Sunday, December 27, 2009

VLC Media Player - Cross Platform Media Savior

It happens, someone sends you a video and your standard media player of choice cannot open the file. Well the good news for Mac, Linux and PC users is that you do have options such as the free VLC Media Player.

VLC Media Player

This is the Swiss Army knife for multimedia users. The primary function of the program is to display media content. It can open most audio and video formats. It totes its own codecs so you don't have to dive into risky online territories to find the one you need to see your video.

The VLC Media Player can also convert and transcode media files as well as display subtitles/captions. Streaming video, check it can do that too. But wait, there is more. For Linux and Windows users you can customize the look of the player by downloading skins.

Rumor has it that there is a potential video editing component being designed for the software. A free functional cross platform video editor? Yes, there is a lot of interest in such a product.

Now I don't have a problem with paying for good software but once upon a time I would have been very interesting in alternatives to Windows Moview Maker2. Maybe that is the point, the more options that are present the better the competition feels it has to be to warrant your patronage.

Documentation and Support
  • VLC Media Player Support and Documentation page
  • VLC How-to Basic Use Wiki Page - Yeah, I know it is gnarly but the answer is in there some place.
  • YouTube videos on VLC Media Player might make it a bit more clear on the features available.
So What Is The Catch?

Not everything is going to visually obvious. You should be comfortable knowing how to install software programs, how to manually create a shortcut if one does not appear after installation and be willing to dive into the menu to find all the goodies the software has to offer.

Understand that with free software and community supported programs there is a possibility that it may crash. You are going to be the one to figure it out or head to the web site to find out what is the problem.

VLC Media Player has a very good reputation but things happen. Save your indignation for multimillion dollar companies that take your money and the software still crashes repeatedly.

There are going to be some DVDs that will not play. It has more to do with the quality of the DVD than the video player.

I discovered this when I started buying legal but inexpensive DVDs from a discount department store. My laptop DVD player hates them and will churn like a bad engine. Desktop computer DVD player, never a problem with viewing videos. You might have to convert the suckers into a media format that is acceptable. VLC Media Player can help with certain types of conversions.

Let me also toss in common sense. Don't ask it to open .mov videos if you have the free QuickTime player or QuickTime Alternative. What would be the point? If your standard player works then use it. If your standard media player cannot display the video, try the VLC Media Player.

As always, practice download safety. I suggest downloading directly from the VideoLan web site.

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