Entertainment Linux

How to Create a Linux VLC Streaming Media Server for Your Home

Ryan Dube 20-11-2015

Enjoying music or movies via Netflix or YouTube is great, but what about when the Internet is down? Well if you set up a VLC media server, you’ll never have to go without entertainment again.


VLC Media Player, a program we’ve played around with 7 Top Secret Features of the Free VLC Media Player VLC should be your media player of choice. The cross-platform tool has a bag full of secret features you can use right now. Read More and covered frequently 6 More VLC Media Player Features You Must Try VLC is a media player more powerful than you might realize. Are you using it to its full potential? Here are some pointers. Read More here at MakeUseOf, is a powerful media server for a number of reasons. It allows you to host a large collection of videos or music files on one PC, and stream out that content to any PC or mobile device in your home.

After you’ve set up a streaming VLC media server using the guide below, you’ll be able to sit back and watch your favorite movies, music or even home videos from any device in the home that can accept streaming content.

Many Ways to Stream From VLC

Before I get into the approach I took to stream media from a VLC “server”, I want to make sure you’re aware of the many ways it’s possible to actually stream media using VLC Streaming Services: A Whole New Side To VLC Player You Probably Didn't Know About Read More . The option you choose really depends upon your tolerance for complexity.

– Using HTTP allows you to use a remote interface, but doesn’t always work unless you know precise protocol settings to use.
– Using VLC’s “stream” command from the file menu is the simplest approach, but requires configuring individual computer IP addresses you can stream to.
– Using VLM (VideoLAN Manager) and Video on Demand (VOD) via command line code is the fastest and simplest way to launch shared streams on a home network.

For the setup below, I chose VLM running on a Linux PC running Ubuntu, because it is ridiculously simple to set up on the server side with just a couple of quick command lines, and it’s similarly simple to set up on any client in the house, so long as you keep a note of the names of the media streams (see below).


If you don’t yet have a Linux PC to use as a “server” for streaming media How to Set Up a Linux Media Server in Under One Hour Want a Linux-based media server but don't know where to start? Thanks to Docker, setting up a Linux media server is easy. Read More , I highly recommend it. We have simple guides on how to set up such a PC running Linux How to Build a Linux Web Server With an Old Computer Got an old computer taking up space? Want to use it to host a website? Here's how to set up an old PC as a Linux web server. Read More . It’s worth your while because these PCs are lighter, faster, and stream much more seamlessly and reliably than anything else.

Setup the VLM Configuration

To make use of the VLM tool, you’ll need to access it using the VLC GUI. If your VLC installation doesn’t show the VLM tool like the screenshots below, then it may be time for you to upgrade your version of VLC to the latest one.

Open up VLC and select Tools, and then VLM Configuration.

VLC media player_1


The VLM Configurator tool you see here makes it really simple to stream content. All you have to do is add “Input” media (MP4 video or MP3 audio files, for example), and add them to the Media Manager List with a specific name.

The name you give these streams is important, because it’s how you’re going to identify the stream when you set up your clients, so keep a record of the names you choose (and don’t include spaces when you create them!)

Adding Media To Your Streaming Library

So, first select Video On Demand (VOD) from the first dropdown list. Then, assign this video or audio stream a simple name.

VLC media player_2


Finally, click on Input and choose the media file that you want to stream. Leave the Output and Muxer fields blank.

Click on Add, and you’ll see the stream with the assigned name show up in the Media Manager List.

VLC media player_3

When done adding all of them, you should have a list of media as shown here (ignore the Bcast items – I was messing around! They should all be VOD).


VLC media player_5

The idea here is to build up a substantial library of content. These could be video files that you downloaded off the Internet My 3 Favorite & Easiest Ways To Download Videos Off The Web It seems that every year a promising new video service emerges (most recently, perhaps Vevo) and another hits the dust (most recently, MegaUpload/MegaVideo). As the trend continues, we storage junkies must adapt. We've talked a... Read More , your DVD movies you’ve saved to a hard drive CDBurnerXP - A Great Burning Tool For CDs DVDs, Blu-Rays & ISOs [Windows] Optical discs are not forever, but although they are losing significance, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are still a great medium for long term backups, given you store them right and don't use them as your... Read More , or any other video or audio file in any of the formats that VLC can handle (which is a LOT, by the way).

Once you’re done setting up your media library, it’s time to export the VLM configuration to file. This will allow you to launch your streaming service in the steps below – the .VLM file needs to exist.

Click on Export, and give the exported file a name you’ll remember. Save it to any directory, but I recommend something easy to remember like “Videos” or “Documents”.

VLC media player_4

Believe it or not, that’s all there is to setting up things in the VLC GUI.

You don’t have to worry about clicking on “Stream” for every single file you’ll be streaming, because in the commands below, you’ll be launching all of the media files you configured in VLM at once, saving lots of time.

Launching VLC Video on Demand

Now we’re getting to the good part. The “Video on Demand” streams you just set up in the video manager will allow any PC to connect to any of those available streams at any time.

But first you need to launch all of those streams. Open up the command window by typing Ctrl-Alt-T.

Start VLC with the following command line. Type it very, very carefully so that every space and every dash is exactly copied.

vlc -vvv --color -I telnet --telnet-password <password> --rtsp-host --rtsp-port 5554

Replace <password>  with the password of your choice (for the telnet connection you’ll be using below).

This will scroll a whole bunch of text across the command window. And don’t worry too much about any errors (it might mean you clicked some settings in VLC that don’t quite work – the important pieces are set up correctly by the command you just launched.

VLC media player_6

This command enables telnet, but now you need to load the VLM configuration file you just created in order to properly launch the network streaming of all of the media files.

Open a new Terminal window using Ctrl-Alt-T, and navigate to the folder where your media files are stored (in my case it was my Documents folder). Once there, connect to your newly created telnet server on port 4212 (telnet default) using the command:

telnet localhost 4212

Type in the password you created above to log in.

Then type:

load .vlm

Replace with the name of the exported VLM file you created above when you exported the list of media files. In my case it was PlayList2.vlm (remember, this is Linux, so it’s case sensitive).

VLC media player_7

You should see the response of “load”.

That’s it, your media server is now fully configured with the entire list of media files you’ve loaded, now available for streaming using any client on the same network.

Let’s take a look at how you set those up the first time.

Setting Up VLC Streaming Clients

On each of your clients, whether it’s a Windows, Mac, or Linux PC, or even a mobile device, you will open the streams from your new VLC streaming server the same way.

You’ll only need to build up your client library of available media one time. After that, the GUI maintains a library of all of them, and you can watch them whenever you like.

First, open the VLC GUI on the client device. Then, click on Media in the menu, and choose Open Network Stream…

VLC media player_8

In the Open Media window, fill in the field Please enter a network URL with the IP address of the server, including port 5554, and prefaced with “rtsp://”.

End the string with another slash and the name of the media (the name you gave it when you created your media streaming list above). So, for example, for the music video by Patrick James that I added a stream for, my string would look like this:


…where the name of the media that I gave it was “PatrickJames”.

VLC media player_9

If you don’t know the IP of your server, go back to your Linux machine, open a command prompt (Ctrl-Alt-T), and type “ifconfig”. That will provide the current IP address.

If your Linux server is not yet static, you may want to consider assigning a static IP address. Or, if that’s a bit too complicated, just use DynDNS like Justin does Connect To Your Home PCs From Anywhere With DynDNS Read More – it’s a very smart, simple solution that would actually let you even stream the media outside of your own home network.

This will launch the video or audio stream immediatly. To add more streams to your library, just go back to the VNC GUI, open another stream, and type the same URL with the new media name at the end. Repeat until you’ve loaded them all into that client’s library.

To view the library, just click the menu from the navigation bar at the bottom of the video player window, and a navigation panel will open to the left. The “Playlist” will show you all of the videos you’ve loaded to stream.


As you can see, the VLC player looks awesome, and many media streaming boxes Android TV Boxes: What Are They and What Can They Do? Is Android TV better than satellite, over-the-air TV, or cable? Here's what you need to know about Android TV boxes. Read More , many of which we’ve discussed before here How To Stream PC Media To Your Sony Media Player How many geeks does it take to stream a video from a PC to a TV over a wireless network? Read More at MakeUseOf, used for watching Internet content on their TV these days also usually include a VLC streaming option. Just use the same URL there and you’re good to go.

Here’s the content from my Linux VLC streaming server playing on my Android using VLC for Android.


Since VLC is so commonplace across a variety of devices, you’re sure to have access to your growing library of media no matter what device you use, and from anywhere at all.

There area  lot of media center solutions out there, like Plex Your Guide To Plex - The Awesome Media Center If you have a lot of locally-saved movies and TV shows, you need to install Plex. And this is the only guide to getting started with Plex you'll ever need to read. Read More and even your PS3 Stream & Transcode Media To Any Device With PS3 Media Server If you've setup and tested one media server, it probably feels like you've tried them all. That's why I'm kicking myself for not trying out PS3 Media Server sooner. Read More . But few of them have such a powerful command-based solution that lets you stream all your personal, locally saved media in so few, simple steps.

Do you use VLC for your streaming needs? What features of VLC do you like the most? Share your own experiences and views in the comments section below. Let’s discuss streaming media on local networks!

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  1. Ram Sambamurthy
    October 30, 2019 at 6:03 am

    this seems to be using only a single port.

    what if i have 10 people streaming at the same time from 10 different devices? using the same port is going to be a problem is it not?

    is it not possible for a client device to download a playlist and select an item from there to play so that they don't have to setup a list on the client device?

    thanks in advance

  2. oops
    December 27, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    I just use Samba to access all my files on all my machines- Windows and Linux. They play just fine on VLC when I access them on my local network. What I'm having trouble doing is streaming my TV card across my local network using VLC. I can stream my laptop's web cam across my home network, but not my TV. And that's an issue for me because I want to be able to carry my laptop out to the patio or into the garage and watch my favorite TV shows that are playing on my media center in the house. I've struggled trying to figure this out for about two years now. VLC's biggest problem is that there isn't any support from anywhere and hardly any documentation on using VLC's very cryptic commands.

  3. mvgg
    October 30, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Less than useful instructions if everybody has all of the listed difficulties.
    To start, not to make typing mistakes as recommended, used copy/paste option with the modified as follows:
    vlc -vvv --color -I telnet --telnet-password --rtsp-host --rtsp-port 5554
    but got the same error message every time: bash: newpassword: No such file or directory
    attempted as user, sudo and sudo su and the same thing
    Sorry, again, less than useful instructions. Better luck next time. Will continue looking for better options. Thank for wasting everybody's time.

    • Jouni "rautamiekka" Järvinen
      April 14, 2017 at 11:01 am

      That's fixed already, the writer happened to forget the password part back then.

  4. maduranga
    July 20, 2016 at 10:39 am

    .vlm configuration file cannot load.please help

  5. adam
    February 16, 2016 at 11:05 am

    it's working but sometimes video is hanging. It is possible to set some QoS on VLC server?

  6. Temp
    January 28, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I keep trying to load the .vlm file but it returns with "Error while loading file". Any Ideas?

    • haythem
      December 19, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      you need to type
      load 'full path to .vlm file'
      for exemple : load /home/user/Documents/Playlist/file.vlm

  7. berliner78
    January 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you for this article. Is there a way to use VLC for streaming IPTV sources *but* on demand and not always?

    My Samsung TV doesn't decode well some IPTV channels, but I can use VLC to transcode them into a format that my TV can deal with easily. The problem is, naturally, the CPU usage involved, which is why I want to use it only when my TV demands it.

    I'm thinking about a running instance of VLC that listens to a certain http port, and when my TV calls for it, VLC begins streaming. Would this be doable with VLC?

    (I'm also open to any other ideas. I've tried it with Plex, but it doesn't transcode online sources.)

  8. Anonymous
    November 22, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    So you don't have to do these steps for each file?

    So, first select Video On Demand (VOD) from the first dropdown list. Then, assign this video or audio stream a simple name.

    Finally, click on Input and choose the media file that you want to stream. Leave the Output and Muxer fields blank.

    Click on Add, and you’ll see the stream with the assigned name show up in the Media Manager List.

    If you can just select all your video files in one go, that would make it easier. May try it out. I always like knowing alternate ways of doing things.

  9. Anonymous
    November 22, 2015 at 3:41 am

    I hate to sound harsh, but I just don't see how this is fast or easy. You have to set up a stream for each file, remember that stream's url, and put that in for each file on the receiving device.

    That means if I have 100 files, I have to select and name a stream for each one, then go to my receiving device and input all 100 stream urls individually? What if I have multiple devices or more than 100 files? Surely there is something in the article I'm missing here.

    I can see the usefulness of being able to run this from a command line, but I don't know if the time spent on setup is worth it for more than a few files.

    Unless I'm missing something here, I think I'll stick with Plex and let it auto scan directories for me.

    • Ryan Dube
      November 22, 2015 at 5:21 am

      Hey - good point, but you don't have to set up the original stream for each file (at least on the server end). In the first part if the article you'll see where you load up all of the files in one step, and when you launch them using the command prompt, it's one command that launches all streams using the names you gave them in the media manager.

      At that point, you'll probably want to keep sort of a library of available files somewhere (with the name of the stream like "PatrickJames" in the example. So, on individual clients, when you want to listen to one of the songs, you just type in the stream for that song. Once you listen to it once, it'll remember the URL for next time.

      But, there's really not much reason to type in all 100 URLs unless you intend to listen to all 100 all at once on that client. The idea with this setup is to have the library of streams ready to go, so when you want to listen to one you just link to that URL and you're done.

      I do sort of understand where you're coming from though - you're looking to have a whole visual library available from the client, so you can choose from the library of files using a GUI. The only way that I'm aware of to do that with VNC would not be using this particular streaming approach, but instead using the VNC remote control feature via HTTP - which is of course a whole different article. :-)

      • james
        May 3, 2017 at 5:14 pm

        Can you give detailed instructions on how to set up a visual library for client user, by just click on the URL rather than input rtsp:// route. That would be very helpful : )