VLC media player, rediscovered

VLC media player is one of the most popular of its kind – and not just because it's free. There are few media players that play so many different media formats without additional codecs. And those who take the trouble to discover the lesser-known options and possibilities of the program will quickly realize that even a description as 'flexible media player' does the tool injustice.

Tip 01: Download

If you don't have VLC media player on your computer yet, make sure to download it from the official website. It would not be the first time that third parties offer an infected version of the tool on another site. The most recent version at the time of this writing is 3.0.6. Normally, the site will detect your operating system and offer the corresponding version for download.

If desired, you can retrieve other versions via the arrow next to Download VLC; the program is available for various platforms, including Windows 32- and 64-bit, macOS, Linux and the mobile platforms Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Click here Other systems, then you can get from various Linux distributions and from 'exotic' environments like OpenBSD, OS/2 and solaris select. You can also download a portable Windows version this way, in zip or 7zip format.

If you don't shy away from experimenting, you can even go for one of the 'nightly builds'. At the moment, for example, version 4.0.0 is already in the pipeline, and you can pick it up on the Videolan site. Be aware that this version uninstalls your older version.

Tip 02: Interface

You can customize the look of VLC media player (hereinafter abbreviated as VLC) in several ways. When you see the menu Tools / Customize Interface choose the order of the elements for various menu bars, including the Main Toolbar and the Time Toolbar. You can simply drag these elements with the mouse. Via the button New Profile you can then save the button layout under your own name.

Be sure to take a look too Tools / Preferences / Interface. Here you can change all kinds of aspects of the interface. However, the most drastic visual adjustment is obtained by using a different theme or skin. You will find more than a hundred skins on the Videolan site, where you can also download them in one go. After that, all you need to do is extract the zip file. To apply such a skin, go to Tools / Preferences / Interface and dot you Use custom theme on, after which you via To elect points to a suitable vlt file. Confirm your choice with Save. If you don't immediately find something suitable in this quite wide range, you can even design your own skin using the VLC media player Skin Editor.

With the help of skins you immediately give VLC a completely different look

Tip 03: Settings

Most users quickly find their way to VLC's settings menu: press Ctrl+P or go to Tools / Preferences. On the tab Shortcut keys you immediately get a handy overview of the available shortcuts (see also VLChelp). You can also change it with a double click.

However, many users are not aware that they can also call up a more extensive settings menu. To get there, you can click at the bottom left, at View options, the option Everything touch. The menu instantly looks completely different. An overview with the categories appears in the left panel playlist, audio, Advanced, Interface, Input/Codecs, Stream output and Video. Each heading contains several sub-categories and the corresponding items then appear in the right panel. It is very useful that you have a search bar in this mode. For example, tap here subtitle in, then you will see all parts related to it at once.

Tip 04: Remote control

If you're running VLC on a media center PC, it can be useful to control the program remotely, for example from a browser on your laptop or smartphone. To enable this feature, open Tools / Preferences and imagine View options in on Everything, as described in the previous tip. Click on the section Main interface, make sure the Interface module in the right panel is set to Default and put a check next to Web. Now click on the arrow next to the Main interface section and select lua. Right, at Lua interface configuration, fill you a password in. Confirm with Save and restart VLC.

Over to your browser, (for now) on the same PC. Here you tap localhost:8080 in the address bar – if your firewall protests, indicate that it is bona fide traffic. You will be prompted for the password (leave the username blank) and immediately after, a remote control for VLC will appear, with handy buttons on the left.

Now you just need to know the internal ip address of the PC with VLC – the command line command ipconfig tells you this – to be able to control VLC from another network device as well. All you need to do in that browser is :8080 to fill in.

Tip 05: Subtitles

Chances are that one or more subtitle tracks are also available when you watch a movie or video in VLC. Depending on the container format, the subtitles may already be included in the video file. Check that out at Subtitles / Subtitle track; there may even be several tracks available here in various languages. Click on such a track to see the result.

With many (downloaded) movies, however, the subtitles are in a separate file, often with the extension srt. Normally, VLC will pick up the subtitles automatically, if that file has the exact same name in the same folder as the video file. If necessary, you can refer to the correct subtitle file from VLC itself via Subtitles / Add Subtitle File.

Are you still looking for the corresponding subtitle file? This is also possible from VLC itself via the now built-in VLSub plug-in. Open the menu Display and choose VLSub. Set the desired language (such as English) and enter the title of the movie, series or specific season. Press Search by name, select the desired subtitle file, click Download selection and the corresponding link, after which your browser will download the file.

Tip 06: Synchronization

If the synchronization between subtitles and film is not optimal and another subtitle file does not help either, you can call on VLC for help. For example, you can systematically reduce the subtitle delay slightly via the G key and increase it with the H key. More options can be found via Tools / Track Sync. Here you can enter the desired delay (via positive values) or acceleration (via negative values) of the subtitle track to the nearest thousandth of a second. If subtitles come in a little too late relative to the audio, you can also use an advanced sync method using timestamps. When you hear a phrase that is easily recognizable, press Shift+H. Then press Shift+J when you see the corresponding subtitle appear. To align both, then press Shift+K. You restore the original audio and subtitle synchronization with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+K.

You can search and sync subtitles from within VLC itself

Tip 07: Media conversion

VLC can also be used as a media converter. As an example, let's take a YouTube video where you only want to keep the audio – also an illustration of how to download such videos directly from VLC.

You first open the YouTube video in your browser, select the corresponding web address and copy it to the clipboard with Ctrl+C. In VLC go to Open Media / Network Stream, paste the url with Ctrl+V in the field and press Play. Open the menu Additional and choose Codec Information. A window pops up in which you can enter the full web address, at the bottom of Location, to the clipboard. Paste that back into your browser; the video will play immediately. Right click it and choose Save as. Moments later, the video is available offline in mp4 format.

Converting to mp3 is done as follows. Go to Media / Convert/Save. Press the Add button and reference the mp4 file. Click Convert/Save and select the Audio – MP3 profile. Optionally, you can also click on the button with the wrench: on the Audio codec tab you can now adjust the quality and, for example, set a Bitrate of 192 kb/s. Confirm with Save, enter a suitable name for your MP3 file and start the conversion with Start.

Tip 08: Recorder

VLC is not just a media player; you can also use the tool to record all kinds of media. For example, the program is excellent for taking snapshots of a video. You can do that via the menu Take Video / Snapshot or with the keyboard shortcut Shift+S (Windows, Linux) or Cmd+Alt+S (macOS).

VLC can also record live webcam images. Please try as follows first. Go to Media / Recording Device to open. In the drop-down menu at Shooting mode choose you DirectShow, after which you join Video device name select your webcam and add Audio device name the desired device (No is also an option). Click on the arrow next to Play and choose Stream. Press Next one, check if File is selected at New target, click on Add and enter the desired file name and extension. The latter must then correspond to the Profile that you select after you click Next one have printed; for example the file name webcam.mp4 with the profile Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4). Press . again Next one and start recording with Stream. Press on the Stopbutton to end recording.

If that doesn't work, proceed as follows. Select the desired video and audio device again as described above. click on Advanced options and set the Video Input Frame Rate for example, at 30.00. Confirm with OK and click Play. Go to Display and select Advanced Controls, so that a red record button also becomes available at the bottom of the screen. Allows you to record the images. Press the button again to stop recording.

VLC has emerged as a versatile media recorder

Tip 09: Logo

With VLC you can of course play your audio or video straight forward, without any frills, but if you like a gimmick every now and then, you can go to an extensive effects box. Open a video file and choose Tools / Effects and Filters. A dialog box will open and on the Audio Effects tab you will immediately see a graphic equalizer. If you wish, you must first enable it; by the way, you can choose from a whole series of 'presets' here.

Suppose you would like to play your video with a small logo of your association in the picture. Now you can burn such a logo in the images themselves (for example with the free Avidemux), but with VLC it can also be less drastic. Bee Effects and filters open the tab Video Effects. You will see several child tabs here, such as Crop, Color and Geometry. For the logo, however, you knock on the tab Overlay. Then put a check here Add logo and get the desired image file. Bee above and Left indicate (in number of pixels) how far the logo should be from the video edge and with the slider at Coverage set the transparency level of your logo – this way you can also show a watermark in your video. Confirm with Save.

By the way, it is perfectly possible to activate several audio and video effects at the same time. Note: if you press the Save is pressed, the set effects remain active during subsequent playback sessions – also for other videos.

Extensions

VLC also supports plugins and extensions that allow you to extend the functionality of the program even further. You reach it via the menu Tools / Plugins and Extensions. On the tab Addon Admin then click Find more addons online and on Everything. The available extensions now appear in the right panel. However, these mainly appear to be themes that can be installed at the touch of a button. The category Extensions is so far thinner and contains only a handful of items, a few of which are now baked into VLC by default, such as the ability to play media where it left off last time and the function to retrieve subtitles (see tip 5) .

Command line

Although VLC has a graphical interface, it can sometimes be useful to run the program from the command line, especially since you can include such commands in a script or batch file.

In any case, it is good to know that with the command vlc --help generates the text file vlc-help.txt, which lists all command-line options. You get an even more extensive text file with vlc -H (with capital letter). If you don't see the txt file, start the Command Prompt then run as administrator and try again.

For example, you can view the resulting text file via Wordpad; you'll soon notice that VLC provides an impressive arsenal of parameters.

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