Watching AVI Movies in Mac OS X

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Audio Video Interleaved (AVI) files are a common format for compressed video clips. Files downloaded from the internet often use this format. There are several ways to view them in Mac OS X.

Note: AVI files are often containers, and can contain audio/video compressed using varying different codecs (this is similar to an .mp4 file either using MPEG4 compression or H264 compression). Most AVI files use DivX, Xvid or 3ivX compression codecs.

Third Party Applications

Mplayer (left) and VLC program icons.
Enlarge
Mplayer (left) and VLC program icons.

There are 2 programs at present that can open .avi files and both are open source and free to download. Many users prefer to keep both installed to provide compatibility with as many file formats as possible.

  • Any remaining AVIs not compatible with the above two, should be able to be handled by Mac OS 9 QuickTime or QuickTime for Windows, each of which have the older versions of the Intel Indeo codec.

Note: Microsoft has ceased the software's development for Mac OS X and instead promotes another third party plugin for QuickTime called Flip4Mac (See below).

QuickTime Plug-Ins

Several third party plug-ins are available to allow users to watch .avi files using Apple's native multimedia media program. These are installed into the QuickTime plug-ins folder and usually require little or no setting up.

  • Perian. Currently the best and most all-encompassing Quicktime plugin that will guarentee to play almost any codec within an AVI file.Includes support for MS-MPEG4 v1 & v2, DivX, 3ivX, H.264, FLV1, FSV1, VP6, H263I, VP3, HuffYUV, FFVHuff, MPEG1 & MPEG2 Video, Fraps, Windows Media Audio v1 & v2, Flash ADPCM, Xiph Vorbis (in Matroska), MPEG Layer II Audio, AAC, AC3 Audio, H.264, MPEG4, and VBR MP3, (i.e loads of Codecs), to play windows media (.wma,.wmv) files you will also need Flip4Mac (See below).
  • 3ivX codec. A free version of this MPEG4 codec is available for Mac users on their download page.
  • A52 codec. This codec is very useful for viewing .avi files encoded with A52 audio.
  • AC3 codec. This codec is very useful for viewing .avi files encoded with AC3 audio.
  • DivX for Mac codec. A free version is available for watching DivX movies, a commercial solution for encoding movies is available as a free 15 day demo. Free beta versions (including DivX 6 for Intel based macs) are also available from labs.divx.com
  • Flip4Mac. A free solution, offering playback of AVI, ASF, ASX and non-DRM protected WMA and WMV files. Microsoft site