The VLC media player can do much more than just play videos and music. I took a look under the hood and showed seven useful features that the program hides.
The VideoLAN project has been delighting the end user community for years with the free, free, open source VLC media player . The open source media player can be found on many desktop PCs and laptops – regardless of whether under Windows, Linux or Mac OS X – and, thanks to suitable porting, also on mobile devices under iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Wacker, the program deals with almost all more or less common file formats and codecs, also supports rather obscure formats, streams into the network, can even play back damaged files and is generally the best choice when it comes to dealing with Media of all kinds is possible. This of course makes VLC a worthwhile alternative to other players such as Windows Media Player or WinAmp . Neither of them are bad, of course, but in some areas they offer a little less in terms of features, comfort and compatibility – “gaps” that they compensate for with strengths elsewhere.
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The VLC media player can do much more than just play music and films or play CDs, DVDs and such media. A whole lot more, to be precise. However, some of the features are buried quite deep in the program’s menus. I worked my way through the many windows, dialogs and menus and picked out seven functions that expand the standard application area of the free player. In the following I present these features and give brief instructions in the series of pictures on how to call up and use the functions.
Stream and download media directly from the network in VLC Player
For some it is no longer an insider tip, but still worth mentioning again and again because you tend to forget it: the VLC media player can also be used as a streaming client for various Internet streams – such as YouTube videos and the like. With a little bit of skill, you can also use this function to download media such as the aforementioned YouTube videos from the network and save them locally. If the format does not yet fit, you can convert it with the VLC media player and extract the audio track from videos in order to save them as an MP3 file, for example.
How to: Stream and Download Media in VLC
To stream, you have to “open a network stream” under “Media” and copy the URL of the video into the appropriate window. By clicking on “Playback”, the VLC media player pulls the stream from the network into the player so that you can watch and control it there.
Convert media to other formats with VLC media player
As just mentioned, VLC can also be used as a media converter. For example, if you have audio or video files in a format that a certain program or device cannot use, you can convert the file accordingly. There is no end of software available on the Internet, including free software, but you can also simply use the VLC media player to get the medium into the desired format. If you don’t know exactly which file format is required by this or that device, certain devices or output purposes can also be selected for the profiles. These include, for example, Apple and Android devices or certain TV devices as well as YouTube or the DivX player. For example, files can be converted into MPEG formats such as MP4 and MOV (also in AVI via the advanced profile settings). Or make music as WMV ready for burning on CD or DVD. You can also choose whether the converted files should be in standard definition or HD.
Instructions: Convert media with VLC
To start the conversion in VLC media player , you have to open the corresponding dialog via the menu item “Media” – “Convert / Save”. All files to be converted can be imported under file via “Add”.
Rotate and otherwise adjust videos in VLC
If you have a video running in the VLC media player, various changes can be made during playback. For example, you can change the video geometry – videos can be rotated (for example in the event of accidents that occurred while preventing the notorious smartphone edgewise film syndrome), mirrored or cropped at the edges. Otherwise you can also have a lot of influence on running videos. Overlays such as logos or watermarks can be displayed and videos with such changes can also be exported again so that they are then permanently integrated in the video. In addition, running videos can be played as a “wall” made of windows. These individual windows can then be distributed, for example, on a monitor wall in multi-screen mode and thus played in oversized format.
Instructions: Apply effects to VLC videos
You can access the video effects of the VLC media player via “Tools” – “Effects and Filters”. Under the tab “Video Effects” there you can freely rotate the current video under “Geometry” in the media player, for example.
Record screencasts with VLC
If you want, you can also use the multimedia player for screencasting – i.e. recording the screen and the processes running there. For example, you can create short snapshots, tutorials or the like and then share them with others. The feature can also be helpful for creating GIFs. Screen contents can be recorded and saved in any frame rate and in any format that you choose. The mouse pointer is recorded – but no sound. You can record it in a separate source and then combine the two tracks afterwards. There are, however, better alternatives for screencasting with sound, such as OBS Studio , Bandicam or Jing. VLC is more suitable for quick, small, purely visual demonstrations.
Important note : Many users report that the screencast function of the VLC media player no longer works since version 2.1.6 and that it crashes frequently. The last version of the program, with which there are verifiably hardly any problems, is therefore version 2.1.5. For this reason, we continue to offer these for download from us – in addition to the current version, of course.
Instructions: Screencasting with VLC
To start a screencast with the VLC media player , you have to open a “recording device” under “Media” and select the “Desktop” recording mode. Under Options you can then enter the desired frame rate in which the video should be recorded. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the video – and the larger the output file.
Remote control VLC with your smartphone or tablet via browser or app
If you like to use your VLC player to turn your computer into a media center, then you might also like to comfortably listen to music or watch films from the couch without sitting at the computer. Here it would of course be useful to be able to control the multimedia player remotely with a mobile device. That works – how practical! On the one hand, there are suitable mobile apps for iOS, Windows Phone / Mobile and Android devices, mostly in a chargeable or free, scaled-down form. On the other hand, VLC also offers its own HTTP server, with which the player can then be remotely controlled via the web using a smartphone and tablet – or of course, theoretically, any other connected device. We show how the facility works in the picture gallery
Instructions: Remote control VLC via server
To set up the server remote control for the VLC media player , you have to open the “Settings” under “Tools” and switch it from “Simple” to “All” at the bottom left. Check the box “Web” for “Main interfaces”.
Subscribe and play podcasts directly in VLC
Many people know for sure that the VLC media player can be used as a comprehensive web radio client. Lots of internet radios can be streamed directly into the program – with a suitable filter you can bring your own musical taste to mind. However, not that many of you might know that you can easily subscribe to podcasts in VLC. The program can of course also play these and also keep them up-to-date by always synchronizing with the appropriate RSS feed. You only need the URL of the feed and of course the VLC player. That’s how it’s done:
Instructions: Subscribe to podcasts in VLC
You can access Internet radios by activating the “Playlist” in the “View” menu. There you will find the “Icecast Radio Directory” on the left side under “Internet”. This lists you all the channels found – and that’s a lot. In the sort bar you can right-click to add the category “Genre” and then filter the list. You can also find “Podcasts” via the “Icecast Radio Directory”.
Extend VLC media player with add-ons and plug-ins
The VLC media player can already do a lot in the standard version. Most functions come from the factory, and additional codecs usually do not have to be downloaded. Nevertheless, the program can be expanded with additional features, services and skins using the integrated plug-in manager. The look of the player can be edited or the interface can be improved with practical player functions.
Instructions: Extend VLC with plug-ins
The plug-in manager of the VLC media player can be opened under “Tools” and “Plugins and extensions”. Here it looks empty at first – this is due to the fact that only extensions that have already been installed are displayed. After clicking on “Find additional extensions on the Internet” it looks quite different. The list is still unfiltered and full – you can use the various buttons to view individual categories.
Notes on installation and versions
With the tricks and features shown here, you now have the opportunity to get a little more out of the VLC media player. Be it more streaming power, more flexibility or more convenience. Whatever you use it for, you should take a close look at which version of the software you need before downloading and installing it. Since VLC still runs on many older operating systems, it is available in a 32- and a 64-bit version.
It is also practical that you can take the multimedia player with you on removable media and start it from there without installing it. For this, however, you need the appropriately named variant VLC Media Player Portable , which you can download separately from us.