Linux Video Playback

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This article explains the best video playback options for Linux and provides installation instructions.

List of recommended players


Installing MPlayer

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

Debian based distributions (Includes Ubuntu)

aptitude install mplayer


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

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 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).

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.