By Monte FergusonNothing irritates me more than when my PC using friends send me a file I canít open. As much as Iíd like to pretend that everyone uses Quicktime, and saves in Quicktime compatible formats, the truth is they donít. We sometimes have to deal with Microsoft Windows formatted files that just wonít play in Quicktime. Which means that theyíre geared for and made by PC people. A prime example of this is Windows Media files, both audio (WMA) and video (WMV).
Up until recently the only app that could, well sometimes, play these files was Windows Media Player for Mac. While a noble effort it was plagued with flaws. It just couldnít handle all of the various flavors of Windows Media files out there.
Then along comes this new firm, Telestream, with a product that finally allows Mac users to deal with Windows Media files. In fact their product is so slick Microsoftís Mac Business unit discontinues Windows Media Player for Mac in favor of it.
Windows Media Components for QuickTime
Thatís a mouthful of a product title. But it encompasses an entire family of products. There are four different versions of the program. They range in price from free to $179. For free you get a player. It allows you to view Windows Media files, via a browser plug-in or via Quicktime Player. The pay for versions unlock more features, like the ability to import Windows Media files into any Quicktime compatible program.
There is only one file to download. Installation is a breeze. Most of the components are add ons for Quicktime. The only thing the user sees after installation is a new Preference Pane. The Preference Pane not only keeps track of your customized settings but it also allows you to upgrade to the paid version.
After installation youíll find that Windows Media files are treated as if they were native files. I was able to view previews in Spotlight after installation. Just like the videos were Quicktime videos.
Since there are so many different versions of the program it can be hard to keep them straight. Iíve tried to break down the various versions and a highlight of their main features.
This is the free version of the program. Itís strictly for playing back content. It does not convert files into Quicktime nor allow you to export into Windows Media supported formats. It plays Windows Media Video 7, 8, and 9, ISO MPEG-4, and Microsoft MPEG-4 V2 and V3 . It also Plays Windows Media Audio 7 through 10 Professional and Lossless
WMV Player Pro
This is the entry level commercial version of the program. The main benefit of this version is it allows y ou to import Windows Media files into Quicktime Applications.
This is first level of the product that allows you to export to as well as import Windows Media files. You can import and export Windows Media files using built-in templates. Export Windows Media files directly from your editing system or media encoding application, including Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express HD, QuickTime Pro, iMovie, Sorenson Media Squeeze 4.1, Discreet Cleaner 6, Compressor 2 and more.
WMV Studio Pro
The Studio Pro edition is for those who need to be able to tweak things a bit. It allows you to modify the built in encoding presets. Freeing you to get higher quality results. Flip4Mac WMV Studio Pro provides 1-pass, standard definition Windows Media encoding with standard audio. Which is more than enough for the casual user.
WMV Studio Pro HD
This is the big enchilada. It offers you all kinds of bells and whistles. You can keep things simple or customize the settings to your hearts content. You gain 2-pass, high definition and pro audio features. Flip4Mac WMV Studio Pro HD provides true Windows Media support from within Final Cut Pro and Compressor 2.
Installation is painless and doesnít require a restart. In fact the effect is seamless. You can set things so that any Windows Media files will automatically open in Quicktime Player or the built in Quicktime Plug-in in the browser. When they say any Quicktime based program will gain the ability to open, manipulate, and export into Windows Media format theyíre not kidding. I dropped a Windows Media file into iMovie. It took a while to transcode it, I.E. convert it into a format iMovie deals with, but the point is iMovie recognized the file. True to the advertising you can export your work into Windows Media format. Lastly you canít get better press than having the MacBU drop itís Windows Media Player in favor of WMV Player.
Itís hard to find fault with something that does its job so well. In fact in all of my testing I threw all kinds of files at it. I never saw it fail to open anything I threw at it. Now I can finally open all of those odd Windows video files my PC friends send over
This is one of the cases of a small company coming to the fore with a great product. It works so seamlessly I almost forget itís not part of MacOS X. In fact itís so good I have to wonder why Microsoft, with all of itís money and resources, didnít come up with something like it a long time ago.
Posted: Saturday, December 1st, 2007