimedia suites are better-equipped, perhaps with audio-tuning tools and features to adjust video lighting.
Creating calendars and photo books are a DIY project within your reach if you have an excellent photo printer and a home bookbinding kit. Otherwise, you can spend your energy on the editing and captioning and get a project printed somewhere else. Retail shops, like FedEx Office in the U.S., will print projects. Online photo albums and services like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Zazzle will also gladly accept your business. The 12-month calendars run from $15 to $20; large photo books are often in the mid-$30 range (online services often charge for shipping). Corel Digital Studio is similarly priced.… Read more
Some in the open-source camp would have you believe that open source is an all-or-nothing proposition. For such people, to believe that Linux makes for a superior server operating system is also to dedicate oneself to using open source for business applications, personal productivity, mobile, and likely brushing one's teeth. Open source on a proprietary platform like Mac OS X? Perish the thought!
But life is more complicated than that, and it turns out that there is exceptional open-source software for the Mac (or for Windows, for that matter).