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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.

Have an .mkv movie file? Wondering what the heck it is and how to play it?

High Definition movies in 720 or 1080 pixel width format are often encoded and packaged as a Matroska format video with a .mkv file extension.

Apple QuickTime doesn’t handle this format natively so you have to add a package handler for mkv files to QuickTime to play .mkv files.

A quick and easy solution to how to play .mkv files is to install Perian, which makes QuickTime play .avi, .flv, and .mkv files and handles many different and popular encoding formats for video.

Perian for QuickTime

Remember to fully quit and re-launch QuickTime after installing Perian (don’t just close the QuickTime window, it’s still running until you Quit the program). This allows QuickTime to reload its list of handled formats and encodings.

When double clicking on an .mkv file to play it, you may have to wait until the entire film is buffered in QuickTime before it will play smoothly.  You can tell the progress of the buffering by looking at the grey timeline bar that is inching across the bottom left of the QuickTime window, starting near the 00:00 time marker. This is one of the oddities of the .mkv Matroska video package format. Don’t ask me why this happens, just keep this in mind next time you want to watch an mkv video on your Mac use Perian.

Quicktime under Mac OS X Leopard can’t play movie or video files saved in .avi format encoded with DivX format without a little help. Also if you get no sound from avi files on your Mac, the following avi audio codec will solve that problem for you.

Here’s what you need to make Quicktime on Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) play .avi movie files:

Quicktime Video Codec – Free Xvid Quicktime Component for DivX codec avi files

Quicktime Audio Codec – A52 avi audio codec for Quicktime

Download both of these disk image files (.dmg) and double click them to mount these files (make them visible and accessible through Finder as another Device (top left hand corner of Finder) on your Mac.

Next we need to put these components into the right folders. Within Finder, click on the Xvid Alpha device. Within this Finder window, you should see a file named Xvid_Codec 1.0 alpha.component. You need to copy and paste this item into /Library/QuickTime/ folder on your Mac. The easiest way to find this folder is click on the first device (looks like a metal hard disk) within Finder (mine is called Leopard), then find the folder named Library, and within that, another folder named QuickTime. Paste the Xvid Alpha file into this folder (or drag and drop it if you have two Finder windows open).

QuickTime Codecs avi divx

For the audio part of playing .avi files in QuickTime you need to place the A52 codec component into /Library/Audio/Plug-ins/Components/ folder. Luckily the author of the A52 audio codec for playing avi files in Mac made shortcuts right within the .dmg file for A52 Codec. When you double click the A52Codec .dmg file you’ll see two huge arrows pointing from the codec files to the folders they should be dropped into so simply drag and drop the two files into the folders (which are actually shortcuts to the correct folders on your Mac machine).

If you want QuickTime to recognize and play Dolby AC3 encoded audio from movies, copy the AC3MovieImport component into the /Library/QuickTime folder as well. This definitely won’t hurt and you’ll probably enjoy it later.

After this if you already have QuickTime running, Quit QuickTime (Command + Q), don’t just Close it, since QuickTime will still be running in the background. You need to fully quit QuickTime and restart it for the codecs to be loaded by QuickTime, so this step is necessary.

After all this try double-clicking your .avi movie file again and see if both audio and video are now being displayed by QuickTime.

Of course you can skip all this downloading and divx encoding nonsense, sign up for blockbuster total access, get 1 month free and rip to your heart’s content. It’s a nice way to build up a collection I hear…

Enjoy your movies.

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