DVD Players

We compare features, convenience and performance of the leading DVD-playing software for Linux and cover some important tweaks for smooth playback.
About /dev/dvd

The players reviewed here all expect to find the default hardware mountpoint at /dev/dvd. Though they all also allow a user-specified location, I suggest making things easier by making /dev/dvd. Typically the drive itself actually is /dev/cdrom, so you may need to create a link from /dev/cdrom to /dev/dvd. Simply issue the following command (again as root) to make the link:

ln -sf /dev/cdrom /dev/dvd

If you have multiple CD/DVD-type drives, you need to specify the correct device number for /dev/cdrom; for example, mine is /dev/cdrom1 because my CD-RW drive sits at /dev/cdrom.

The Test DVDs

I tested the players with a variety of DVDs, all legitimately manufactured and purchased. My local library lends DVDs, many of which are in less-than-optimal condition, and they played fine on the test system, with the single exception of an incredibly bad duplication of Bruce Lee's Chinese Connection. I even was able to watch a truly awful DVD of dubious origin, a remarkable event given that our standalone DVD player wouldn't even recognize the disc in its drive. I'm happy to report that in all tests the options for subtitling, language selection, chapter jumps and skins worked.

Linux DVD Players

So your kernel is configured, the DVD drive is installed and connected, and you're ready to watch Shrek for the 40th time. All you need now is a player application, and happily Linux has some excellent DVD player software. The profiles below focus on four of the most popular players: MPlayer, Ogle, VideoLAN Client and xine. See the Freshmeat listings for other available players and DVD amenities.

Expectations

I've already used a standalone DVD player, so I expect to find most of its features in whatever software player I select. In the players reviewed here, I looked for support for these minimum features: standard transport controls (start, stop, pause, fast-forward and rewind), scene selection, subtitling and audio preferences and DVD menus. In addition to the amenities found on the standalone hardware player, I expect a software DVD player to switch from windowed to full-screen view easily and to offer random seek/relocate, keyboard control of all transport functions and skin support.

Most of my expectations were satisfied by the players I reviewed. See Table 1 for an overview of versions, features, licensing and CPU stress. All of them performed with excellent results, with no clear winner in the “Best Of” category. My advice is to try them all, then use the one(s) that seem best to you. In terms of weight, Ogle is the lightest (it's a DVD-only player) while the others all come in with about the same metric tonnage. Although I briefly described building the programs, the reader should check the player Web sites for available RPMs and other prepackaged binaries.

Table 1. Comparison Table of Linux DVD Players [*Indicates whether a GUI is an optional or default feature of the build process. **The figures shown represent average low-to-peak-CPU usage reported by gkrellm during play of the Blade Runner DVD. System load included XMMS, five active workspaces (under the Blackbox window manager) and an active DSL network connection running either Netscape or Opera.]

PlayerVersion TestedSubtitlesMenu SupportRandom SeekKeyboard ControlGUI*CPU Usage**License
MPlayer0.90YesNoYesYesOptional40%–50%GPL
Ogle0.9.1YesYesYesYesOptional20%–40%GPL
VideoLAN Client0.5.3YesYesYesYesDefault20%–30%GPL
xine1-beta12 (lib) 0.9.21 (ui)YesYesYesYesDefault20%–40%GPL
______________________

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

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Things have changed

Jason's picture

While this was a great article back when it was written, things have changed very much sense then. Installing DVD playback software is now much easier, and with a growing number of Distributions (Ubuntu for example) everything is pre-optimized for video and DVD playback. All the user needs to do is launch into the terminal and type the following (for Ubuntu)

$ sudo su
[password]
$ apt-get install libdvdread4 (this command is not required for 10.04 as 10 comes pre-loaded with libdvdread4. With mine it did anyways, not sure if thats the norm though.)
$ /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh (Installs libdvdcss2)
$ apt-get install vlc (Because the default video player in Ubuntu is a b**ch to get working with libdvdcss2... says you don't have it when you do).

And done. Watch DVDs to your hearts content.

Right you are. Infinitely

Dave Phillips's picture

Right you are. Infinitely easier than "back in the day". Oh well, at least there's some historical curiosity to the article. Thanks for the comment, Jason, I appreciate the read.

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

i m a new user of fedora 8

bhupendra yadav's picture

i dont know that how softwares are instlled in linux and how we can use software that are inbuild . and how java,sql,c,c++ programs run in linux. plz give me any solvable solution

NEWBIE step-by-step compile tutorial.

Harding Leite's picture

Howdy...I'm trying to spend more and more time on the Linux "side" of my dual-boot PC but don't have enough mileage yet using the Terminal and the command-line to perform functions such as the ones demanded to get a DVD player up and running (i.e., Xine, Mplayer, etc).

Can anyone point me at a newbie-geared tutorial on how to compile sources? Can it be done from within KDE or must be using comands from the console?

I'm using OpenSuse 10.1.

Thanks!
Harding Leite
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It works!

Anonymous's picture

Re: DVD Players

Anonymous's picture

I just can't understand the hardware requirements for DVD playback. What is the claims about >1GHz processor etc?

I had RedHat9 with vanilla 2.4.20-8 kernel, 450MHz Celeron, 320MB of RAM, Matrox Millennium G550 videocard, TerraTec DMX XFire 1024(Only stereo playback), Eizo 17" TFT and Plextor PX-116A DVD-drive.
First I didn't do any "optimization" for DVD playback, just hit xine and movies are running very smoothly at full-screen (1280x1024x32bit). DVD-drive was also working with 16bit I/O and DMA disabled. CPU load is approx. 60%.

I didn't notice much difference w/ 32bit I/O and DMA enabled.

-rushi, Finland

My wife would love this,

Scott1202's picture

My wife would love this, right now she’s going to have twins in July and she is pretty big, it would be nice if she could lay on the bed and watch some dvd’s in our bedroom, great. thank you!

Re: DVD Players

Anonymous's picture

Being new to Linux, I have been searching for a printed source of info on many things that have been vexing me. I found a source in your magazine ( the first one I have seen) which is the article on DVD players. I downloaded and compiled XINE, and after many tries I have finally got it to work. Somewhat. I still cannot get it to play many of my DVDs. I either get an error message, it locks up, or crashes. I have found that documentation for XINE, as well as many Linux programs, assumes that the user is a programmer. I would appreciate any help I could get on setting up XINE properly! I must say, I do not plan on ever going back to Windows and the daily, or more often, crashes that I suffered. Thank You for the article.
Michae Driver
daddy-d_rn@comcast.net

Re: DVD Players

Anonymous's picture

Hi Michael: You should write directly to the people at xine and describe your troubles to them. Perhaps you should join the mail-list or search its archive, you might find some users have had the same particular problems. When sending a report be sure to detail whatever error messages or reports occur after xine crashes, the developers will need that info. To make a good report you should indicate the version you have; be aware that xine comes in two pieces, the UI (user interface) and the player engine, so hopefully you can let the developers know what versions of the pieces you have. Btw, I use xine daily, I've had no problems with any discs or files except for some recent WMV files. I'm even able to play DVDs with regional codes from other countries, something our standalone player won't do. I truly hope you're able to get it working better, it's a wonderful program.

Dave Phillips

Re: DVD Players

Anonymous's picture

Great article! I was able to get the packages for xine, install them, and start watching my DVD's in under 30 minutes. I'm using SuSE 9.0 on an P-III/933Mhz, and it works flawlessly.
THANKS!

Re: DVD Players

Anonymous's picture

can't seem to find the resources for this article

Re: DVD Players

Anonymous's picture

Doncha love a new article with fresh borken links? Try this:
http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=7174

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