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In the past, we've been able to get codecs for DivX/XviD/MPEG4 and support for containers like AVI, MKV in Mac OS X's Quick Look feature using Perian (as per this question).

As noted on the Perian site, development has ceased, and future versions may or may not continue to work. It seems with the upgrade to OS X 10.9 "Mavericks", the OS or Quick Look API has changed sufficiently that Perian no longer works.

Are there any alternatives? Ideally a one-app-does-all like Perian, but even a list of individual codecs and/or plug-ins for video container files would be useful.

NB: This question isn't about video players—there are many that support more than those playable via the built-in QuickTime player. This question is about codecs/plug-ins for QuickTime on OS X to allow it and Quick Look (and apps which rely on the OS to play videos) to open/play video files/formats lacking native support.

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I've uploaded QuickLook and Spotlight plugins here: https://github.com/Marginal/QLVideo/wiki . These allow Finder to display thumbnails, static previews, cover art and metadata for most types of video files, including .asf, .avi, .flv, .mkv, .rm, .webm, .wmf etc.

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    Good start, an obvious improvement would be playback of videos rather than just viewing a static poster image in QuickLook.
    – Marcel
    Sep 1, 2014 at 2:22
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    Sadly not possible - the current QuickLook / AVFoundation APIs don't allow it. (See Issue #3 for a discussion).
    – Marginal42
    Sep 1, 2014 at 12:09
  • QLVideo showed thumbnails in Quicklook but it also turned embedded .gifv videos in Safaris into thumbnails (for example, on imgur). I do NOT recommend it Mar 2, 2015 at 11:09
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    @ILiΛSKΛЯiM - Safari doesn't use QuickLook to display videos, so QLVideo is not the cause of your problem. e.g. this page still renders fine in Safari on Mavericks and Yosemite when QLVideo is installed. Check your QuickTime plugin settings in Safari -> Preferences -> Security, or your ClickToPlugin settings if your have that Safari extension installed. If you'd still like to raise a bug report against QLVideo please do so here.
    – Marginal42
    Mar 7, 2015 at 14:19
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"QuickTime on Mavericks" is not QuickTime anymore - it is "AV Foundation". QuickLook and QuickTime Player are based on this "new QuickTime".

"AV Foundation" comes from iOS, was implemented for Mac OS X too and does not offer extensions (and will never) like codecs / plugins. As Apple says: anything else than MPEG-4 (H.264) is old stuff and must be converted.

In my opinion, it is confusing for users that Apple is still using the name "QuickTime". Because Mavericks still contains the "old QuickTime".

QTKit is a bridge between the old QuickTime and the new QuickTime. It is not deprecated and contains a video converter. This way incompatible video formats can be converted to MPEG-4.

In other words: follow Apple's plan and convert all your videos. Then QuickLook will be available for you.

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This has to be the single most annoying change in Mavericks. From what I Understand the new version of Quicktime is not well enough documented to allow this development yet.

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  • Interesting standpoint that the problem is Quicktime documentation. I don't see any indication that the current documentation is preventing development of Quick Look plug in - developer.apple.com/search/… Where did you get your understanding of this being on Apple instead of third party developers finding funding or time to keep the Perian project current? It's clear parts of QTkit were deprecated and all developers using that code needs to re-work things for AVkit per this note: developer.apple.com/library/mac/technotes/tn2300/_index.html
    – bmike
    Jan 7, 2014 at 17:27
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    Also - I hope I don't come across as hostile. It's great to explain why something old no longer runs, but I think the Perian devs knew of the coming change for years before it was put in place and made an informed decision to let the code go unchanged to cope with changes they knew were on the horizon.
    – bmike
    Jan 7, 2014 at 17:57
  • @bmike I think what OP meant is that, the AVFoundation plugin API (which does exist, Apple software such as Final Cut uses it) is undocumented, hence the lack of any third party video codecs. QuickLook generators (unlike QuickLook Display plugins, which are also undocumented) cannot be animated, so that path is also blocked. Jul 21, 2022 at 19:59
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Since this question is for Mavericks, you can do:

sudo mv /System/Library/Frameworks/Quartz.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/QuickLookUI.framework/Versions/A/PlugIns/Movie.qldisplay /System/Library/Frameworks/Quartz.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/QuickLookUI.framework/Versions/A/PlugIns/AVFoundationMovie.qldisplay && ln -s /System/Library/Frameworks/Quartz.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/QuickLookUI.framework/Versions/A/PlugIns/LegacyMovie.qldisplay /System/Library/Frameworks/Quartz.framework/Frameworks/QuickLookUI.framework/PlugIns/Movie.qldisplay

On Mavericks, this will bring back animated QuickLook previews for any format that has a QuickTime plugin.

For some reason, Apple left a QuickLook Display plugin in Mavericks called LegacyMovie.qldisplay which uses QuickTime instead of AVFoundation, and thus supports more types of media. However, QuickLook doesn't use this plugin, it uses the AVFoundation-based Movie.qldisplay instead.

The above terminal command renames Movie.qldisplay to AVFoundationMovie.qldisplay (so you have a backup) and then symlinks LegacyMovie.qldisplay to Movie.qldisplay, so QuickLook will use the QuickTime-based version. (LegacyMovie.qldisplay will still be available at its original location for anything that actually uses it. I am not clear as to whether anything does.)

With the above command and my updated FFusion QuickTime plugin, I'm able to view H265 and even VP9 videos in QuickLook! (As long as the video is 1080p or below; even unmodified QuickLook doesn't appear to like 4K regardless of the codec.)

I think this might work on slightly newer OSs? I'm not sure when Apple got rid of LegacyMovie.qldisplay. It definitely won't work on Catalina, since the QuickTime framework is 32bit. Note that on 10.11 and above, you would need to (temporarily) disable System Integrity Protection.

Sorry I saw this question eight years too late!

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  • The question is perhaps not so relevant anymore, but I love that you came up with a solution! Jan 17, 2023 at 0:33
  • This method did not work for me on macOS 13.6 Ventura. I get an error saying "Read-only file system".
    – jsavin
    Oct 5, 2023 at 22:34
  • @jsavin "It definitely won't work on Catalina, since the QuickTime framework is 32bit" Ventura is even newer than Catalina (substantially so, in fact). Oct 5, 2023 at 23:33
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I highly recommend qlMoviePreview.

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