Many GNU/Linux distributions that use Gnome as their primary desktop, use ‘Totem’ as the default multimedia player as it is the default one in Gnome as well. ‘Totem’ is also being used by ‘Nautilus’ (file manager in Gnome) for creating video thumbnails too.
However, if ‘Totem’ is not capable of playing a certain video file, then ‘Nautilus’ will also fail to create its thumbnail as well. And from my experience, ‘Totem’ is not the most robust one out there either, as it sometimes fails to play certain types of video container formats such as MP4 and MKV.
It has to be ‘perfect’ for ‘Totem’ to play a file, for example, I have few MP4 and MKV files that ‘Totem’ plays without any issues but have three or four other MP4 and MKV files, that it fails to play. But they are perfectly watchable in more powerful players such as in ‘VLC‘ or ‘Gnome MPLayer’.
‘Totem’ is not actually a multimedia player, it is just a front-end that makes use of a multimedia framework called ‘Gstreamer’. For playing a large number of formats, ‘Gstreamer’ mainly uses a tool (‘plug-in’) call ‘GStreamer FFmpeg plug-in’ (now called ‘GStreamer libav Plugins’). And I think it is this plug-in that causes lots of these playback issues.
Anyway, ‘Gstreamer’ recently released the 1.0 version which brought many major features and decoding improvements. However, the ‘Totem’ that comes with Linux Mint 14 and Ubuntu 12.10 is an old one, therefore, it still uses the, now ‘old’, Gstreamer0.10x series.
So, hoping that an upgrade to the latest version of ‘Gstreamer1.0’ would fix those playback issues, I installed the latest version of ‘Totem’ and ‘Gstreamer’, that are available in the Ubuntu repositories.
Did it work?
Well, yes, it seems to have done the trick!.
Finally, ‘Totem’ now plays all those MP4 and MKV files and their thumbnail generation is also working (obviously). So if you are too having this issue, then perhaps what I did might help you out too. If interested, then please follow the below instructions.
Note: I’m using Linux Mint 14, but since it is based on Ubuntu 12.10, the same steps should work in there also, but it will not work in other older versions of Ubuntu.
Open your Terminal window and enter the below commands.
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gstreamer-developers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install totem gstreamer1.0-libav
Now try opening one of those files with ‘Totem’, that has failed you before, and hopefully now, ‘Totem’ will be able to play them.
Update: For those ‘failed’ thumbnails to reappear, there is a simple trick that needs to be done. For that, open your Terminal and enter the below command.
rm -r ~/.cache/thumbnails/fail/gnome-thumbnail-factory
That should do it.