Update: macOS Big Sur 11.3 now supports WebM in Safari, so you no longer have to use IINA to watch high-resolution content. You can still use this guide if you want better sounding audio when watching videos at higher speed or if you don’t like YouTube’s interface.
It’s well known that Safari doesn’t support playing VP9 or WebM videos out of the box, but I’ve found a workaround that doesn’t involve installing Chrome or having to launch VLC every time.
For context, I use Safari almost exclusively due to its simplicity, features and integration with iOS devices. Unfortunately, due to Apple only supporting licensed video codecs like HEVC, Safari has 0 support for VP8/VP9. What this means is that YouTube on Safari will not play above 1080p no matter what, and WebM’s won’t play at all. However, you don’t have to use YouTube’s web player. Enter IINA:
|IINA is the modern video player for macOS.|
IINA is a modern media player that was made specifically for macOS. Not only does it look nicer and have more features (Picture-in-Picture, anyone?), it also supports almost all of the audio and video codecs that VLC supports and allows you to play YouTube videos as any other network media source. Furthermore, it also offers a Safari plug-in that adds right-click menu options and a toolbar icon to easily open videos in IINA without having to launch it manually.
So, what does using IINA with YouTube look like? Here’s a demonstration:
|Instead of left-clicking a video, right click and select “Open Link in IINA”|
|Or if you’re already in a video, use the toolbar icon to do the same|
|And you’re up and running with your crispy 4K video!|
It’s just that easy. It just takes one more click to open your videos in max quality. Furthermore, why stop at 4K? IINA can view 8K content as well!
ANYWAY, here’s how you can set up this workflow on your machine:
- Install IINA from the official website: https://iina.io
- Install Homebrew if you don’t have it already: https://brew.sh
- Install youtube-dl from homebrew using the following Terminal.app command:
brew install youtube-dl
Now that you’ve installed everything, you’ll need to do some setup in order to make sure that you can actually open videos from Safari and in high quality.
- Open Safari preferences, go to Extensions and activate “Open in IINA” (at this point, you should see the toolbar icon appear, as well as extra right-click options)
- Open IINA and go through initial setup
- Open IINA preferences, go to the Network tab and check “Enable youtube-dl”
At this point, there are a few different options that you can specify in youtube-dl settings:
Custom youtube-dl path:
/usr/local/bin for macOS Intel,
/opt/homebrew/bin for Apple Silicon
As for Raw options, you can set up some preferences for how you’d like IINA to select video streams:
Up to 4K, prefer 60 FPS (recommended):
Up to 1080p, prefer 60 FPS:
Highest quality available (usually 8K):
Once you’ve entered your raw options, press enter and quit IINA. Next time you launch IINA, it will be able to play 4K YouTube videos.
Hope this was helpful!