Watching DVD Movies on the Mac

DVD movies are the latest and best way to watch movies. Because they are digital, the image and sound quality of DVD movies is superb. And the digital format enables special features that can't be duplicated with other means, such as videotape. For example, with DVD movies, you can get true 5-, 6-, or even 7-track soundtracks to provide unbelievable surround sound and sound fidelity. Plus, DVDs usually have a lot of features?missing scenes, trailers, and so on.


Watching DVD movies from a desktop Mac is okay, but DVD movies on the Mac really shine when you use a PowerBook or iBook. Forget the crummy selection of movies usually shown on airplanes (when there even are movies) that you can't see or hear anyway. With a DVD-equipped Mac OS X mobile Mac, you can watch movies anytime, anywhere. If you travel a lot, you might find this reason enough to get your own mobile Mac. And waiting for just about anything will never be the same. With a mobile Mac and your favorite DVD, time is never wasted.

Mac OS X supports the playback of DVD movies with the DVD Player application.

Using DVD Player to Watch Movies

The DVD Player application has the following three windows (see Figure 18.1):

  • Viewer? This is the window in which you watch the DVD content.

  • Controller? This window provides the controls for movie playback.

  • Info? This window provides information about the disc you are playing.

Figure 18.1. With DVD Player, you can enjoy all the amazing content available on DVD, such as complete seasons of your favorite TV shows.



If you try to capture screenshots of a DVD using the Mac's built-in tools, such as the Grab application, you won't be allowed to or all you will get is a black screen. To capture DVD content in a screenshot, you need to use the excellent Snapz X Pro on a Mac equipped with an NVIDIA graphics card.

The Viewer window is straightforward. The DVD's content appears in this window; you can choose various sizes for the window from Half Size to Full Screen. In Full Screen mode, the Mac OS interface disappears and you can see only the DVD content and the DVD windows you choose to display.

The Controller window contains the controls you use to watch movies. It has two orientations, which are vertical and horizontal. It is in the horizontal mode by default (see Figure 18.2). You can change the orientation to vertical by selecting Controls, Use Vertical Controller. To change the Controller back to the horizontal orientation, select Controls, Use Horizontal Controller.

Figure 18.2. The Controller does just what you think: It enables you to control DVD playback.


The Controller has additional controls in the Control Drawer, which you can close or open (see Figure 18.3). To open or close the Control Drawer, select Controls, Open Control Drawer or Controls, Hide Control Drawer. You can also open or close the Drawer by dragging its resize handle.

Figure 18.3. The Control Drawer contains controls you aren't likely to use as often as those on the main Controller.


If you have used a standard DVD player or VCR, the DVD Player controls will be easy to understand. To play and control a movie, use the following steps:

  1. Insert the DVD into your Mac's DVD drive. After a moment, the DVD is mounted on the machine. By default, DVD Player opens and begins to play the DVD. Depending on the DVD, the disc's main menu might appear or you might be prompted to select a soundtrack or other features.


    If you see a message about the DVD's region code, see "When I Play a Movie, I See a Message About the Region Code Needing to Be Set" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.


    To configure what action your Mac takes when you insert a DVD, use the CDs & DVDs pane of the System Preferences utility.

  2. Select the menu option you want, such as Play. The movie begins to play in the Viewer window. In the upper-left corner of the window is text for a moment that shows the control you used most recently (such as Play).


    Click in the Information window on the Controller to cycle through the available data, such as chapter, remaining time, and so on. Click the Title or Chapter text to change the display to the related information.

  3. Use the commands on the Video menu to control the size of the Viewer. If you select Full Screen, the image becomes as large as possible and the Mac OS interface is hidden. After a designated time passes, the Controller disappears, too.

  4. To bring the Controller back, move the pointer, press a key, or press Shift-Ctrl-C.


    If you minimize the Viewer, it moves into the Dock and the movie continues to play. Unlike QuickTime movies, you can't see the movie in the Dock icon, however.

  5. To see information about the movie you are watching, select Window, Show Info. The Info window appears and you can see where you are in the movie and the features that are being used, including subtitles, the angle being shown, and so on (see Figure 18.4).

    Figure 18.4. The Info window provides information about a movie you are watching.



    You can resize the Info window by dragging its resize handle.


    If you see the NOT PERMITTED message when you use a control, see "An Action I Try Isn't Permitted" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.

    If you see a green screen when you attempt to view a disc, see "When I View a DVD, I See a Green Screen" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.

  6. To change the orientation of the Info window to better fit a widescreen, select Controls, Use Wide Info Window.


    Use the commands on the Window menu to show or hide the Viewer, Controller, and Info windows.

  7. Use the other controls on the Controller to watch the movie.


    You can also control a movie by pointing to onscreen controls with the mouse.

Following are some other DVD playback notes:

  • DVD menus? All DVD movies include a menu that provides access to the content of the disc and its special features. You can highlight and select commands on these menus using the keyboard's arrow buttons, using the mouse to point to them, or using the mouse to point to them on the Controller.

  • Use the controls in the Control Drawer to quickly change the movie's settings? For example, you can control subtitles using the Subtitles button.

  • Scan forward or backward? When you scan forward or backward, you can control the rate of the scan by selecting Controls, Scan Rate, and then the rate at which you want to scan (such as 8x speed). DVD Player supports scan rates up to 32x, which is really flying.

  • Go menu? Many commands are available on this menu that you can use to quickly access various areas on the DVD, including the DVD menu, the beginning of the disc, the content you were viewing the last time you played the disc, and so on.

  • Bookmarks? You can use this feature to mark specific areas of a DVD so you can quickly return to them. When viewing content to which you want to add a bookmark, select Controls, Add Bookmark. In the Add Bookmark dialog box, name the bookmark (the current time is the default name) and click OK. You can return to that bookmark by selecting Go, Bookmarks, Bookmarkname, where Bookmarkname is the name of a bookmark you have created. Select Controls, Edit Bookmarks to open the Edit Bookmark dialog box, which you can use to change existing bookmarks.

  • Keyboard commands work best? As you watch movies, you will find that the best way to control them is using the keyboard. Most of the major functions in the player have keyboard shortcuts. For the best DVD experience, learn to use these shortcuts.

To learn the many keyboard shortcuts for playback and configuration DVD Player offers, see "DVD Player Keyboard Shortcuts," p. 638.

Configuring DVD Player

DVD Player is a relatively simple application, but you can do some configuration to make it work the way you want it to. The DVD Player preferences window has four panes: Player, Disc Setup, Full Screen, and Windows (see Figure 18.5). These preference settings are summarized in Table 18.1.

Figure 18.5. You can configure DVD Player using its Preferences dialog box.



You can't control a movie while the Preferences dialog box is open.

Table 18.1. DVD Player Preferences





When DVD Player opens: Enter Full Screen mode Start playing disc

These determine which action DVD Player takes when it opens. Because when you watch a movie, it is typically in the Full Screen mode, this preference selects the Full Screen mode when a DVD is mounted on your desktop and DVD Player starts up (which it does by default when a DVD containing movie content is mounted on your Mac). If you want discs to start playing when DVD Player opens, make sure the Start playing disc check box is checked.


When a disc is inserted: Start playing disc

With this enabled, a DVD starts to play when you insert it into your Mac.


Start playing discs from: Beginning Last position played Default bookmark Always ask

Use these radio buttons to determine where discs start to play. The Last position played is a useful option because a disc resumes playing at the location you last viewed it.


Closed Captioning: Enable Close Captioning when DVD Player is muted

With this option enabled, when you mute a DVD, the Closed Captioning window appears.


iChat When connected to an audio or video chat: Mute audio Pause playback

Use these radio buttons to determine which action DVD Player takes when you enter a chat session.

Disc Setup

Language Audio Subtitle DVD Menu

Use these pop-up menus to determine the default settings for these areas.

Disc Setup

Internet: Enable DVD@ccess web links

Many DVDs offer content on the Web. Use this preference to enable or disable these links.

Disc Setup

Audio Audio output: System Sound Output Digital Out Disable Dolby dynamic range compression

If your Mac supports digital audio out, use the pop-up menu to select Digital Out to take advantage of that output, such as 5.1 digital surround sound. Use the check box to determine whether dynamic range compression is used (this evens out the volume level of a disc).

Full Screen

Viewer Default viewer size: Half Normal Maximum Current Enable view resizing

Select the default size of the Viewer window. If you want to resize the Viewer window by dragging its resize handle, check the check box.

Full Screen

Controller Hide Controller If Inactive For __ Seconds

Use this to control the automatic hiding of the Controller when you aren't using it. By default, the Controller is hidden after 10 seconds. You can change this time or turn off the feature if you want to manually hide and show the Controller.

Full Screen

Displays: Dim other displays while playing Remain in full screen when DVD Player is active Disable menu bar (kiosk mode)

If multiple monitors are connected to your Mac, use the Dim other displays while playing check box to cause all the displays except the one on which the DVD is playing to dim. If you want DVD Player to remain in Full Screen mode whenever it is inactive, check the middle check box. By default, DVD Player switches to Maximum Size mode when you move to the Finder or another application. Check the Disable menu bar (kiosk mode) check box if you want to disable the DVD Player menu bar.


Options Display status information Fade controller when hiding

The status information appears at the top of the Viewer and provides information about what is happening, such as when you press a control. Uncheck the Display status information check box to hide this information. To have the Controller fade slowly out of existence when it hides, check the Fade controller when hiding check box. With this unchecked, the Controller blinks out of existence.


Floating Overlays: Info display Close Captioning

Use these controls to set the color of information display and transparency of the Info and Closed Captioning windows.


Most DVDs that claim to offer DVD-ROM or Web content are not compatible with the Mac. However, you can often open these DVDs via the Finder to access some of this additional content.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life