The movie used in the screenshots below is Big Buck Bunny—a completely open-source generated and Creative Commons-licensed short movie.
Media Player Classic started out as a project to preserve the simplicity and lightweight playback of the old Windows Media Player while keeping codecs and features current for the present generation of video. The outcome is an extremely lightweight, free, portable, and self-contained video player that has built-in codecs for a wide variety of media playback. The upside of such a design is you can use it on a machine that doesn’t have the proper codecs installed for the video you want to watch. The downside is in some instances—although rare—it can conflict with an updated codec you have installed on your machine.
MPlayer (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Originally designed to fill the void of a lack of adequate Linux media players, the development for the robust media player MPlayer has branched out and now includes versions for Windows and Mac, among others. MPlayer supports a wide variety of content and, perhaps owing to its Linux roots, pays extra close attention to hardware and hardware optimization to squeeze the most playback power out of your system.
GOM Player is another entrant in this week’s Hive that, like VLC, excels at playing damaged and incomplete video. Originally designed as the streaming media player for GOM-TV, a Korean TV network, it is available outside of Korea with the GOM-TV streaming functionality disabled—although folks outside Korea still have access to the live streaming of StarCraft matches (StarCraft is so wildly popular among Koreans playing it is practically a national sport). GOM Player also includes a wide variety of sub-title tweaks, an important feature for a player from a country that consumes a lots of foreign media.
VLC (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
VLC is a media player with far-reaching appeal. It is available for over ten operating systems including systems as obscure as BeOS. Built with open-source code and fueled by free decoding and encoding libraries, it has a history of innovation and performance; it was, for example, the first player that could play back encrypted DVDs on Linux. VLC allows you to play incomplete or damaged videos, so you can decide if it is worth finishing a download or repairing a video file. VLC can also play a variety of formats not commonly supported by media players, such as a raw DVD ISO file or AVCHD—a format currently used by many HD camcorders. VLC is available as a portable application.
If you like all your media player’s settings at your fingertips, KMPlayer has a lot to offer. The right click context menu is absolutely enormous and gives you nearly instant access to all manner of settings, including screen ratio, playback speed, video bookmarking, filters, and other effects. You can set KMPlayer to change its skin based on what media type you’re playing or if you’re running it on a media center you can use an overlay skin to provide easy remote-based navigation. KMPlayer supports an extensive number of formats including DVD playback and is easily customized to your specific needs.