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Author Topic: Mother of all video player discussion threads  (Read 4970 times)

JavaJones

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Mother of all video player discussion threads
« on: January 12, 2011, 07:30:14 PM »
As I'm getting back into video player testing, I've been looking around DC for discussion on the subject. There is of course tons of good dialog, but it's scattered all over a bunch of different threads. While I realize each thread has its individual purpose and no one player may be best for *everyone*, I thought it might be nice to have a more clearly specified "general best video player discussion" thread, similar to the ever-lasting "brainstorming for note taking software" thread and ones like it. I didn't find another existing thread that seemed quite appropriate for this, e.g. pulling up superboyac's recent rather busy and productive thread "Video player: What's the quickest (fastest/lightest)?" might not be appropriate as the thread did start with a very specific purpose. This is intended to be much broader and more comprehensive.

So here's my bid for a thread that talks in general about pros and cons of various video players, and hopefully will help each person find the "best" player for their needs. It's my intention that this thread be the one people update and pull from the depths of history whenever they have a comment on a video player (unless it's a specific question or a more focused need, like SBAC's "fastest" request).

I'll leave this post to stand alone and do a follow-up reply with the actual video player testing notes that prompted me to start this. :D

Here's a list of related previous threads:
Lightest/fastest: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=20880.0
Best video player (old thread, poll, outdated options): http://www.donationc...dex.php?topic=2143.0
Best portable player: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=24549.0
Request for a "good player" (short thread, answered): http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=18292.0
KMPlayer and GOMplayer: http://www.donationc...dex.php?topic=8081.0
Zoom Player discussion: http://www.donationc...dex.php?topic=4400.0
Early KMplayer thread: http://www.donationc...dex.php?topic=5410.0
Thread about "official" players (e.g. Quicktime, Realplayer): http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=17462.0
Older thread about VLC: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=15067.0
KMPlayer and Daum Potplayer: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=24375.0
Request for a player with certain features: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=20022.0

And of course it wouldn't be complete without a Wikipedia link :D
http://en.wikipedia....ideo_player_software
Note that the Wikipedia list is out of date as it does not include e.g. Splash, Light Alloy and Splayer among others.

- Oshyan

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2011, 07:46:02 PM »
Ok so I mentioned in the KMPlayer/Daum Potplayer thread that I had decided against Potplayer for now. I just found it a bit too finicky and, unlike The KMPlayer (KM from here on out), it really did require a lot of tuning to work right and play my media as I want it. Which is odd as it's from the same (original) author as KM. The great thing about KM is that it works really well out of the box, and is pretty easy to tweak further for even better quality in video and audio. It has a lot of power, but you don't *need* to use all the settings to get good results. Somehow Potplayer lost this value, which is odd as it retains so much...

Anyway so I'm back to KM and still really love it, but it does miss a few features and some UI polish that I enjoy from other players. Good examples of missing features are automatic/built-in GPU acceleration (Splayer, Splash) and auto-codec download (Splayer). While I like the power and flexibility of KM, I also appreciate the simplicity of some other player's features like Splash's "Video Enhancement" settings (basically sharpness and saturation, but nicely implemented). So, while KM is near ideal for me as a video player, it still could be better. Hence my search continues.

That leads me to my renewed testing of more player options. This time I started with Splash, a relatively new and slick entrant. It supports GPU acceleration natively (nVidia-based I believe), has decent subtitle support, and some nice, easy to use video "enhancement" options, including upconversion (increasing frame rate via interpolation for better smoothness), sharpening ("clarity"), and saturation/"vibrance"

I am testing with Splash Pro v1.4.0.0. Out of the box the results are very nice and enhancement controls can actually make a noticeable difference. A nice split-screen capability is included to show before/after on the left/right half of the screen, respectively, so you can really tell the effect of a video setting. The UI is smooth and polished-looking with a nice auto-hide control bar, among other things. Unfortunately despite the good first impression Splash doesn't hold up to my more demanding video tasks. It does not, for example, support OGG format videos, among others. It also just doesn't have enough control for me, particularly in the area of hotkeys and customization of other controls. It has its own hotkey for full screen (simply Enter), which I could learn to use, but I like also being able to control this with the mouse, especially as I often use these players on an HTPC, where the mouse/pointing device is the primary means of interaction. Being able to middle-click as in KM and other players to go full-screen is something I've really come to love and don't want to let go of. Splash does not in fact seem to have *any* capability to customize its controls, which is a big missing feature in my opinion.

Next on my list to play with is Light Allow, a strong recommendation from suberboyac. I'm also going to revisit Splayer, which I have liked in the past (and have on my media machine as a backup player), as well as SMPlayer, and possibly ALPlayer *and* ALLPlayer (yes, they're different :D).

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: January 16, 2011, 09:14:50 PM by JavaJones »

4wd

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2011, 01:45:28 AM »
Could you please include whether you're testing a standalone or installed version, (eg. ALLPlayer Onefile standalone doesn't include codecs, whereas MPC-HC does) ?

Although I guess I'm kind of stuck on MPC-HC now, your testing might get me to try something else :P

BTW, one thing I did notice about Light Alloy was there didn't seem to be, (or I couldn't find), an option to keep aspect ratio as you resized the window, (I watch videos on the computer as I do other things), so the black bars that appear were very annoying.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 01:47:54 AM by 4wd »

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2011, 02:52:56 AM »
I tend to prefer codec-bundled players, but I don't use portable apps much, if at all. So in general I'm testing whatever version is installable and includes codecs. Most of the time I've found players default to one approach or another, either they include codecs (e.g. KM, GOM, MPC) or they don't (WMP, BSPlayer, older versions of Light Alloy). Light Alloy is one of the few I've seen that gives you an option of different downloads/installs for bundled codecs vs. not.

- Oshyan

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2011, 09:50:24 PM »
Alright, on to Light Alloy, a player I've heard a lot about (mostly from superboyac :D), but never tried (partly because it's commercial - same reason I never got into Zoom Player).

One thing I realized is I should really be mentioning the versions I'm testing as this thread will no doubt age and things will get out of date, especially with newer options like Splash evolving potentially more quickly. I've edited my Splash blurb above to include the version number I tested.

For Light Alloy (LA), I am testing the portable version, 4.5.4. The first impression is good. LA is very quick to start up as superboyac has mentioned many times. The UI comes up almost instantly. Actual time to start playing a file is however not noticeably faster than KM in my tests. I'm on an i7 860 with 4GB of RAM and in multiple successive tests they were pretty much equal in load time, probably more coming down to disk speed than anything. Average time to load and begin playing a 4.5GB MKV file was about 2.5 seconds for both. Times were similar for 2+GB AVI files, 4+GB .TS and .M2TS files as well. Even loading a 40GB blu-ray rip worked well and loaded in barely longer than the other files. This is on both players though, so LA is not noticeably faster in my experience.

The UI is overall clear and clean, easy to understand and use. It does lack a bit of polish in some areas, for example the playlist buttons do not match the default skin, and some of the pop-up settings windows (e.g. video controls for brightness, etc.) are not skinned at all. This contrasts with KM where there is a very unified look and feel throughout most skins, including the default(s). LA has a simpler menu system, though with similar general areas. It offers most of the control one would want, but is of course not as comprehensive as KM. It's a good mid-level of complexity for a serious but not really dedicated video tweaker. The important thing is out of the box it "just works".

LA played anything I tested it with fairly well. However I ran into problems with selection and consistent playback of alternate audio tracks in blu-ray rips and AVI files. Alternate audios in MKV and OGG worked better, but still showed occasional problems. These issues consisted either of delays in switching audio tracks (particularly in blu-ray rips), inconsistent selection of audio tracks (again in blu-ray rips), or freezing video (with the audio continuing). The latter occurred particularly with AVI and MKV files with alternate audios. I also found it more cumbersome to switch audios with a right-click or modal pop-up dialog than the simple UI pop-up menu in KM (very fast and easy). On the plus side, I did find a WMV file that LA (and SMP, below) played more smoothly than KM in my current config. I'll be looking into my KM config for WMV settings to see if there's anything I can tweak to improve this.

Unlike Splash, LA provides a full set of customizable hotkeys, and also allows more limited customization of mouse input (adequate for my needs). Also pleasing was that the default controls were more familiar than Splash, e.g. middle click to full screen. Options in general were plentiful but not exhaustive or overwhelming. Option layout was good, better than KM many would probably say, though it's hard to be fair given KM has at least twice as many. ;)

Overall I'm fairly pleased with LA, but I don't find it to be an improvement over KM in any way, at least in my testing. Given KMs greater configurability and power, as well as comparable speed, format support, and superior alternate track selection and syncing, not to mention KM being free, it's clear at this point that I'm not switching to LA for now.

Next up are SMPlayer (an MPlayer front end) and Splayer (an MPC-HC derivative).

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: January 17, 2011, 12:25:16 AM by JavaJones »

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2011, 12:47:16 AM »
SMPlayer is a front-end to MPlayer. As far as I know MPlayer is essentially a commandline (no GUI) video player, originally for Linux (each platform evidently has one or more GUI front-ends like SMPlayer). MPlayer has very broad format support, largely enabled through use of the common ffmpeg playback libraries. Thus SMPlayer (SMP) has similarly broad format support. The focus of SMP seems to be squarely on functionality and format support, with theming and other more aesthetic touches being absent or very secondary.

I am testing SMPlayer version 0.6.9 portable. It has a simple but functional GUI, no real "skinning" to speak of. It has a lot of visible controls for things like switching audio streams and subtitles, which I appreciated. Startup is extremely fast, in fact I would say it starts up and plays videos faster than KM or LA in most cases (though only by a second at most). Playback of most test files was generally good. Audio switching worked in most files, with the exception of OGG. However it was unfortunately unable to play blu-ray rips from simple drag-and-drop of the rip folder (which both KM and LA handle just fine). Seeking in one .TS file I had didn't work very well either, and playback had some visual errors, but otherwise files from MKV to AVI to WMV all played well. As noted above SMP and LA played a WMV file I have better than KM, which was interesting (just a slight but noticeable difference in smoothness).

SMP also comes with some interesting additional features such as looking up subtitles online for a playing movie. It also boasts of its ability to remember settings for all movies that have played, including things like which audio track was selected. I didn't personally find the "remember" feature that useful, in fact I disabled it for testing purposes as it just hampered fair testing, but I could see its appeal. I tried the online subtitle feature, but wasn't able to get it to work right. I didn't try very hard though. I found SPlayer's similar feature to be more obtrusive because it was automatic (but at least it worked). Every file I played it would try to automatically find a subtitle. This can be disabled in Splayer of course, more on that later.

Options and customization are fairly good. There are some obscure options, mostly to do with the MPlayer underpinnings, but most settings are clear and many have tool-tip style help text. I was able to setup my preferred mouse and keyboard settings easily due to a nice system of provided controls. Controls for adjusting video settings, e.g. contrast, are provided in a non-modal window which allowed me to still control the video while adjusting settings (better than LA in that regard), however the built-in video settings did not actually have an effect (I think this may be because my graphics card is overriding them for video overlays). I also found a chance to test the built-in deinterlace functions which performed fairly well, although I did see some slight jerkiness once or twice, which I am not certain is related (but seemed to be). CPU use was not overly high at the time I saw this.

Overall SMPlayer is a nice option. It is simple and straightforward, plays a majority of formats well, and is very fast. Although theming is not a big focus of mine, I did find the aesthetics of the UI to be somewhat lacking. Somehow the UI experience is also just a bit less "smooth" than KM, though it's hard to put my finger on exactly why. Quite frankly though, I was surprised and impressed by how good an MPlayer front-end could be. I initially expected something much more clunky, closer perhaps to VLC than anything, but I would say SMP bests VLC in many - if not most - respects, and is overall a good contender for the best player in my opinion.

So thus far SMPlayer comes closest to dethroning KM, and I will probably revisit it a few times more to see if it can complete its coup...

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: January 17, 2011, 01:10:34 AM by JavaJones »

ha14

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2011, 01:17:34 PM »
Well if  i can suggest MediaRevolution (9.95 € / aprox. 15 US $ ) not verry expensive (30 days trial!), consumes arround 85000K of memory (2go, Intel e6320, cpu usage 35%) for videos, then while playing mp3 (cpu usage 25%) its arround 70000k of memory as noticed from taskmgr then process. The player has many media features as well windows administrating object. The player can be full size and also ability to watch in the dektop background using the video renderer option which will halt the aero effect (important since windows use it). Still gets new version by corrections and hope that neaw features will be added. One thing is to download and install the codecs for this there is a codec check function that will scan the pc and will tell to download the missing codecs and will give the right link.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2011, 01:19:13 PM by ha14 »

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2011, 02:42:20 PM »
What recommends MediaRevolution over free, powerful, play-anything options like KMPlayer, SMPlayer, SPlayer, etc?

- Oshyan

Ath

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2011, 02:43:56 PM »
What recommends MediaRevolution over free, powerful, play-anything options like KMPlayer, SMPlayer, SPlayer, etc?

Guess 3 times.... :D End of the week small money ofcourse :P

ha14

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2011, 04:25:54 AM »
well the little money can open door to contact the softmaker and suggest more features. As you install MediaRevolution and after running for the first time then user will notice that it has a diffeent interface than the suggested freewares, one thing is that those freewares are better known and inspires more confidence. Possible some in the beginning will find mediarevolution difficult to use since it has to download the suggested codecs but after a while then they can stick with it. So as a free trial 30 days can do some miracles. Also able to work with DSP pluggins.

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2011, 09:45:22 PM »
Update: I've found a number of files that don't play properly with both SMPlayer and SPlayer. KMP plays them all fine.  :-\

- Oshyan

lanux128

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2011, 11:29:14 PM »
i find that KMPlayer is able to handle all the files i throw at it but then i don't come across much variety in video files. with KMPlayer around, i no longer even install the codecs for quicktime, realplayer and etc.

MilesAhead

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2011, 04:25:36 PM »
Another aspect is which player will give you GPU acceleration.  My dual core has an NVidia card but the onboard ram is only half what's needed to qualify as CUDA.  But even though Splash Lite grays out the hw acceleration setting, SPlayer has it and shows hw accel in the caption when playing some video types.

For underwhelming cards this can make the difference between smooth and stuttered playback.

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2011, 06:10:47 PM »
One additional factor, just to add to the confusion, is that 3rd party systems, e.g. video drivers/systems like Nvidia PureVideo, or video codecs like CoreAVC, can also enable GPU acceleration. So in some cases if you can configure a particular player to use a given codec to handle a particular format, you can gain acceleration even if the player itself doesn't natively support it. It's all entirely too complicated really.

- Oshyan

lanux128

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2011, 08:06:08 PM »
i noticed that CUDA is making some inroads into media convertors, e.g. Freemake Video Convertor. btw, is CUDA a synonym for GPU-accel?

speaking of CUDA, i have two GFXs that comes CUDA-ready (GeForce 9800 GT and GeForce 8600 GT) but didn't enable it.

JavaJones

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2011, 08:20:39 PM »
CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture - no the acronym definition doesn't help understand it :D) is basically just nVidia's proprietary implementation of GPU-based general computing libraries. For massively parallel tasks, GPU acceleration can greatly speed things up. Video encoding (and decoding) is one of those things that does benefit. CUDA is not currently supported by ATI, in the past it was expected it never would be but nVidia may now have ambitions of making it a standard in the future, which would require ATI support. ATI supports the more hardware-agnostic OpenCL (Open Computing Language).

- Oshyan

MilesAhead

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Re: Mother of all video player discussion threads
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2011, 09:12:06 PM »
One additional factor, just to add to the confusion, is that 3rd party systems, e.g. video drivers/systems like Nvidia PureVideo, or video codecs like CoreAVC, can also enable GPU acceleration. So in some cases if you can configure a particular player to use a given codec to handle a particular format, you can gain acceleration even if the player itself doesn't natively support it. It's all entirely too complicated really.

- Oshyan

Seems like .mkv is supported and .m2ts isn't, even when it's just a remux. Perhaps it's because it's handled by Haali Media Splitter?  I dunno'.  Seems like SPlayer gives smoother playback.  When it doesn't say acceleration it will often say EVR and play smoothly, so now I'm more confused than ever.  It plays back smoothly is the important thing I guess.