Understanding MPlayer's etc/codecs.conf File
MPlayer features a very flexible codec architecture which allows it to
use its own open source codecs, as well as open source libraries, Win32
codec DLLs and other binary codec modules. To the MPlayer user, the
most visible piece of this architecture is the etc/codecs.conf file. This
is a text-based configuration file that controls which MPlayer components
are in charge of handling particular compressed data formats.
The codecs.conf file is stored either in a shared directory for all system
users to access, or in the .mplayer directory in a user's home
directory. When MPlayer starts, it first looks for a codecs.conf file in a
user's home directory. Failing that, it searches for the shared file. If
no codecs.conf file is found MPlayer falls back on its internal hardcoded
configuration. If the file is present but has syntax errors, MPlayer will
report the error.
The codecs.conf file is really quite simple. It is simply a collection of
codec definition blocks that define how different media types should be
handled. There are a number of keywords that can occur in a block. Not all
of them are required and no particular order is enforced.
You can edit codecs.conf using your favorite text editor. Anything that
comes after a semicolon (;) on a line is regarded as a comment. For
; this is a comment
format 0x34616d69 ; "ima4" (MOV files)
The codec blocks can be in any order; the file parser doesn't
care. However, they are organized in a particular order for the benefit of
human readers. For example, all of the open source decoders that MPlayer
implements natively are grouped in one section.
Your codecs.conf now requires a release number to avoid codec release
incompatibilities. The format is simple: (YYYYMMDD)
Whenever changes are made to the codecs that *require* an updated
codecs.conf, then MPlayer will no longer accept outdated versions.
It is not recommended to change this line unless you know exactly
what you are doing.
Let's jump right in with an example. Here is an example video codec block:
info "Intel Indeo 5"
guid 0x30355649, 0x0000, 0x0010, 0x80, 0x00, 0x00, 0xaa, 0x00, 0x38, 0x9b, 0x71
This is a particularly full-featured video codec. The "videocodec" keyword
identifies the fact that this is the start of a new video
codec. "indeo5ds" is MPlayer's unique name for the codec. You have to use
this name with the -vc/-ac option.
The next line has the keyword "info" which specifies a human-readable
comment accompanying this codec. This is printed by -vc help / -ac help.
The "status" keyword carries information about the codec's functional
status. MPlayer currently recognizes 4 status levels: working, buggy,
crashing, and untested. When it gets to codec auto-selection, it tries
untested first (to force users to test it for us and report results :)),
then working and finally buggy ones. Codecs marked crashing won't be tried,
unless explicitly (-vc/-ac) selected.
The next line lists 4-character codes (FOURCCs) that are associated with
this codec. There can be more than one FOURCC specified on a fourcc line
as long as they are separated with a comma. There can also be multiple
fourcc lines in the codec. A second fourcc can also be given, separated
with a space. MPlayer will replace the original fourcc in the headers with
this one before opening the codec. It's useful for win32 codecs checking for
The "driver" keyword associates this codec with an internal MPlayer
decoder module. MPlayer has a module named "dshow" that handles data
encoded by the codec. See -vfm help / -afm help for the available module list.
The "dll" keyword specifies which Win32/XAnim/Real/Quicktime binary
module needs to be loaded. It's also used to specify which FFmpeg codec
to load. The list of FFmpeg codecs can be found in libavcodec/allcodecs.c.
The "guid" keyword identifies a 16-byte Microsoft GUID that some media
files use to identify codecs. Used only for win32 dshow and DMO codecs.
The "out" keyword identifies which output format the decoder is known
to provide. Just like the fourcc line, there can be multiple out lines or
multiple comma-separated output formats on the same line. The output
formats should be listed in order of preference.
The outfmt values can be followed by one or more flags, like flip, noflip,
static, query. The flags are defined as follows:
If this flag is set for a given format, then o_bih->biHeight will NOT be
set to -bih->biHeight, i.e. the image will be decoded upside-down.
Used only by vfw and vfwex codecs.
This flag is ignored (no effect) without "flip" being set!
If this flag is set, it means the codec doesn't decode upside-down,
although it's told to do so.
This flag is required for the old win32 ms-mpeg4 vfw codecs, including
MP42 and DIV3 (DivX 3.11). These DLLs actually support YUV formats,
but the query/begin functions are buggy and don't accept YUV fourccs
(the decode function accepts it and works well!)
If this flag is set, then o_bih->biCompression will be set to 0 for
the initialization for the YUV modes. Used only by vfw/vfwex codecs.
This flag is used to control VDCTRL_QUERY_FORMAT for vfw/vfewx codecs.
If this flag is set, the control() will query the codec for the csp
support, otherwise it will assume a constant csp table. Required for
some DLLs (like huffyuv, CRAM).
This flag forces STATIC (instead of TEMP) buffer allocation for the codec.
Used for some very old DLLs like Indeo 3 and for some XAnim codecs like
cinepak. See dr-methods.txt for details on buffer types.
The "in" keyword -- UNDOCUMENTED
Here is an example of a rather full-featured audio codec block:
info "MPEG layer-2, layer-3"
comment "Optimized to MMX/SSE/3Dnow!"
format 0x33706d2e ; ".mp3" CBR/VBR MP3 (MOV files)
format 0x5500736d ; "ms\0\x55" older mp3 fcc (MOV files)
dll "mp3lib (mpglib)"
Many of the keywords are the same as a video codec block. However, we see
a few that we haven't seen before. The "comment" keyword identifies
another human-readable note for this codec.
The "format" keyword performs a similar job as the fourcc line. However,
since certain media file formats (notably AVI) identify audio formats with
16-bit numbers rather than 32-bit FOURCCs, it's necessary to use this
convention to accommodate them. However, as shown in this example, FOURCCs
can also be specified with the format keyword as long as they're converted
to their hex representation. It's important to note that this can be
useful for video codecs as well if a FOURCC contains a space (such as
Apple's "rle " codec).
The "flags" keywords identifies any additional abilities of this
codec. Currently, seekable is the only supported flag.