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To play divx videos or movies in QuickTime / Front Row on Mac OS X, you need to install a divx codec. If you open an .avi file and see only black, you likely don’t have a divx codec installed.

Download a free divx codec for Mac here then following these walkthrough instructions on how to play divx videos on Mac.

While watching a tv series encoded with divx, in avi package format on a Macbook installed with Leopard, I noticed that Front Row would randomly crash and return to the desktop.

First step in investigating what was causing the crash is to look at the syslog.

  • Open up Terminal (Applications => Utilities => Terminal)
  • Go to the /var/log directory (cd /var/log)
  • View the syslog file (less system.log)
  • Go down to the latest entries in the log file (Shift + G)
  • Look for a line saying “Saved crashreport to /Users/[username]/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/Front Row_2008-04-27” or something to that effect. The username will be your Mac OS X username and the date attached to the Front Row text will of course be different.  These crash logs are created whenever a program you are running stops for some unknown reason (i.e. a crash).
  • Press “q” to quit the “less” program.
  • Goto the CrashReporter directory (cd /Users/[username]/Library/Logs/CrashReporter). Replace [username] with your username.
  • Open the latest Front Row crashlog with “less” (less Front Row_2008_2008-04-27). If you’re having trouble typing the name, just hit the Tab key, which will attempt to fill in the blanks as best as possible, creating spaces with escape characters.
  • Look for the line saying “Crashed Thread” and note the number beside it. In my case it was “22”.
  • Now use the search function within “less” by hitting forward slash “/” then typing “Thread 22”. This is case sensitive so make sure you capitalize “T” in Thread.
  • You should see Thread 22 Crashed: followed by what file was related to the crash of Front Row.  In my case it was listed as “com.yourcompany.XviD_Codec”.

If you continue reading, you’re doing the following AT YOUR OWN RISK.  You can royally screw up Front Row and any type of movie/video watching by performing the following, so if you have any qualms, do not perform the next steps.

My fix was to move the AppleIntermediateCodec.component and AppleMPEG2Codec.component files from /Library/QuickTime to a backup directory and replace it with Xvid_Codec 1.0 alpha.component which is detailed in another post on how to watch xvid encoded avi files on Mac OS X. To move these two files elsewhere, create a backup directory on your home directory (mkdir ~/QuickTime_backup) then use the “mv” command (mv AppleIntermediateCodec.component ~/QuickTime_backup/) (mv AppleMPEG2Codec.component ~/QuickTime_backup). Now install the alpha xvid component for Mac.

Make sure QuickTime isn’t running, or fully Quit QuickTime and then start Front Row and attempt to watch the same file that was causing Front Row to crash before.

The reasoning behind removing these two QuickTime codecs is that they aren’t on another MacBook book of mine, which doesn’t have Front Row crashing problems.  That’s the only logic I have behind this fix.

So far, the change has worked.

Best of luck.

When outputting a movie to an external TV or projector it’s nice to not show the video on your Mac’s main display since it’s distracting. Closing the lid on a MacBook Pro makes it go to sleep and the only way to prevent the MacBook from sleeping with the lid closed is through some serious kernel hacks.

Apple’s Front Row has a feature that makes the secondary screen will go blank and dark when the Front Row is started. The trick to make your main MacBook display go blank when outputting Front Row to the secondary screen is to make your secondary screen the primary display. This is done through System Preferences => Display Preferences.

When you have the DVI to Video Adapter connected to your MacBook Pro and connected to a TV or other type of external display, open up Display Preferences. Within Display Preferences, choose Arrangement. You should see two blue squares that represent each display, main and secondary. On the main display you’ll notice a bar along the top. Simply click and drag this bar from the Main Display (usually on the left and large) to the secondary display, to make it the Primary or Main display. Close Display Preferences. Launch Front Row by hitting Apple key + Esc or by hitting the Menu on your Apple Remote. Front Row will launch and turn off the MacBook main display so that you can enjoy a distraction free viewing experience for your movies and videos on an external display.

Enjoy.

This will be painfully obvious to the old school Mac crew, but having been a recent convert from twenty years of PC’ing, I recently discovered how cool it is to play movies and videos from my Macbook Pro.  It’s like having a digital entertainment suite in your computer, complete with remote control that wows the crowd.

Front Row

Pressing Apple key + Escape key will fade out your screen to black and then Front Row will show up with selections such as Movies, which lists all video files in your Movies folder within Finder. If you’ve got your remote handy you can navigate this menu using the + and – buttons to go up and down the list, using Play/Pause to make a menu item selection. To go back or Up a menu selection you can either press the Escape key on the keyboard or the circular small Menu button on the remote.

If you haven’t already, consider install a DivX decoder and Perian so that you get great video format playback capabilities on your Mac.  Otherwise you may run into the situation where videos you’ve saved on your Mac play without sound and possibly without video either.