First off, let me say that I am a big fan of Quicktime, the standard multimedia format/container by Apple Computer. Of course, the quality of an encoded video or audio file depends on the source material, who is doing the encoding, and what settings were used, but in my experience, Quicktime is capable of producing high quality output. As well, the Quicktime Player is a nice player. It’s certainly nothing you would want to use to organize your music or videos, but for simple playback, it’s almost always my player of choice if I’m using a Mac.
My main gripe with the Quicktime Player is that it has all kinds of features (the ability to play video files full screen, edit audio and video, as well as convert it to other formats), but that those features aren’t available unless you purchase a $29.95 Quicktime PRO license. Now, I think the thirty dollars might actually be worth it, but it bugs me that an integral part of the operating system’s multimedia experience, written by the same people who wrote my operating system (and built the computer!), should be shipped as shareware.
However, I recently stumbled across an audio/video player that may someday replace Quicktime Player on my computer. The name of the program is ReelBean, and while it is also shareware, I think the price asked for (a mere 15 dollars… half as much as Apple wants for Quicktime Pro), is a great deal, especially considering that ReelBean has most of the same capabilities, and even a few neat features that Quicktime Pro lacks.
First of all, you can certainly use ReelBean for free. All the basic features work as expected, and there is no 30-day demo period, after which the program ceases to work. There is also no nag screen, begging you – each time you start the program – to pay for it. If you want to use the free features, great. So, what can ReelBean do?
Play your audio and video files. Out of the box, ReelBean can play more formats than can Quicktime Player, including Ogg Vorbis (for all you open source fans out there). In addition, while Mac computers come with a DVD Player, but ReelBean offers this function as well, which means you now only need one program – ReelBean – instead of both Quicktime Player and DVD Player.
And what do you get if you pay the fifteen dollar shareware license? A whole lot of exporting and editing options. ReelBean comes with quite a few presets, so if you have a video you want to share, you can do that with only a couple clicks of the mouse. ReelBean comes with the ability to convert audio and video to 3G, Windows Media, AIFF, FLC, iPod, Apple TV, iPhone, Quicktime Movie, Hinted Movie, AU, AVI, Wave, DV Stream, Quicktime Media Link, and Image Sequence, or standard MPEG4 video.
It can also strip out unwanted “parts” of a video file, so if you receive a movie that has multiple audio tracks, you can remove the ones you don’t want. Conversely, you can add a new audio track to a video, so if you’ve already created a video of your favorite slides (converted a bunch of iPhoto images to an Image Sequence), you can choose your favorite song to accompany your new slideshow.
The PRO version of ReelBean can also combine multiple movies into one, as well as splitting a long video into many parts. And if you have an older Mac (this feature is not yet available for Intel Macs, according to the help file), you can take a video (anything but MPEG1 Muxed), and strip the audio track to AIFF, and then immediately import it into your iTunes library as MP3, WAV or AAC. So if someone has sent you a great music video, you can strip out the music and listen to it in only a couple clicks!
As mentioned, ReelBean is shareware, just like Quicktime PRO. But in my mind, the fifteen dollars for what ReelBean offers is a much better deal than the thirty dollars asked for by Apple for Quicktime PRO. But, of course, your mileage may vary. If you’d like to try out ReelBean, you can download it from here.