Perian – The Quicktime component based on the FFmpeg project.

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Today, there is abundance of video formats in the technology world, with each claiming to be the best. But for people dealing with videos, it has always been a problem to use different formats, download separate codecs to run them in their favourite players. However, Mac users can breathe a sigh of relief as, Quicktime, the Mac’s multimedia player has a video plug-in, named Perian, which is free (and also open source) and supports a huge range of multimedia codecs which includes DivX, FLV, AVI and many more.

The Perian plug-in is an implementation of the FFmpeg project. The FFmpeg is a software library that can record, convert, encode/decode, and steam video files in various formats. The FFmpeg software is made up in C, and comprises of several components, of which the Perian project uses two: libavcodec and libavformat.

The libavcodec is a library of different codecs for encoding and decoding of videos. It is free and licensed under LGPL. The libavformat is dependent on the libavcodec format and is also a library containing muxers and demuxers for different audio and video container formats.

However, the popularity of Perian lies in its ability to playback DivX formats. Without Perian, Quicktime users felt the problem of DivX files not playing in full screen, unless it is the pro version of Quicktime. However, with the installation of Perian, the Front Row, the Mac’s media center, would play DivX files in full screen mode. Moreover, with Perian installed in more than one computer, connected through a network, DivX files can be shared through the Front Row, across the network.

Although it enables Quicktime to play any video format users want it to play, it has some cons too. In case of MKV format, the user would have to wait for the buffering to finish in order to watch or export the file. However, the part that has already been buffered can be watch, and Perian normally buffers MKV files quite fast enough. Another thing that is considered to be a con for Perian is that it doesn’t support popular media formats like the OGG and Windows Media. However, Apple’s other product like Flip4Mac and XiphQT supports the Windows Media and the OGG codecs respectively.

The Perian plug-in is also used with Quicktime supported applications like NicePlayer and QTAmateur. The TV platform Miro and streaming application Airfoil also include Perian in their projects. The current version released by Apple is Perian 1.1.3.

Mac users never had it smoother. A player that can play most of the video formats is a great relieving thing for a user, and Quicktime have done with Perian as its component. And in turn, Perian has done it with the help of FFmpeg. In fact, Perian, branded as “The Swiss Knife of QuickTime” extends special thanks to the FFmpeg project.

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