VLC Media Player
VLC media player (also referred to as just VLC) is a lightweight, community-developed media player and streamer that is actively being developed by the VideoLAN community. Available on a plethura of devices such as Windows 10 Mobile, iOS, Linux, and Mac, it is one of the most widely used media applications in the world.
VLC has a reputation for being able to play just about nay file you throw at it, whether it be a DVD, audio CD, an internet video stream, or simply a video file on your computer. In addition, it is able to stream content to and from your computer and transcode files on the fly.
The publicly available version of VLC Media Player comes bundled with loads of free and publicly licensed decoding and encoding codecs, which makes it compatible with most files right off the bat instead of forcing the user to track down obscure files from untrustworthy websites. Most of these bundled codecs come from FFmpeg Project’s libavcodec pack, but the software handles file muxing and demuxing all by itself, so even if these codecs were not included, most files would likely play without issue. VLC Media Player even comes with its own methods of playback. For instance, it was widely praised as one of the very first media players that was able to play encrypted DVD movies on Linux platforms via its proprietary DVD decryption methods.
About VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player hasn’t always been an open-source community-driven project. It actually started out as a school project! The name itself stands for “VideoLAN Client,” as it was originally designed as a GUI for the VideoLAN library that was being developed. However, as time went on and the player became more complex, this name began to lose its meaning. Nowadays, VLC is so complex that it is much more than just a client!
Originally, the project was designed to allow video streaming across campus sattelite dishes at the Ecole Centrale in Paris, France. Nowadays, it the projeuct has expanded to a worldwide collaboration of programmers who are constantly improving its code, and the whole thing is being directed by the VideoLAN project, who have been developing the underlying library since the early nineties.
The project hasn’t been with out its pitfalls, of course. In 1998, the project was completely scrapped and restarted, and three years later, it was released to the public under a GNU General Public License with permission from the Ecole Centrale University administration. Since then, the server and media player have been combined into one application.
The icon of VLC Media Player is a traffic cone. This is a direct reference to the tradition of Network students collecting street cones every year. It began as a hand drawn icon that later received a 3D-rendered overhaul in 2006.
Then, in 2007, the GNU license received a new version release, and VLC had the option of upgrading to that new license. However, due to some legal incompatibilities, the project continued under the GNU Public license it had previously been developed under. This development continued, and in 2009 the first major version of VLC Media Player, version 1.0.0, was released to the general public.
With the major release out of the way, Development began for other systems and environments. In 2010, work started on an Android port of the application, which was later released in 2011. Linux distributions and brances began to pick up the pace, and the player became more and more popular.
At the end of 2010, a third-party developer by the name Applidium developed an iOS port of the VLC Media Player. This port was once again released under the GNU GPL v2 license, but when developers for the original VLC project began to notice inconsistencies between the license and the Apple App Store policies, the app was pulled from the store. The developers began relicensing the project in late 2011 with the LGPL v2 license, and in mid-2013 VLC Media Player was then resubmitted to the Apple App Store under the Mozilla Public License.
In Febraury of 2012, VLC Media Player v2.0.0 was released, being the second major milestone in the software’s development. Shortly after, the program became one of the most widely downloaded pieces of software available, with more than 1.4 billion downloads acculuated by 2013.
Most recently, VLC was released on the Windows Store in 2014 with support for touchscreen devices running Windows RT, Windows Mobile, and rumors of Xbox One support coming soon in the future.
VLC Media Player Features
Because of the way it is designed, VLC Media Player can play just about every single piece of media content out there. It can play files that are damaged or even not finished downloading, such as files being downloaded from internet sources such as peer-to-peer or direct download. It can even play videos that are currently being digitized from an analog camera! This is because the program is designed to read the media piece by piece until it no longer can, whereas most media players see an incomplete file and throw an error right out of the gate. VLC can even use a third-party library named libcdio to read media from ISO image files, allowing DVD rips to be played without anything being done with the ISO file itself.
In addition, VLC Media Player is capable of playing every single video and audio formats included in the libavcodec and libavformat thanks to VideoLAN’s approval of the project. This means that the program is capable of playing everything from H.264 to MKV to AVI, to formats rarely used such as RealMedia. But the power doesn’t stop there. Like we mentioned earlier, there are plenty of plugins available for VLC that extend the functionality of the program. One plugin allows decryption of encrypted DVD movies, while others enhance audio and video quality, or do cool things such as play back video files in generated ASCII text.
VLC Media Player is very lightweight and compact, and as such can be installed and run directly from a flash drive or any other type of media. From that, VLC’s functionality can be extended via plugins and Lua scripts.
Compatible Operating Systems
VLC Media Player is available on a wide range of operating systems and desktop environments. Currently, it supports Windows, Mac OS X, Linuc, iOS, Solaris, QNX, Syllable, Android, BeOS, BSD, and OS/2. However, as development has continued for these differing operating systems, the program has changed, and as a result, some versions are incompatible with others. While the project largely remains 32-bit, there are experimental 64-bit versions of the software available for download from the VideoLAN website.
The VLC Media Player port for Windows 8 through 10 required a new design that would accomodate the Metro design interface brought about by the new versions of Windows. A kickstarter was organized, and the overhaul was crowdfunded to pay for the work that was required. With the overhaul, VLC now supports DVDs, VCDs, and Blu-Ray discs that aren’t encrypted with DRM countermeasures, all of which are not directly supported in Windows 8 or 10. Despite the design overhaul, however, all previous features and plugins retain their usability.
In 2014, a Java port of VLC was developed and released on the Google Play store for Android devices. The program is slightly dumbed down for the handheld devices, but it still maintains the core functionality that has made VLC Media Player so desirable over the years.
Supported File Formats
VLC Media Player supports a vide variety of file formats, containers, and codecs that media files use. Here is a list of all compatible filetypes:
- AVI (Audio Video Interleave)
- FLV (Flash Video)
- MKV (Matroska)
- MOV (QuickTime)
- Raw DV/Audio
- RM (RealMedia)
- CD Audio
- Monkey’s Audio
- QDM2 / QDMC
- H.264/MPEG-4 AVC
- H.265/MPEG HEVC
- Indeo 3
- VP5, VP6, VP8, VP9
- Desktop Screencast
- Digital TV (DVB, ATSC, Clear QAM)
Network Streaming Protocols/Formats
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
- HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)
- RTP / RTSP
- ASS (Advanced SubStation Alpha)
- CC (Closed Captions)
- MPEG-4 Timed Text
- SSA (SubStation Alpha)
- SRT (SubRip)
- TXT (Text File)
- SUB/IDX (VobSub)
- VTT (WebVTT)