For day 2 of my prep for the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to talk about my hands down favorite media playing program. VideoLan’s VLC. Just for clarity’s sake you will sometimes see VLC/VLS. VLS used to be a server component for streaming that was separate from VLC but I guess the mere awesomeness of VLC was more important and so they put VLS stuff into VLC.
I can’t stress how much I love this program because I use it for everything video and audio related and so does everyone in my house. It’s one of the first programs I install on any computer we buy. This is also due to the fact that it’s multi-platform. You know that’s a word that I can’t get enough of that means it will run on Linux, Mac, and Windows. So, seeing as how my house has all of these systems then you’ll find VLC on all of them. Let’s go into why you or anyone else would use it.
Around 10 years ago I changed totally over to VLC when I was still at work using a desktop that was running Windows and a laptop that was running Linux. I was using Winamp on the PC and couldn’t quite settle on one for Linux. VLC came into play and soon my kids were using it as well. I worked in the audio post production industry at the time and ended up having them use it because it could play every format there was. I also met the creator of the format Ogg and FLAC (Chris Montgomery) at a SCALE back then and started becoming a big user of those formats and of course guess who supported them.
The interface is extremely easy to use but it has a TON of power under the hood if you really play with the options. Using the HTTP interface you can have a computer connected to a TV or just on it’s on and control it from another computer or useful apps on your phone (Android apps I should say because this is something I haven’t tried on iOS phones and the iPad yet). That gives you an instant no holds barred media center and I’ve used this just bringing a laptop and a video cable to someone’s house. Doing a video presentation? I keep a copy on the usb stick on my keys with a copy of the presentation. If there’s a computer connected to the projector then I can boot to a Linux from my stick and play it or there’s a portable VLC app that runs on Windows that I keep with me to play it. This has come in handy at a couple of prom parties that I did the video for.
The bevy of ways you can use this program has given me tons of examples to use as we even use it to replace iTunes for listening to music. Once at a Podcaster’s convention I spoke to a crowd about how I used it to stream video to a port where my kids and even my mom from her computer a couple miles away could view it from my computer.
Since the program can also capture video from standard devices like video capture cards and webcams I have used it to convert video I fed into a video capture card to convert a VHS into a DVD and AVI file for the saving precious moments or making a video blog (although still not the greatest method).