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How to play any kind of movie on a mac including AVI files

Playing AVI files on a mac


I was recently given a keynote presentation which contained a movie. When I played the presentation the sound worked but the movie was blank. It turned out the movie was not in a format that Quicktime could play. There are many such formats. When I tried to play the movie in Quicktime I got an error saying ‘The document could not be opened. The movie is not in a format that QuickTime Player understands.You may need to install additional software to open this type of file.’ 

Here’s what to do.

To play movies in Keynote, iMovie etc:

Perian is a handy free program that allows your mac to play almost any movie format, including AVI files from a Windows computer. Perian just sits in the background and allows other programs (like Keynote) to play movies that they wouldn’t normally be able to play.  It claims to play all the following movie formats: AVI, DIVX, FLV, MKV, GVI, VP6, and VFW, MS-MPEG4 v1 & v2, DivX, 3ivx, H.264, Sorenson H.263, FLV/Sorenson Spark, FSV1, VP6, H263i, VP3, HuffYUV, FFVHuff, MPEG1 & MPEG2 Video, Fraps, Snow, NuppelVideo, Techsmith Screen Capture and DosBox Capture.

You can download it for free from To install it simply click on the icon and it will install itself as a Preference Pane. It sits in the background – you don’t need to do anything. Your normal programs such as Keynote and Quicktime will now be able to play any movie format. You will need to quit and restart Quicktime or Keynote after you install Perian.

To watch movies in your screen in a player.

Perian won’t play every movie.  Perian won’t play wmf files and some kinds of AVI movies. To play all files try out VLC for Mac OS X.  VLC is awesome and allows you to watch any movie. The only problem with VLC is that it only allows you to watch the movie in it’s own player, not in Keynote or other programs.

33 replies on “How to play any kind of movie on a mac including AVI files”

Sam – what type of file is it? You can use something like mpeg streamclip (google it, download, install it) and try to convert it to a file type that perian or quicktime can read.

Perian is typically great for playing…well, everything. But I just came across a codec that it doesn’t gel with: .libav (aka .libavcodec)

Here it is, broken down on Wikipedia:

This is one of the first times that Perian (or the potpourri of media players on my computer) has stumbled but I feel like it may be one of the things that causes the ‘ could not be opened. The movie is not in a format that QuickTime Player understands.You may need to install additional software to open ‘ error.


I think that this is also a work for the almighty VLC.

Yes, it’ll play everything.

Best regards,
José Nunes

Hi. Can anyone offer any advice?
When I try to open an avi file, quicktime says I need to install additional components.
However, if I right click and select “Get Info”, I can preview the movie no problem.
Why won’t quicktime open the file then?

I was having the same problem. I installed Perian, Quit Quicktime, relaunched QT, and now the clips play perfectly. As well, now they seem to work with proper previews in iMovieHD.

Thank you.


I am trying to play .avi files using quicktime. After downloading A52codec, I am able to play the video but not the audio. Then i downloaded Perian, but still only the video works but no audio. Anyone who could advice? thanks a lot, please write to me at


It wasn’t working out until I read the comments below and realized I had to quit QT. Now it works perfectly. Thanks!

I was suggested this website via my cousin. I am not positive whether or not this publish is written via him as nobody else recognise such particular about my trouble. You are wonderful! Thanks!

I made a .mov file with an animation program but cant open it with the same program or quicktime. I installed perian but still nothing. any help?

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