Perian: A Cruel Mistress

Perian, the do-everything Quicktime component has been a godsend for Mac users looking to play windows-centric video formats on their Macs. But Perian giveth, and Perian taketh away.

A while back I wrote about how to build your own Perian with only the components you need. Recently, I started wondering whether that was really necessary, or if it was just me being a bit neck-beardish. So, earlier this week I switched Media Mill to a current version of Perian (1.1.2) and removed our DiVX decoder.

An interesting thing happened. I started seeing compressord crashes across the board. The crash logs indicated that it was a thread running Perian that was crashing. What was strange was that this was often happening on files that, as best as I can tell, shouldn’t have been decoded by Perian. For example, Quicktime files containing H264 video. While Perian does have a decoder for H264 (which supports advanced-profile h264 unlike Apple’s decoder) it shouldn’t preempty Apple’s decoder in this case.

I haven’t gone digging in the Perian codebase to see what’s up with all of this, but my initial verdict was that rolling your own Perian, supporting only the codecs you can’t decode some other way is still the way to go.

There is a small (very small) part of me that’s inclined to setup a custom Perian build server with a nice webserver, wherein you could check boxes for the codecs you want and get a custom component.


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