If you ever find yourself watching a bad movie and wondering what the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” guys would make of it, stop your lamenting: For the past few years, many of the MST3K crew have been recording humorous commentary tracks for major motion pictures and selling them as MP3 downloads from rifftrax.com.
RiffTrax is a fun way to enjoy a movie with comedy commentary—I can’t recommend the Top Gun track enough. If you’re watching on your home DVD player, though, there are a few hoops to jump through first: You’ve got to make sure to sync the RiffTrax MP3 with your video. And if you’re watching with a group, there’s the matter of broadcasting your iPod or iPhone audio so that everyone can hear both it and the movie. With Friday's introduction of RiffPlayer 0.6, however, there’s now an easier way for Mac users to watch a movie with RiffTrax commentary.
The new RiffPlayer app, which is based on the open-source SMPlayer project, lets you watch a DVD (which you supply—you’ll need to own or at least rent these movies) while simultaneously playing its accompanying RiffTrax. Separate volume sliders let you find the right balance between film and commentary, and a full-screen mode lets you sit back and enjoy the movie.
The software’s got plenty of rough edges—it’s clearly based on open-source material—but in my testing, it worked well. I was able to jump to different chapters of a film and the sync held, more or less. In the cases where audio went out of sync, one click on the Sync button put things right. I even managed to watch the first 45 minutes of “Twilight: Eclipse” before I ran screaming from my office. Not even RiffTrax was powerful enough to save my sanity, though it did help me hang in there. (I also tested the app with a bit of “The Matrix,” a much better film.)
RiffPlayer 0.6 is available for free from RiffTrax, and requires the use of free downloadable sync files, which are available for more than 50 RiffTrax movies.
There’s also a slicker, but unsupported, app to aid in RiffTrax syncing: Serious Tree’s $10 RiffSync. It doesn’t appear to support RiffTrax’s own sync files, but claims to have a way for users to share sync settings to improve the ability to sync audio and video tracks.
If you’d rather not fuss about with syncing, RiffTrax does offer its own DVDs and Blu-Rays, but you’ll find that the caliber of the films it offers are about the same as those found on “Mystery Science Theatre 3000.” Which is to say, they’re awful.