I’ll keep this short. I’d hate to lump mplayer in with every other text application, because it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison.
Yes, technically it will run without X, and it sends a good deal of its status information to plain text. It will throw a movie up against the framebuffer, and it’s a clever trick.
I’d hoped to show that here but fbgrab can’t really keep up, and the results are scrambled — very scrambled.
So you’ll have to take my word for it. Of course, it’s probably something you’ve seen done before. If you haven’t done it yourself.
I think that’s all I should say about mplayer right now. Configuring it and using it are two twin arts in their own right, for as complex and powerful a program as it is.
My advice is to seek out a mid-range laptop with some graphical oomph, and see if you can send a low-res, easily encoded file through to the framebuffer. If it works, great. If not … well, maybe next time.
It’s definitely worth trying though. 😉