Under The Microscope

What’s New in Airfoil Video Player 4

The release of Airfoil 4 this week brings many new features. One of the biggest is a completely revamped Airfoil Video Player. I want to give you a tour of what’s new in Airfoil Video Player 4 so that you can get the most out of this major upgrade.

Airfoil Video Player is an integral part of Airfoil, which allows you to send audio all around your house. The video player allows you to watch videos on your Mac while sending the audio remotely to other (better) speakers, all in sync.

AVP in action

If you haven’t used it before, you can get to Airfoil Video Player simply by selecting it from Airfoil’s source menu:

20101217AVP4/airfoil-avp-in-source.png

Select Airfoil Video Player there, transmit to a remote speaker (or activate the local Computer speaker) and it will automatically launch.

Airfoil Video Player's Local Mode

The first thing you may notice is Airfoil Video Player’s new modes. We now provide specialized controls for playing a local file (QuickTime movies, AVIs, and more), playing a DVD, and playing web video.

A Look at Web Mode

Web video mode is completely new, and brings support for YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and much more. Web mode is the biggest new feature of Airfoil Video Player 4, and required a great deal of wizardry to make possible. But with literally hundreds of requests for it since we first released Airfoil Video Player, we knew it would be worth it.

Upon switching to Web Video mode, you’ll see an introductory screen with shortcuts to some popular sites.

Airfoil Video Player's Web Mode

You can click one of those, enter your own URL in the address bar at the top, or drag a URL in from Safari or any other browser. From there, it acts just like a regular web browser.

Well, almost like a regular web browser. There is one exception to that, which is the whole reason this thing exists in the first place: when you’re not interacting with the program, everything on the site you’re viewing is delayed. This is done to precisely match the audio delay required by AirPlay for audio. That means that if you load a YouTube video (or any other video) and let it play through Airfoil, the local video will be synchronized with the remote audio.

Accomplishing this delay was tricky, to say the least. We use WebKit to display web content, the same rendering engine as used in Apple’s Safari. However, WebKit has nothing to provide the sort of video delay that AVP needs. In order to do that, the real web view is hidden, and then AVP continually captures the contents as an image, saves these images away, and then draws them after a precisely-timed delay1. Although this was difficult to pull off, we’re highly pleased to be able to provide this feature.

Interface Updates Too

We also spent some time improving the looks of Airfoil Video Player. The user interface for video controls in local file and DVD mode have been completely revamped. The old controls were done entirely by yours truly, and while I’m a pretty decent programmer, I’m not exactly the world’s best designer. The new controls were designed by our in-house specialist Christa, who has a much better shot at being the world’s best designer. The result is a vast improvement in looks.

AVP's controls

Christa also designed the new modes-based UI of Airfoil Video Player and the controls for web mode, all of which make the program nicer to look at and nicer to use.

Closing

That’s it for the tour. We hope that you’ll be able to get good use of the new web mode, and also enjoy the new look of Airfoil Video Player 4. If you haven’t done so yet, you can get Airfoil 4 right here.


Footnotes:

1. The local file and DVD modes work in a similar fashion, playing media in real time, capturing the contents, and then playing the video back on a delay. However, while the idea is the same, the implementation for Web mode is very different.

3 Responses to “What’s New in Airfoil Video Player 4”

  1. Daniel says:

    While it’s nice that you’ve managed to implement this, I have to say it is not a workable solution. The processing load involved is unsurprisingly pretty high, and means that even on my mid-2009 MacBook Pro, I can’t play 1080p video. If this is really the only way this delay can be achieved, then so be it, it’s just a bit of a shame.

    Keep up the good work on Airfoil though!


  2. Paul Kafasis says:

    Daniel: It is the only way to do this, yes. As far as “not being workable”, we’re certainly sorry if it’s not workable for you. That said, we’ve heard from many, many users who are enjoying it already, so the issue isn’t quite as broad as you might think

    1080p content is going to be a struggle, but given enough time (and speed increases), that too will work well.


  3. Philip says:

    Wow this looks fantastic. I really would love to see an Airfoil Video player for Windows.


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