My Dad’s a filmmaker and he frequently sends me work prints of the film he’s working on for me to view and comment upon. I can’t name the movies, of course, but they sit up on DropBox as “.avi” files and I just double click to watch them. Now that I’m in Windows 8, however, I don’t like the new video player that automatically takes over the entire screen. What’s my option here?
Hmmm… given the industry hullabaloo a few years ago about the workprint of X Men: Wolverine that got out into the wild (slashfilm has a good article in case you don’t remember) your Dad sending you workprints of what he’s working on demonstrates an extraordinary level of trust. Impressive!
Tip: for those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, a workprint is an interim version of a film that more or less has all the elements in place but isn’t a finished product. There might be scenes still to add, special effects to layer on, titles to redo, etc, but it offers a sense of the final film yet to be completed. And it’s always just for industry folk, never intended to be viewed by the general public.
What you see when you’re opening up the “AVI” of your Dad’s film in Windows 8 is different from what was available in previous versions of Windows because you’ve now in the Xbox Live area, so the movie — and DVD — player is actually identical to what you’d see if you slipped a DVD into your Xbox 360.
Which works really well if you want full screen. But if you want to have it reduced so you can access the rest of Windows or even work on other things while you view it (like taking detailed notes as it proceeds) then you need to use a different player.
To demonstrate, I’ll use an “AVI” of the terrific 2008 Academy Award Winning film The Hurt Locker. I double-click on the file and here’s how it appears:
The circles gain you access to various functions, most notably the one along the line near the bottom lets you move to a specific spot on the film’s timeline. Want to watch the tense opening sequence again? Drag it all the way to the left. After a moment or two of inactivity, they vanish and you can enjoy the film full screen.
As with most of Windows 8, accessing additional controls involves a right-click. But it doesn’t bring up a contextual menu where the cursor is located, it shows additional controls in this instance:
Standard video controls and not much else.
What you want to do is watch the video not in the Xbox Live section, but in the Windows equivalent of Mac’s iTunes: the Swiss Army Knife of multimedia apps.
To do that, go to your Microsoft Windows 8 Desktop and right-click on the AVI file icon:
You can add the movie to your playlist but select “Play with Windows Media Player” and it’ll open in a considerably smaller window that behaves as a regular app window, rather than as a full-screen Tablet-like window:
You can increase this to be full screen as you go along — and then shrink it back to this smaller window as desired — and as it’s part of WMP, it offers more controls than Xbox Live’s player does too, as shown in this last pic with controls shown by simply moving the cursor onto the play window:
For what you’re doing, notice particularly that there’s a running time indicator (we’re 00:45 into the film in this scene) which I imagine would be helpful for your specific notes as you review the workprints.
Finally, there are additional video viewing options, including the terrific open source VLC player and Apple’s free-to-download iTunes 11 app, but not all of them will prove compatible with the AVI format, so try out some of the choices, see which works best for you. Between WMP and Xbox Live, however, you should be able to find one that’ll work exactly how you desire, and if you have a second screen setup? Well, WMP on the second screen is ideal!