When the VideoLAN project kicked off the VLC media player on February 1st 2001, I wondered if its dexterous developers realized it would kick so much ass.
VLC Player is hands down, categorically, the best video codec on earth.
If you disagree, I’m going to ardently attempt to dissuade you from using any other player. By the end of the post, I want a convert, I want a VLC advocate who loves this player as much as I do.
I’m going to show you 5 reasons why I can’t stop rhapsodizing about VLC player. As I gush along the way, I’ll delineate little known features (did you know you can Record your Desktop or Play RAR files from VLC? Yup)
1. Playback almost any video format
VLC has a myriad of modules. The last I checked there were over 380 modules and the list just keeps burgeoning. This means VLC can playback everything from DVD Video to DVB (Satellite, Digital TV) – everything from SVCD to UDP/RTP Multicast – H.263 to H.264. And I could go on ad infinitum – you can find a detailed breakdown on the Videolan features page.
The bottom line is if you have a video that you can’t playback in any player or it’s beset with decoder errors, run it through VLC because most of the time VLC just gets it right.
Part of VLC’s success is that it subscribes to top-down-design. When the students of Ecole Centrale Paris crafted VLC they wanted it to be modular. Modular design means it’s extensible and therefore made to evolve. Moreover, since it’s open source it’ll always be freely licensed with community drive source code.
Thousands of people around the world work to make this the great program it is so I have to extend my gratitude to the fine folks at the VideoLan Project.
2. Playback your Desktop
Sure you could spend $300 on Camtasia Studio to record your desktop or you could just let VLC do the job for free.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Camtasia because it’s perfect for people doing professional screen captures. For example, recording flight simulations for Boeing scientists might make be a better task for Camtasia than VLC; however, if you’re a home user just looking to record your desktop to share on Youtube then you’ll enjoy the screen recording function VLC offers.
In VLC Player, choose the Media menu option and then pick Open Capture Device…
Click over to the Capture Device tab and choose Desktop from the Capture mode drop down box.
Push your pointer down to the Options section and change the frame rate from 1 f/s to 15 f/s.
The slower the frame rate the choppier the video playback but if you make the frame rate too high then the file size will be astronomically big and the video will start too look like it’s in slow motion. 15 frames per second is a good value to use.
Click the little down arrow next to the Play button and Convert
In the Convert box, you’ll see a section for Profile. There are a bevy of recording options here. For example you can record for a 1080p TV or even your Droid. It’s all here.
Since i’m thinking about posting my screen recording to Youtube I’m going to choose Video for Youtube HD.
Click the Browse button to choose where you want to save your screen share file then click Start and you’re good to go.
The VLC window returns but now displays the words “Streaming” in the title bar. You’ll also notice the time code just above the pause button is incrementing; these are all favorable signs that you’re recording the desktop.
Notice the red desktop-test file on my Desktop. This is the file name I selected when I clicked Browse button in the previous step.
Minimize VLC and use your computer normally – all screen output is being saved to the destination file.
Just press the Stop button to quit the recording then double click the recorded file to play it back in your default media player. I’m using the Play App in Windows 8.1 which displays on-screen controls when I move the mouse. That’s why you see the overlay text and icons in the graphic below.
3. Play and Download Youtube Videos
Click the beloved Media menu again. This time choose Open Network Stream.
In the Open Media box paste in the full Youtube URL and click Play
As the video plays, press Ctrl + j to open the Codec box (or go to Tools > Codec Information).
Near the very bottom of the Codec box you’ll find a long string of seemingly arbitrary alphanumeric characters. Select this entire string and press Ctrl + c to save it to the clipboard. We’re going to paste it into your web browser.
I’m using Internet Explorer 11 so when I pasted the Location string there I saw a little notification at the bottom of my browser that said: “Do you want to open or save videoplayback?”.
When the download completes you’ll see that it doesn’t really have a file extension… So how can we play it back?
Use VLC Player.
Right click the File, pick Open With and click VLC Player from the list.
4. Playback Podcasts and Internet Radio
Yep, if you hate iTunes and you know and you really want to show it be heroic and use VLC.
I actually use iTunes as my primary music manager because I’m so comfortable with it; however, it’s really nice to know you can rely on VLC player to do the same.
To play Podcasts and view radio channels click View go to Playlists
If you can’t find your radio channel in VLC player, visit the radio station website and you can probably find the listen link there.
5. Play RAR files
This might sound weird or mundane at first but it’s useful if you have a lot of video files in RAR format. Although RARing a video file does almost nothing to compress the file size people continue to do it. If you receive a RARered video, instead of going through the onerous process of extracting the video and consuming hard drive space just hit File, go to Open and select the RAR. VLC will play it back like a champ.
The Bottom Line
VLC Player is legit. It’s the real deal. When you need to play back an obscure video format? Check to see if VLC player has your back first.
When you need to record your desktop for a presentation? Don’t buy screen recording software, just use VLC.
When you want to download Youtube videos? Think VLC. The same goes for Playing Podcast and Internet Radio and VLC can playback RARs all day.
This is one mighty player and that’s why I have nothing but love for it (I feel like Heavy D now…) It just works and has yet to give me a good reason to switch.
How do you feel about VLC? Let me know in the comments~!