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I'd like to set up some physical buttons and dials to control the playback of a long video. I'd like to have a video player which allows me to switch to an arbitrary playback speed at any time while I'm watching the video, even if it's a negative value (backwards).

VLC lets you increase and decrease the playback speed of a video, but doesn't support backwards playback. Nor does it allow you to jump to a specific playback speed, except for at startup with the --rate option (you must step though the different playback speeds).

Is there such a video player? (And does it run on Linux? -- this would be ideal, but isn't essential.)

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KMPlayer can play backwards, but if you are looking for a more portable and user friendly option, I suggest VLC, that has so many distros for Linux, Mac and Windows.

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Apparently the QuickTime player on the Mac (and Windows?) can play a video backwards:

QuickTime Player offers a number of arrow key functions that go beyond simple scrubbing. For example, holding the Option key lets you jump to the start or end of your video. What's really cool is when you press Command-Left-Arrow. Your video starts playing in reverse. Repeat that key sequence to change the rate at which your movie plays backwards. (The same trick holds for normal playback. Command-Right-Arrow goes from normal play to accelerated options.

http://www.engadget.com/2013/10/17/5-quicktime-player-secrets/

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