If you create video content on a Mac, but you need it to be played back on a PC at a live event, you may run into the situation where you are using a PC app that doesn’t play back .mov files (yes, it happens – especially if the app is built on the windows media player framework….like most PC song projection apps are!)
Here are a few options…
First thing to mention is that the .mov file is a ‘container’ format that can contain video in quite a range of different ‘flavours’ (using different codecs). This is similar to the .AVI format on PCs. So This question isn’t just about file formats but about codecs as well, so there’s more things to worry about than just .mov to .avi.
There are three basic approaches to this issue:
- Configure the PC to play .mov files
- Convert the .mov files on the PC
- Convert the files on the mac then transfer to the PC.
Playing .mov files on the PC
For the first option, obviously you can install a media player that DOES play .mov files.
- The Apple Quicktime Player Pro ($29) – The pro version lets you play fullscreen clips
- The VLC player
- Assorted other shareware media players.
This is OK for the occasional clip that you can cue up in advance, but let’s assume that you are already using some other windows media based app to play back video clips and you just want to integrate .mov files.
So another option is to install a ‘Quicktime alternative’ codec set that claims to let you play .mov files in windows media player (or any app that uses it). Check out free-codecs.com or codecguide.com for some examples but bear in mind that these may not support all possible codec versions used by Apple on the Mac side, and in all cases you should definitely try this out before the gig.
If this doesn’t work then there are still the other two options…
Convert the .mov files on the PC
There are dozens and dozens of shareware or commercial apps that CLAIM to convert .mov to .avi or similar – just try a google search if you don’t believe me. There is a BIG caveat here, which is that it’s quite possible to put together a converter app that only supports some subset of the full range of codecs that can be contained in a .mov file, so beware. Also quality can vary wildly.
But what if you don’t even have access to the PC in question until the day of the show? Is there a ‘safe’ way to ensure that you clip will DEFINITELY play on any modern PC?
Yes there is….
Convert the files on the mac then transfer to the PC.
Rather than saving files as .mov files on the Mac, you can export them to a file format that is definitely recognised by windows media.
This would include:
- .mpg – with MPEG1 compression..but MPEG1 compression is pretty lame nowadays.
- .m2t – MPEG2 transport steam – this can be either SD or HD. To create .m2t files on a mac you need a free utility called MPEG Streamclip which also does other interesting things like extracting audio and video from .VOB DVD files. Note that the PC can only play .m2t files IF there is a suitable codec installed (i.e. if a DVD player app is installed) – there is no default MPEG2 codec in windows. There are various sources for MPEG2 codecs – both Cyberlink and Intervideo sell codec-only packages that work with Windows media player (and therefore with lots of song projection apps).
- .wmv – this is the native file format of windows media and is GUARANTEED to play on any recent PC with WinXP installed.
There’s really only one horse in town when it comes to .wmv conversion for Macs and that’s Flip4Mac Quicktime export components for WMV.
These have just been updated to version 2.1 with some export performance improvements, and they are now universal binaries, so will run natively on Intel-based Macs. These let you export WMV video from ANY (and yes, I really do mean ANY) Mac video app in one simple step and the results are pretty reasonable.
There are several different versions depending on what you need, ranging from free (playback of WMV only), through to full HD import and export, but if you are just doing this occasionally you can get off with the WMV Studio at $49 that lets you export WMV files using various preset configurations (including 16:9). The presets are a bit too agressive for my liking, and although you end up with small files, for live use I would prefer larger files and better quality. If you are doing it on a regular basis you would be well advised to go for the Studio Pro version that allows you to tweak the datarates and settings to get a better result for playback
We have used this method to play back converted .WMV clips on our Songshow Plus system and it works well.
So, there you go – some options, but I am sure there are others.
Please leave a comment below if you have successfully transferred .mov files and played them on a PC, or have some killer tools to enable this process.