The VLC Media Player – Does it Really Play Everything?

VLC02   The VLC Media Player   Does it Really Play Everything?The [NO LONGER WORKS] VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia program, developed by the VideoLAN project. It’s available for all common operating systems, plus a few more. The website boldly states that “It plays everything!” and suggests you don’t need additional codecs. Well, is that so?

Sure enough, testing the most common file types, you will find that VLC leaves Windows Media Player in the dust. But what about rare formats? Is it capable of playing any audio and video file format out there?

This article will shed some light on the true capabilities of the VLC media player. I will reveal which file types it really supports and highlight some interesting features that, due to its simplistic interface, you may never have discovered.

How Come VLC Media Player Needs No Codecs?

Well, it does need codecs! However, it comes with nearly every codec built in. The developers did all the work, so you don’t have to worry about it. The question is, why don’t more developers follow this brilliant strategy of making life easier for the user?

VLC06   The VLC Media Player   Does it Really Play Everything?

Does It Really Play Everything?

VLC does handle an impressive amount of media and input formats. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that not every codec is included and hence not every file format supported. The list of supported formats reveals, for example, that it lacks support for some Indeo Video codecs. You can check out all supported input media, input formats, video formats, audio formats, and more on the [NO LONGER WORKS] VLC Playback Features page.

VLC03   The VLC Media Player   Does it Really Play Everything?

To be fair, it should be said that the Indeo codecs are proprietary, meaning they are not freely available. Besides, Indeo has become almost meaningless since the late 90’s. Intel essentially stopped developing and marketing it a decade ago. Subsequently, the codecs still come with several security vulnerabilities that likely will never be fixed. Taken together, it’s no wonder that there is only limited support for the corresponding files.

OK, Spill The Beans, What Else Does It Not Play?

There really isn’t a lot that VLC does not play. However, there are some exceptions. Let’s have a look at the facts for the three most popular operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Input media

VLC supports all  standard input media, including audio CDs, video CDs and DVDs, even DVB. Yet, it doesn’t play everything. The limits are as follows:

  • DCCP / RTP Unicast: supported only in Linux
  • SVCD: partial support only
  • DVB: plugin required for EyeTV on the Mac
  • MPEG encoder: not supported on the Mac
  • Video acquisition (webcam): only partial support for iSight on the Mac
  • HD-DVD and BluRay: not supported (details)

Input formats

Whether you want to play mpeg, avi, ogg, wav, or flv files, VLC rules them all, with a single excpetion: Real media files are only partially supported across all operating systems.

Video formats

All popular and a lot of mediocre and rare formats are supported. As mentioned and explained above, the only exception are files requiring the Indeo Video 4/5 codec.

Audio formats

Again, all popular formats are supported. And as indicated above, the only party pooper is Real Audio. It’s listed as only partially supported because the Sipr codec playback is not supported. Also Midi files have not been tested on the Mac.

For even more information, head over to the [NO LONGER WORKS] VLC Playback Features page.

What Else Should I Know About VLC?

Ok, so it only plays almost everything, but that definitely puts it light years ahead of any other free media player currently on the market. If that isn’t enough to convince you, have a look at the all of the additional perks that come with VLC. You probably had no idea they were there. Here is a list that will make your jaw drop:

  • playlist support.
  • subtitles support.
  • increase or decrease playback speed.
  • support for screencasting (recording the desktop).
  • streaming of live, unencrypted content to a monitor or HDTV.

VLC05   The VLC Media Player   Does it Really Play Everything?

  • in file audio and video bookmarks.
  • enhanced audio and video effects.
  • playback of damaged, incomplete, or unfinished video files.
  • access media files within .iso disk images.
  • DirectX Wallpaper and Direct 3D Desktop modes for video playback.
  • playback DVD’s regardless of region coding (RPC-1 firmware drives only).
  • portable version available.
  • free and open source.

Does that sound like a deal?

Conclusion

The VLC media player undeniably is the most versatile free media player out there. Not only does it support almost any file format, it also comes with an impressive collection of useful and entertaining extra features. Nevertheless, it’s a compact little program with a very uncluttered and easy to use interface. Best of all, it’s free and open source. What else could you possibly ask for?

Are you crazy about the VLC media player now? Check out our other resources:

Looking for alternatives? Another player that comes with native support for popular audio and video files is KMPLayer. It is also discussed in the article  Top 5 Free Media Players For Windows. However, it is only available for Windows. For some more comments, have a look at this question on MakeUseOf Answers: Which media player is the best?

Did you ever encounter issues with VLC Media Player? If it’s not your favorite media player, then what is?

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

22 Comments -

0 votes

Jbucky1092

“spill the means?”
… didja mean beans?

0 votes

Jbucky1092

“spill the means?”
… didja mean beans?

0 votes

Tina

Ooops, that’s a silly mistake indeed. Thanks for pointing it out!

0 votes

sut

KM Player

0 votes

CGA

“KM Player” +1

0 votes

joule

I’ve been using Media Player Classic HomeCinema combined with the CCCP codecs pack for almost 3 years now. It’s been great.

0 votes

FFFF-

VLC don’t have full support of ASS subtitles, specially “tags” of this format. Also, in h264 at 720p or 1080p uses more CPU than a DirectShow player (like MPC) using CoreAVC decoder or ffdshow.

0 votes

Tina

Yes, KM Player does provide better support and more features when it comes to subtitles and video editing.

0 votes

Saikat Basu

Correct me if I am wrong but VLC does not remember the last playback position automatically. You have to manually set the bookmark. Just a minor thing, but one that I find really useful. Oh, by the way, I use both. I find VLC more stable than KMPlayer when it comes to a head to head..

0 votes

Tina

John,

I installed a codec pack just to compare and confirm your observation.

On my screen (15.5″ WUXGA) I see a very slight difference between VLC and WMP. In fact, I find that the WMP image is a tiny little bit softer, and the VLC image appears to be a bit granulated. Yes, the difference might be stronger and quite obvious on a large screen.

I’m not sure what you mean with desaturated, the colors are equally bright. I definitely do not see a difference here.

Anyways, I think calling the VLC video quality a pile of crap is an unwarranted verdict.

0 votes

John

I am surprised VLC is even used. Open a video in VLC and in WMP. The VLC image is very soft and desaturated. Basically a pile of crap.

1 votes

Tina

John,

I installed a codec pack just to compare and confirm your observation.

On my screen (15.5″ WUXGA) I see a very slight difference between VLC and WMP. In fact, I find that the WMP image is a tiny little bit softer, and the VLC image appears to be a bit granulated. Yes, the difference might be stronger and quite obvious on a large screen.

I’m not sure what you mean with desaturated, the colors are equally bright. I definitely do not see a difference here.

Anyways, I think calling the VLC video quality a pile of crap is an unwarranted verdict.

0 votes

Guest

I used VLC for years until I came across Daum Pot Player recently…

0 votes
0 votes

Tina

Daum PotPlayer is actually based on KM Player and was created by the same guy who started KM Player. For anyone interested, you can download an English version here: http://www.nsaneforums.com/top

0 votes

venkat

VLC very useful all -in-one player and KM player also a good one.

0 votes

Vu Viet Anh

Tried VLC… i dont know if its only me but for some videos VLC gave super crap image quality (pixelated and stuffs)…

and also, correct me but i dont think VLC plays Real. For Real file i use Real Alternative and Media Player Classic.

0 votes

Vu Viet Anh

Tried VLC… i dont know if its only me but for some videos VLC gave super crap image quality (pixelated and stuffs)…

and also, correct me but i dont think VLC plays Real. For Real file i use Real Alternative and Media Player Classic.

0 votes

Steveb22

The part of the review praising embedded codecs:
“The question is, why don’t more developers follow this brilliant strategy of making life easier for the user?”
is ridiculous. Why don’t more programmers first create an operating system, and then a game?

0 votes

Jimmy

I used VLC Player for a long period on my Mac and now I am using Elmedia Player for all my video files. It’s more easy-to-use as for me.

0 votes

Steveb22

The part of the review praising embedded codecs:
“The question is, why don’t more developers follow this brilliant strategy of making life easier for the user?”
is ridiculous. Why don’t more programmers first create an operating system, and then a game?

0 votes

Jimmy

I used VLC Player for a long period on my Mac and now I am using Elmedia Player for all my video files. It’s more easy-to-use as for me.