Linux Video Playback

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Revision as of 17:53, 12 October 2009 by Theholyduck (talk | contribs) (just fixing some style things)
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This article explains the best video playback options for Linux and provides installation instructions.

List of recommended players


Compiling MPlayer from source

The PREFERRED way of installing mplayer is compiling from source, due to the fact that every linux distro ships various levels of horribly outdated versions of it. the reasons for compiling from a new mplayer source are many:

  • vdpau support, (gpu decoding)
  • better ffh264 asm (faster decoding)
  • newer libass (better subtitle rendering)
  • no need for external windows codecs for some files anymore
  • various bug-fixes

The preferred source repository among actual users is uau's git for the following reasons

  • It has ordered chapters support (which a lot of modern dvd/bluray rips use)
  • It can be compiled with ffmpeg-mt (multithreaded decoding)
  • It uses svn libass, (even better subtitle rendering)
  • It's easier to compile
  • It includes various fixes for bad mplayer behavior

Howto compile for various distros is comming soon

Installing Mplayer from Distro reps

Perform the one of the following commands as root, depending on your distribution.

Debian based distributions (Includes Ubuntu)

aptitude install mplayer
Ubuntu PPA

Usually the version in ubuntu default repos is pretty old, you might want to check PPA for updated versions.


zypper in mplayer

Fedora/Red Hat based distributions

yum install mplayer

Arch Linux

pacman -S mplayer


emerge -ptva mplayer

MPlayer codecs

Not all distributions include the full set of mplayer codecs in their repositories. To install the full set follow these easy steps.
1. Download:
2. Extract with: tar xvf all-20071007.tar.bz2
3. Copy the codecs (but not the directory) to the MPlayer codec directory. Default is /usr/lib/win32

Debian/Ubuntu users:
1. Visit and add it as a package repository using the instructions in the red boxes.
2. sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude install mplayer w32codecs

NVidia vdpau

If you use nvidia GPU, be sure to install their latest binary drivers, as they offer offloading video decoding from CPU to GPU which provides far smoother playback, especially for h264 video, while keeping CPU usage at vero low level. Check your mplayer configuration to use both vdpau video codec (-vc) and video output (-vo). Type "mplayer -vo help" to list available outputs.


The upcoming (as of 2009.10.04) open source driver should provide hardware accelerated video decoding for R600+ based GPUs. This will happen probably sometime around linux 2.6.32 release.

MPlayer tweaks

These are some sample configuration files tailored for specific preferences. The MPlayer configuration file can be found at: (~/.mplayer/config)

For English audio preference, then Spanish, with 4 audio channels for surround sound files.


For Japanese audio preference, subtitles on. SDL A/V output for performence.

#Note: SDL video output does not work well with xinerama. Those wishing to watch video on a TV or other display should use "vo=xv"
#Not all files use the correct tags, so sometimes it will be necessary to switch audio streams manually or from the command line with "-aid x", where "x"   is the number of the audio stream.

MPlayer Tricks

MPLayer has a huge collection of filters included. Some of them are magical.

  • View styled subs, even if you only have plain subs:
    • mplayer -ass -embeddedfonts myvideo.ext
  • View external subs:
    • mplayer -ass -sub myvideo.ext
  • Play interlaced video without combing:
    • mplayer -vf pullup myvideo.ext
  • Increase saturation and contrast:
    • mplayer -vf eq2=0.8 myvideo.ext
  • Remove "mosquito" noise:
    • mplayer -vf hqdn3d myvideo.ext
  • Make crappy video look good:
    • mplayer -vf pp7 myvideo.ext
  • Combine:
    • mplayer -ass -embeddedfonts -vf pullup,eq2=0.8,unsharp=l3x3:0.2,hqdn3d myvideo.ext


MPlayer by itself is fine but SMPlayer provides an easy to use interface to MPlayer so it is a better choice for most. It contains a couple of nice features, including autosaving the playback position so you can continue watching your anime the next time you start it (this feature can be disabled of course). SMPlayer is not a player per se, it is just a GUI (QT) frontend for MPlayer, hence you still need MPlayer to actually play the video.

Installing SMPlayer


If you are using Debian Lenny/Sid or Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex (8.10), then you can simply

sudo apt-get install smplayer

Otherwise, you have 2 options:

  • Download the .deb file from the SMPlayer website or
  • Add the SMPlayer repository to your /etc/apt/sources.list.

8.04 (hardy):

deb hardy main

8.10 (intrepid):

deb intrepid main


You can find .rpm's via the search page.


Build from source. See below.

Arch Linux

pacman -S smplayer


emerge -ptva smplayer

Building from Source (Compiling)

Grab the tarball from the SMPlayer download page. Decompress it, cd into the directory, and run

sudo make install

If you don't have sudo installed/configured, then the last step will be instead

make install

SMPlayer tweaks

After installation you'll need to configure it a little: Start SMPlayer, open the options (Ctrl + P), go to the subtitles section, within the section go to the SSA/ASS library tab and check the check box for using SSA/ASS library. With this you can see the subtitle's colors and fonts (Note: the used fonts must be installed on the system for this).

If you see a black screen at playing, or the colors doesn't seems to be right, or the playing is too slow or wrong you may need to change the video rendering mode. To do this go to the options, general section, general tab, output drivers, Video, and set it to x11 - this will use software rendering. Alternatively you can use xv for XVideo rendering or either gl or gl2 for OpenGL rendering. In general you should try these options in the following order for best quality and performance: xv, gl2, gl and finally x11.