Hack 56. View VLC, the Cross-Platform Video Player
Learn how to watch multimedia content with VLC, a video player you can use on Linux, Windows, and Mac.
There are a number of media players available for Linux, each with its respective pros and cons. Because all media players under Linux rely on basically the same codecs to play back video and audio, the media player you choose is largely a matter of tastewhich media player fits best with how you watch video. VLC has gained popularity, on one hand, because of its simplified and easy-to-use interface and, on the other hand, because of its cross-platform nature. VLC has clients available for Windows, Mac OSX, various distributions of Linux, BSD, Solaris, and other platforms. If you use a number of platforms on a daily basis, it can be nice to have a single application that runs across all of them for your video needs.
VLC also touts a number of other features such as video streaming services, which I cover in "Stream Video with VLC" [Hack #85]. This hack, however, discusses the basics of installing and using VLC to watch video.
The first step to use VLC is to install the software. Visit http://videolan.org/ vlc and scroll down to see the list of Linux distributions with precompiled binaries. Click the icon for your distribution and follow the installation instructions on that page. Some major distributions do prepackage VLC binaries, but the VLC installation page for those distributions will let you know whether or not you can use your distribution's packaging tool. In case your distribution isn't represented here, download and compile the VLC source according to the VLC installation instructions.
Once VLC is installed, launch it from your application menu or type vlc in a console. The default interface is small and rather simple with a standard navigation toolbar for play, pause, volume control, and so forth, and a menu bar. To open a video, click File Open File to bring up the Open dialog. This dialog has a tabbed interface that lets you choose from local files, discs, network streams, Video4Linux devices, or a PVR (such as a Hauppage PVR card). To play a video file, click the File tab, and then click Browse to find the file to open. Click OK to start playback of the file.
Once a file is selected, you can choose from a number of menu options. The Video menu allows you to full screen or otherwise control the zoom level for the video. The Audio menu lets you tweak the Audio channels as well as enable various sound visualizations. Click Settings Extended GUI to toggle the display of extra settings on the main interface including video controls for hue, contrasts, brightness, and so on, plus a full equalizer.
To edit general VLC preference, click Settings Preferences. The Preferences page has an Advanced Options checkbox that will hide or show what VLC considers to be advanced options, so choose to leave this checked or unchecked based on your level of expertise. Beginners can configure a number of useful settings from this window including key bindings, device settings for CDs and DVDs, and video defaults. Advanced options allow you to tweak CPU optimizations, advanced video settings, and a number of other options for the experienced user.