Configuring your Web Browser to Play MPEG Video

It is easy! You should be able to do it yourself even if you are a Company Executive!

If your web browser cannot play MPEG-1 Video files (extension .mpg) like this one, you should install an MPEG Video player (also called an MPEG viewer) and configure your browser. This is easy! You should be able to do it yourself even if your are a company executive... And once you're done with video, don't forget to install an MPEG Audio player too!


First, Download an MPEG Video Player for your System

MPEG Video software decoders work well if your processor has enough power. For example a Pentium 100 Mhz or over can play MPEG-1 Video. There are two categories of software MPEG Video players: the public-domain or free ones and the commercial ones.

Public-domain or free MPEG software players often play only video (no audio), may have a poor frame synchronization (or none at all) and may not be as fast as commercial players. You get what you pay for! On the other hand, source code is sometimes available for those interested in understanding how MPEG works.

Cool Link of the Month:

A large catalogue of downloadable MPEG trailers and short movies

The following list of public-domain or free MPEG Video software players is by no means exhaustive.

  • For Windows just use Windows Media Player, it knows how to play MPEG and VCD. The Real Player can also play MPEG, and it seems to have a better quality than Media Player.
  • For Pocket PC and Handheld PC try PocketTV.
  • For Mac just use QuickTime, it knows how to play MPEG and VCD.
  • For older Mac and PowerMac try MacZilla.
  • For DOS look for players at MSSG.
  • For Amiga try aMiPEG.
  • For Atari-ST try 1stGuide.
  • For OS/2 try PMMPEG.
  • For Linux try mtv or SMPEG or all the software derived from SMPEG (see SMPEG page).
  • For Solaris (sparc or x86), FreeBSD, Digital-Unix, IRIX, HP-UX, SCO and BSDI try mtv.
  • For most Unix platforms, you can try UC Berkeley's mpeg_play or Frank Gadegast's xmplay

If this is not enough, you can search for MPEG products or sharewares in various on-line databases.

Commercial MPEG software players can play the audio synchronized with the video and have a good frame-rate control, i.e. if the processor has the power required, they will be able to play the sequence at the correct frame-rate, and if not, they will skip some frames, causing some jerkiness but keeping in sync with the audio. Sometimes free demo versions of commercial players are available, but they are limited: for example, you can only play the first minute of the sequence, or you don't have audio, or you get an early beta version.

If you are looking for a commercial MPEG software player, check out the products from the following companies: Zoran Corporation, Real Networks, Mediamatics (National Semiconductors), Duplexx Software (Net Toob), InterVU, I-Stream and MpegTV.

If you are looking for source code, check out the Video resources on MPEG.ORG.

MPEG Video hardware decoders boards are mostly used in set-top boxes or in conjunction with multimedia CD-ROM based applications. They give very high playback quality but they are rather expensive and cannot be downloaded from the Net! So we won't talk about them here...

Download the MPEG Video player that you have selected, and check that it works by downloading a small MPEG Video file onto your hard disk and playing it.


Second, Configure your Web Browser (only applies to Linux or Unix)

You need to install the player executable program (for example mpeg_play) somewhere on your system. Under Unix, make sure that it is in the execution PATH and make it executable. You can then configure your web browser for playing MPEG video by adding the following line in your ~/.mime.types file:

video/mpeg		mpg

In general MPEG video files have the mpg extension, but you may want to specify additional file extensions sometimes used with MPEG video and systems (i.e. video + audio) files, such as: mpeg, mps, m1v, m1s, as well as the uppercase versions: MPG, MPEG, MPS, M1V, M1S.

Then add the following line in your ~/.mailcap file (assuming that your MPEG Audio player is mpeg_play):

video/mpeg; mpeg_play %s

You may need to pass the player some options. Check the player's man page or documentation. For example, if you have a 16 bits or 24 bits display, you may get better results with:

video/mpeg; mpeg_play -dither color %s

On Unix systems, if your MPEG video player does not allow multiple play and file saving, it is a good idea to wrap your video player with xplaygizmo, which does allows multiple play and file saving. Actually xplaygizmo can be used as a wrapper around any player, not just MPEG players. Once you have installed xplaygizmo, use the following line in your ~/.mailcap file:

video/mpeg; xplaygizmo -p mpeg_play %s

Unfortunately, the current version of xplaygizmo does not allow to pass additional options to the player. However it does allow executing a shellscript (that can in turn call the player with some additional options if needed).

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