One of the great disappointments in Snow Leopard, at least to me, is QuickTime X. While the under-the-hood technologies may be bleeding-edge and allow far better and greater things in the future, the front-end that is QuickTime Player (version 10.0) is a joke. Once you get past, if you can, the controller and title bars that float over the movie content itself, you’re still left with a player that lacks almost all the export features of QuickTime Player 7, and has many other little idiosyncrasies.
One such issue is trying to play small movies in QuickTime Player 10—the fairly common 320×240 size, say. As an example, consider these SR-71 flight movies. If you download the 30fps MPEG-1 movie (stated to be 320×240 in size) in Snow Leopard, it will open in QuickTime Player 10 at 478×359. Why? Because that’s the smallest-sized window that QuickTime Player 10 can create to accommodate its enormous floating controller bar.
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As a result, depending on the video source, you may find your movie unnecessarily fuzzy. Thankfully, there are some easy workarounds. The best, and the one I recommend, is that you install QuickTime Player 7 (from the Snow Leopard discs, or from Apple’s QuickTime 7 download page). Drag-and-drop the movie onto QuickTime Player 7, and it will play at its native 320×240 resolution.
Other solutions include using Quick Look in the Finder (select the movie and press the Space Bar), or dragging the movie into a new message in Mail. Mail uses the old-style controller bar for embedded movies, and the movie will appear at its native resolution. You can also drag it into a TextEdit document (choose Alias or Copy when prompted, it doesn’t really matter), but when I tested this, the controller bar didn’t work for the embedded movie. Using the Space Bar to start and stop playback, however, worked fine in TextEdit.
You could also probably use a third-party QuickTime movie player, such as VLC, although this particular movie didn’t play when I tried to view it in VLC.
The long-term solution, of course, is for Apple to fix QuickTime Player 10. Until this happens, though, I recommend using QuickTime Player 7, or one of the above workarounds, to handle viewing of smaller movies at their native resolution.