Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
VideoLan’s VLC media player is a real box of tricks. We’ve already established that it pretty much plays everything, requires little in the way of system resources and is just as effective on a Windows operating system as it is on Mac or Linux.
If you’ve not used VLC in the past (and are desperate for a decent media solution) then I’d urge you to download it and give it a go. Those of you who are already using VLC might be surprised to know there’s a few features that don’t really get the recognition they deserve.
Here are a few VLC tips and tricks that will hopefully help you get more use and enjoyment from VLC.
One use for VLC that not many users are too familiar with is its capacity as a network streaming workhorse. As you can see from the diagram below, using VLC as a streaming solution for your media gives you one of the best cross-compatible media sharing setups around, especially useful if you have a variety of PCs and operating systems in your household.
If you’re looking to stream video from your home PC whilst you’re away then you can also set VLC to stream to the Internet. Dont forget to sort out your DNS settings beforehand for a pain-free connection!
If you’re wondering how to get the most out of VLC’s streaming abilities, check out Angela’s detailed article.
Rip & Transcode Videos
Whilst there are a number of good, free video converters, why download even more software when you can already do it with VLC? Not only can VLC be used to convert video from one format to another, but it can also be used to rip disc-based media (video or music), live streams (television, cable, satellite) or network streams to file.
To get started open VLC and click Media then Convert/Save. You’ll be presented with a dialogue which allows you to choose between converting, ripping and saving to file. Once you’ve added source media (to record from) click Convert/Save.
The next window allows you to choose encoding settings such as codecs and output location. Don’t forget to have patience, transcoding video is resource-intensive and can take a while (regardless of how much the software costs).
Internet Radio & Podcast Management
Reaffirming its role as a multi-use media player, VLC also contains in-built Internet radio listings and a podcast aid to boot. Simply open your Playlist and select Internet on the left. You should then see a number of services pop up including Icecast Radio and Jamendo Selections. It’s all free, and there’s full albums available if that’s your thing.
If you’d like VLC to keep a track of podcasts then hover Podcasts in the Playlist and click on the plus symbol “+” that appears. Enter the podcast’s URL to add it to your database.
Partly useful, partly there for fun; there’s plenty you can do to your video files with VLC to spice things up a bit. Whilst playing a video (this works in real time) click Tools and then Effects and Filters to open the adjustments window.
Choose Video Effects from the first tab, and have a play around. You can adjust useful settings like gamma, brightness and hue should you have a poor-quality (too dark, bad white balance) video file. The other tabs are mostly reserved for fun, with crazy psychedelic and water effects to choose from as well as video rotation, text and logo overlay options.
If you’ve ever wanted, needed or tried to take a still image of a video then you may have had issues using the usual “print screen” methods. Luckily VLC features the ability to take a snapshot and save to .PNG format in a location of your choice.
You can either pause, jog and find the exact scene you want or take your shot during playback. With a video open in VLC, choose Video then Snapshot (or right click on the video and use the context menu). VLC will then show a brief overlay of the snapshot in the top left, and the snapshot will be saved to the location defined in Preferences then Video under Snapshot.
Play Video as ASCII Output
Last on the list as it has absolutely no real use, but will probably bring a grin to your face nonetheless. In VLC choose Tools then Preferences and click on Video. Under Output choose ASCII -art video output and click Save.
Now play a video and enjoy the amazing spectacle that is moving ASCII art. Useless, but fun!
Do you use VLC? Maybe you prefer SMPlayer or UMPlayer? Any of these tips useful? Let us know in the comments below.