We field a lot of troubleshooting calls over the course of a year from Mac-based art directors experiencing problems playing movie files sent to them by Windows-based clients, or viewing video clips from certain local TV news websites.

There are two essential (and free) utilities that will solve a host of incompatible video problems with Apple’s QuickTime utility. They are free to download, and easy to install. We recommend installing these on most Mac creative workstations.

Perian — Billed as the Swiss-Army knife for QuickTime. This open source plug-in for QuickTime includes a wide number of video codec files that enables your Mac to play most common video formats.

Filp4Mac WMV — Provides support for Microsoft’s Windows Media files (WMV) — one of the few video formats Perian doesn’t support. The free version allows you to play most WMV files. You can pay to unlock additional options for exporting and converting WMV files into other formats.

Note: Perian requires Mac OS X 10.4.7. Both utilites are compatible with Mac OS X Leopard.

Source: This tip inspired by support calls over the years from a variety of clients, including long-time client Sarah Watson Design in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood. Includes material from MacApper blog. These utilities were profiled in the July 2007 and January 2008 issues of Design Tools Monthly.