Why is the fast forward on Digital Video players so slow?

It seems hard to believe how much faster VCR’s were in fast forward. Press play, then hold down the FF button. You could watch ten minutes of a movie in 30 seconds. I used to do that with rentals that needed to be returned. I’d ff scan through the boring parts. I could actually follow the plot by seeing the characters race across the screen.

You’d think digital video would be even faster. But it’s just pathetic. VLC Media player only offers a Faster option. Not 4x, 6x, 8x faster. Just a plain boring “faster” option. I’m not sure its even 2x faster. The voices don’t even get that satisfying high pitched screech.

Yes, you can use the slider. But that doesn’t let you see the video you’re skipping over. It’s easy to miss the commercials with the slider. I hate editing video and then discover a commercial that I overlooked.

Why did a mechanical VCR with tape outperform our fancy digital video? Remember how fast we could FF thru a cassette audio tape album ? Try doing that with a MP3 playlist and VLC. It’s SLOW!

Are there any digital video players that offer high speed playback? I want 6x at least to match what the VCR’s did.

Video compression makes certain assumptions, one of those assumptions is that playback is in real-time.

So let’s say that playing an MP4 video in real-time takes X amount of CPU power. (And note that in most modern devices X is actually 0, because your CPU can offload that work to a purpose-built GPU.) Now you want to play it at double-speed-- now it takes X*2 to do the playback, since you need to decode two frames for each one displayed on the screen. Now consider playing it at triple speed, quadruple speed… then consider we’re not talking about just the CPU, but the disk, memory, data channels, etc. in the device… then consider most of these devices are built as cheaply-as-possible.

There are some methods video compression formats use to help fast-forwarding and seeking, like keyframes. But generally speaking, you’ve hit upon something that current video compression formats on current hardware have a lot of trouble doing smoothly.

Moore’s Law will solve it sooner or later. :wink: I’d wager even now something like an Xbox One would have no problem fast-forwarding 1080p video.

EDIT: I just noticed you mentioned VLC-- I’d guess its “faster” option basically translates to “decode each frame as fast as possible without skipping any”, which might account for what you’re seeing. But even for 1080p I’d expect a lot better than 2X speed from that-- what kind of computer are you running?

EDIT: You might be able to find a player with a mode to show only keyframes-- it’s a far cry from a smooth 6x speedup, but most video files have keyframes every second or two and that might meet your needs. Kind of like a fast slideshow.

1080p MKV files especially mess up using FF or even the slider. The audio gets out of sync. Sometimes it requires shutting down the media player and then restarting it. 720p isn’t quite as bad.

I have a Dell Latitude I bought in 2007. My tower pc handles the 720p vids much better. 1080p vids suck on just about any pc I’ve tried. They’re just to huge and resource hogs.

XVid is still the best and most reliable format. X264 is getting better.

VLC has several different “skip ahead” key bindings for different lengths of skip. The shortest one is a few seconds, the middle one is about 10, and the long one is around 30.

Holding down the key for “short skip ahead” results in about a 10x speedup. Holding down the key for the others goes even faster. It’s a very serviceable fast forward/rewind.

That’s a good idea. :wink: I hadn’t considered using the short jump (shift arrow) as a FF. Thanks!

My tower does 1080p, but when I bought it I ensured it had hardware x264 decoding and I ensure I use a video player that knows about the hardware decoding (which I’m pretty sure VLC doesn’t-- it uses the CPU all the time.) Remember the problem could also be I/O related-- having a great CPU won’t do any good if you’re trying to stream 1080p of a 5400 RPM HD.

BTW, one way at least x264 is superior to Xvid: hardware decoders support it.

A 2007 laptop is going to have troubles though. No surprise there.

This is because there are DSP algorithms that correct the voice pitch

I’m not sure what your terminology means, but I’m assuming you mean a PVR. Mine is Motorola which I rent from the cable company. I’m quite sure it’s every bit as fast as my VCR is. It has 5 different rewind/fast forward speeds.