Media players work together with browsers to play audio and video files.
Most of the major media players offer “plugins” for Firefox and other browsers to allow the browser to play media files in a window or by popping up the application.
I tried Media Player (Microsoft), Real Player and Quick Time (Apple). I have also used VLC in this way.
The major formats I was interested in were MP3 audio and MP4 video. I also have a lot of FLV video files, which I pull down a lot with the help of a freeware application called Download Helper. But I know those are a little problematic.
Many many videos are available from You Tube in MP4 format, so this is a crucial format to get working. And of course MP3 is totally ubiquitous.
My automated pages create “a” tags for all files, targeted into an inline frame. The browser automatically renders txt, html, gif, png, jpg, etc. without any help. In my original setup, I had a VLC plugin in Firefox which played flv files in a new window (or frame) but with no playback controls. I also had the Quick Time plugin installed, which did the same thing with MPx files WITH playback controls displayed. I also had some Real Player plugins which seemed to work similar to Quick Time. I was confused about which plugin was doing what, so disabled all of them and started over.
I decided to make a test page and thought I’d try the HTML”5″ tags that are already getting support in most browsers.
Firefox supports these new tags, but only with media that have open-source codecs. That’s almost all OGG format. MPx files aren’t supported. Opera was supposed to be better, so I downloaded it and tried it. I did not find it any better. So next I downloaded Safari with Quick Time.
Safari is in a class by itself. Apple has been working on their design values more than any other major supplier of hardware and software. Safari defaults to a “3D” home page displaying 9 of your favorite pages (it can be reduced to 6) in an interesting concave shape with a cute reflection at the bottom.
I loaded the test page into Safari, and the MP4 and MP3 HTML5 tags worked great. MP3 in an “a” tag also worked.
Back to Firefox
With Quick Time back on my computer, I had that plugin back in Firefox. Now Firefox worked very similar to Safari. Except that I could put both MP3 and MP4 files in “a” tags and they would open in an embedded Quick Time player with controls. So it looks like this was as good as I was going to get.
This open source streaming media format (or “container”) is not well-used on the internet, but works quite well. I wanted to convert a small MP4 file I had to OGG to see how it would work. Well, that was a rough one. I discovered that the only freeware player that could do this was good old VLC. I installed VLC in the ZIP way (no installer script – no updating of file associations) and then used it to do the conversion. The OGG file worked fine in Firefox. Not in Safari, though!
So I think Firefox with Quick Time does the best job at this point. But I like that Safari look!