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Playing conversion-free AVI and QuickTime movies on the iPad

By  Oct 1, 2010

Topics: Gadgets & Computer Hardware

Apple’s recent approval of the VLC Media Player app now allows for playing native AVI and QuickTime movies on the iPad. I’ll overview Apple's recent change of heart on apps such as this one and discuss how easy it is to play these movie formats on the iPad.

Last week Apple approved and released the VLC Media Player app to the iTunes app store. With it, iPad users can now directly play AVI or QuickTime movies without having to convert them first to MP4 format used by the video player within iOS. This along with the approval of Opera and GV Connect apps indicate a relaxation of the stance Apple has had about duplicating features/functions already available within iOS. There is a good article by Techcrunch that provides further insight on Apple’s latest mood swing.

Background on the app
VLC Media Player is developed by Applidium and distributed for free on iTunes, but the core of the app is built upon the open source product VLC by VideoLan which has long been available for free for platforms such as Windows, Mac and Linux. It also supports playback of many different media formats and it’s the one I use on Mac OS X to play Microsoft media formats ASF, WMV, and WMA. To date, the iOS version is only available for the iPad, but rumors are that an iPhone version is forthcoming. I’d also like to see more video formats supported in the iOS version, especially WMV and WMA. Would that be pushing Apple too far to also allow for support of the Microsoft formats?

Quick How-to
Playing AVI and Quicktime files with VLC is really easy. The only tricky part is transferring the files to the iPad. If you’re already familiar with the iTunes app file sharing feature, then you should have no problems.

  • First, download and install VLC Media Player from iTunes.
  • Open iTunes and sync your iPad with iTunes
  • Select your iPad device in the device list and click on the Apps tab in iTunes
  • Scroll down to the File Sharing section under Sync Apps section
  • Select the VLC app in the Apps section

  • Click on the Add… button in the VLC Documents section

  • Browse to the location of the AVI or QuickTime file on your computer and select. iTunes will then sync the file to your iPad. Remember to keep your iPad connected when adding your files.
  • Once you are done loading files in iTunes, disconnect the iPad and launch the VLC media player on the iPad.
  • The player will show thumbnails of the movies you have synced to your iPad. Touch on the thumbnail to play. Depending on the size and complexity of your files, you may get a warning that your iPad may be too slow to play the file. Most of the time when I  select the “Try anyway” option it will play just fine.

Remember that the MP4 files that have been converted for iTunes are also usually optimized for the Apple devices. They play smoothly and are fairly efficient in filesize and should really be your long term solution if you plan on using the file frequently on the iPad. However, it’s a real timesaver to just be able to plop an AVI or QuickTime file straight to the iPad and not have to convert it.