Saturday, May 04, 2013

Caveats of using MPMoviePlayerController

For a recent iOS project I had to play some videos, embedded in a subview of a larger view. One way to achieve that is to employ the MPMoviePlayerController. At first glance that component seems easy enough to use. Folks at Apple are trying to help by providing the following code snippet, right there in the official docs:

MPMoviePlayerController *player =
        [[MPMoviePlayerController alloc] initWithContentURL: myURL];

[player prepareToPlay];

[player.view setFrame: myView.bounds];  // player's frame must match parent's

[myView addSubview: player.view];

// ...

[player play];

Right on. I'm adding this stuff to my app, and ... nothing happens. Nothing plays, just a black rectangle where the video player was supposed to show up. My first reaction was to look if they have a complete sample project that I could play with, and learn how to use the API. They do. I open it and it's using manual memory management (pre-ARC). Yuck ! Still I look there and see that they're using notifications to observe the state of the player. That sounds like a good way to debug what's going on. I do the same in my code. None of the notifications get called. What the ... ?

On a 2nd look at the code above, it becomes clear that in an ARC project, like mine was, the player local variable will be gone at the end of its enclosing scope. No wonder that nothing happens. The player must be kept alive through a strong ivar, or property. Doing that fixed my problem. So Apple's code snippet is pretty bad. It would have worked in the pre-ARC projects, albeit by leaking memory, but obviously this stuff was never updated for ARC.

Luckily I have plenty of experience doing manual memory management, and I can handle old code bases, like so many of Apple's code samples are. For now I'll inform their docs team of the problem.

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