Media player

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The media player (English for media player or media player ) is a generic term for a group of computer programs . With programs of this kind, media content - such as video and audio data or, more rarely, individual images or graphics - can be reproduced on a computer .

These programs can often not be clearly distinguished from similar applications - such as an audio player , video player , streaming client or a picture viewer .

Principle and scope of functions

Architecture of a media player

Media players are computer programs that read data from various sources, decode it and then forward it to an output unit as uncompressed digital data . The control and surface or operation is often very different; In many products, various filters can be interposed, which have access to the uncompressed signal and can carry out various operations on it. Many players also offer the possibility of organizing multimedia content.

Examples are playing a DVD and playing MP3 or CD audio.

Apart from specialized or deliberately simple players, they often use a modular plug-in architecture in order to be as flexible as possible. These plug-ins work in a chain that is assembled internally in the program based on the user settings. The user can always access the individual components and give them commands. The individual functionalities are discussed in more detail below.


  • Loading filenames and urls into a playlist : this is standard; the user can specify sources and have them entered. These are then played back in sequence or randomly, as desired. You can simply click on an entry to start playback.
  • Management and storage of various playlists: Media players usually remember the sources that were last in the playlist. These lists can also be saved; When these lists are called up in a file browser, the media player is started and the entries contained are added to the playlist. Some players also offer the option of managing several playlists separately.
  • Management of the entire multimedia collection: Media players who want to support as many functions as possible can also search specified directories for multimedia data, read out the metadata contained and insert them into their own multimedia collection. This collection can be searched based on numerous criteria; you can also transfer selected sources to the playlist. A lot of additional data is also often stored, such as B. how often the source has been played, how it was judged and the like. In the background, the player tries to keep this multimedia collection up to date when new files are added or changed.

Reading in

  • From the file system : This is where files from data storage media, e.g. B. read from a hard drive , floppy disks of all kinds, USB mass storage devices and the like. In Unix- like operating systems, files in the virtual file system can also be on other computers; the data is transported transparently here.
  • External or analog inputs: Data can be read from the line-in or AUX input of the local sound card , e.g. B. from connected microphones or MIDI- enabled instruments such. B. Keyboards .
  • From built-in devices: The usual sources here would be the CD or DVD drive built into the computer , which delivers data from the inserted data carrier . Other cases would be e.g. B. receiving TV broadcasts via a TV card or the live transmission of data from a digital video camera connected via FireWire .
  • Via the network from other computers: This is known as streaming and mostly refers to the live transmission of content via specialized network protocols such as SHOUTcast , Icecast , RTP / RTCP / RTSP , VideoLAN or RealMedia . However, it is also not possible to load files specially designed for files - as is the case with a normal download from the Internet - via the usual HTTP or FTP protocols and then play them live as best as possible.

Decode / decompress

  • Support of various container and audio / video formats: Multimedia data are often packed in special containers that are selected depending on the intended use and distribution or target audience. It is similar with the audio and / or video data contained in the container.
    Containers usually contain metadata about the data they contain, such as: B. synchronization data ( time codes ) for the audio / video synchronization, which languages ​​are included for the video material and the usual data about artist, title, album, etc. Modern containers can contain audio and video data in various combinations and numbers, as well as DVD- like data Menus, subtitles and chapter information; It is also possible and practice to pack entire containers together with their contents.
    The standard container formats should be mentioned here: the outdated but widespread AVI format, the currently most modern Matroska format, the Ogg format , which is well suited for streaming, and the range of MPEG containers ( MPEG-1 , MPEG-2 and MP4 ). There are also numerous other container formats.
    The data contained is usually compressed and the rest of the data is encoded in a special format in order to save as much space as possible and to optimize it for various purposes (e.g. for streaming capability , error correction, low computational effort when decoding). In order to decode and decompress the data, a program library - also often called a codec - is usually required. The viewing version is always provided for free and is easy to install. However, some manufacturers are also deliberately restrictive with regard to the expandability of their programs, for example in order to distribute their own data formats.
    Important data formats for video are e.g. B. DivX , Xvid , MPEG-1 , MPEG-2 , Windows Media , RealMedia , QuickTime , FLV , X264 and Ogg Theora . In the audio sector, the most important formats that should be supported are the following: MP3 , Wave raw data, Ogg Vorbis , AAC and possibly Windows Media Audio .
  • Reading out metadata ( tags ): Much multimedia content includes information about the content, such as B. Title, artist / artist / band, album, track number, language or composer. This information is called metadata (Greek meta about something, describing something) or after the English term tags (English for label or lettering). These tags are usually displayed instead of the file name or URL , if any . Each format or each container format has its own tag format. Probably the best-known tag format is ID3 , which is used for MP3 files.
  • Multi-channel support: Support of the most important multi-channel formats, e.g. B. Dolby , AC3 , but also simply several parallel audio channels within an audio container, e.g. B. Ogg Vorbis. The forwarding to filter and output plug-ins must be carried out correctly and possibly converted, if z. B. only a stereo output is available or an external digital amplifier ( output stage ) is used, which expects data in an understandable multi-channel format.
  • Decoding in locally usable format: This includes the expansion of data that is available in a variable bit rate into an uncompressed format with a constant bit rate ( RIFF WAVE ). Other cases are the implementation in a different binary number representation ( big endian, little endian ), a different paragraph frequency or size of the audio samples.


MilkDrop screenshot (v1.04d): a visualization plug-in by Ryan Geiss for the Winamp media player
  • Visualizations : These are graphic structures that move in rhythm with the music and are constantly changing. Often the color and the visualization change among themselves.
  • Normalization : This is an adjustment of the volume so that all songs are played back equally loud. Normalization can be done to a specific set level or according to the metadata contained (e.g. replay gain ).
  • Digital signal processing (DSP): This includes the addition of e.g. B. moderator announcements, inserting transitions between audio files and applying various effects, e.g. B. Remove voices ( karaoke mode), low pass, high pass, distortion, dynamic or deep bass.
  • Pre-amplification and audio profiles: Also known as an equalizer , audio signals can be digitally pre-amplified or weakened depending on the frequency range; you can often select different audio profiles here, e.g. B. rock, classical, pop or techno.


  • On local output devices: The normal case is certainly the local output on the screen and on a built-in sound card via appropriate program libraries and drivers , depending on the operating system . The correct use of the capabilities of the devices and device drivers (especially hardware accelerations) as well as good synchronization between audio and video are important here - after all, audio and video go via different paths, but should be output in such a way that the user perceives the playback as simultaneous.
  • Broadcast to streaming server : Sometimes implemented as filter plug-ins, it is possible to convert (encode) the output into a compressed format and send this audio and / or video data to a central streaming server from where A potentially large number of listeners (or viewers) can pick up and listen to / view this data in real time.
  • In the file system : This standard functionality allows uncompressed audio and possibly video data to be saved in the file system (e.g. on the hard drive). This is also called dumping , these files are dumps. They are often used for further processing or compression.
  • Recompression: In some cases, recompression into another format can also be carried out directly ( transcoding ). The computer must be fast enough to be able to compress at least in real time. This function is also often implemented as a filter plug-in .


  • Different user interfaces: Different interfaces are available depending on the purpose, target audience and operating system. These range from text-based and widget- based to fully graphic or even three-dimensional surfaces. Often it is also possible to hide various elements, e.g. B. the playlist, the visualization or even a possibility of resizing, in which case different amounts of information are displayed, e.g. B. a full mode and a reduced compact mode.
  • Customizable appearance ( skins ): With fully graphic media players, a popular feature is the support of skins. Here the appearance (fonts, colors, buttons) and possibly even the behavior of the entire surface is changed. Today there are skins for almost every taste.
  • Alternative control methods: In addition to keyboard and / or mouse operation, some players also support alternative control methods such as B. via infrared remote controls or configurable key combinations . The use of multimedia keys on Internet and multimedia keyboards is now widespread. Control is often offered via an icon in the system tray .
  • Navigation between and within audio tracks: Of course, it is important to jump between different multimedia sources (e.g. between files), but also between chapters and between the individual audio tracks contained (e.g. between German and English).


There is a wide choice of both proprietary and free software .

designation Audio Video operating system License Library
1by1 Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
AlbumPlayer Yes No Windows proprietary ? ?
AIMP Yes No Windows proprietary ( freeware ) ? ?
Amarok Yes No Linux_ , Windows (beta version [1] ), Mac OS X (beta version [2] ) GPL Yes Yes
Aqualung Yes No Linux GPL ? ?
aTunes Yes No Mac OS X , Windows, Linux, Solaris GPL ? ?
AVS media player Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
banshee Yes Yes Linux, Mac OS X, Windows WITH Yes Yes (only in library)
BearShare Yes No Windows proprietary ? ?
Beep media player Yes No POSIX compatible GPL ? ?
BS.Player Yes Yes Windows proprietary ? ?
Clementine Yes No Linux, Mac OS X, Windows GPL ? ?
cmus Yes No POSIX compatible GPL Yes No
Core Media Player Yes Yes Windows proprietary ( shareware ) ? ?
DSPlayer Yes Yes Windows GPL ? ?
Emat Yes No Windows GPL ? ?
Evil Player Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Exaile Yes No Linux GPL Yes ?
FLV media player Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
foobar2000 Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
GOM player Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
GreenForce player Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
HDngn No Yes Windows GPL ? ?
iMesh Yes Yes Mac OS X, Windows proprietary ? ?
IrfanView Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware for private users) ? ?
IVIVO Yes Yes Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Palm OS , Symbian OS , Windows Mobile proprietary (freeware) ? ?
iTunes Yes Yes Mac OS X, Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
J. River Media Center Yes Yes Windows proprietary (shareware) ? ?
J. River Media Jukebox Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Jajuk Yes No Windows, Mac OS X, Linux GPL Yes Yes
jetAudio Yes Yes Windows proprietary ? ?
Caffeine Yes Yes POSIX compatible GPL No No
Kantaris Media Player Yes Yes Windows open source code (based on VLC ) ? ?
KMPlayer Yes Yes Windows, Linux (plugin) proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Kodi Yes Yes Xbox , Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, Apple TV GPL / LGPL Yes No
Liconcomp Yes Yes Windows from XP Apache license 2.0 ? ?
LoomTV Player Yes Yes Windows from XP, Mac OS X proprietary (freeware) ? ?
MediaMonkey Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) Yes Yes
Media Player Classic Yes Yes Windows GPL ? ?
Miro Media Player Yes Yes Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD GPL Yes No
mufin player Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Music Player Daemon Yes No Linux GPL ? ?
MPlayer Yes Yes POSIX compatible, Mac OS X, Windows GPL No No
Mpxplay Yes No DOS , Windows GPL ? ?
MusikCube Yes No Windows GPL ? ?
Napster Yes No Windows proprietary ? ?
Nero ShowTime Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Ogle No Yes POSIX compatible GPL ? ?
PotPlayer Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
PowerDVD Yes Yes Windows proprietary ? ?
QuickTime Player Yes Yes Mac OS X, Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Quintessential Player Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
RealPlayer Yes Yes Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Palm OS , Symbian OS , Windows Mobile proprietary (freeware) ? ?
Rhythmbox Yes No POSIX compatible GPL Yes No
Silverjuke Yes No Mac OS X, Windows, Linux GPL Yes Yes
SMPlayer Yes Yes Linux, Mac OS X, Windows GPL No No
Songbird Yes Yes Linux (no longer supported), Mac OS X, Windows GPL ? ?
Spider Player Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
SPMediaPlayer Yes Yes Linux, Mac OS X, Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
SysTrayPlay Yes No Windows GPL ? ?
Teen spirit Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
tomahawk Yes No Linux, Mac OS X, Windows GPL Yes Yes
totem Yes Yes POSIX compatible GPL Yes No
Tray player Yes No Windows proprietary ? ?
Veron Yes Yes Windows Freeware ? ?
VISh4 media player Yes Yes Linux, Windows, proprietary (freeware) ? ?
VLC media player Yes Yes Linux, Unix , Windows, Mac OS X, BeOS , BSD GPL Yes No
Winamp Yes Yes Windows, AmigaOS (there Amiamp), Mac OS (there Macamp) proprietary Yes ?
Windows Media Player Yes Yes Windows, Mac OS X, Windows Mobile proprietary (freeware) Yes Yes
WinDVD No Yes Windows proprietary ? ?
Xine Yes Yes Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris , IRIX , Mac OS X GPL No No
XMMS Yes No POSIX compatible GPL ? ?
XMPlay Yes No Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?
XULPlayer Yes Yes Windows open source code ? ?
Yahoo! Music Jukebox (formerly MusicMatch Jukebox ) Yes No Windows proprietary ? ?
Zero MusicPlayer Yes No Windows proprietary ? ?
Zinf Yes No Linux, Windows GPL ? ?
Zoom Player Yes Yes Windows proprietary (freeware) ? ?

Web links

Wiktionary: Mediaplayer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Mediaplayer  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files