Many of us are consuming video and audio content as part of our working lives; some of us are broadcasting it and encoding it, too. For both types of tasks, one of the best applications that you can get is the free, open-source VLC Media Player. It recently came out in a significantly updated version 1.0, and is now out in a stable version 1.0.1. I’ve been using the new version, and highly recommend it, whether you’re running Windows, Mac OS X or Linux.
Open source blogger Matt Asay captures a big part of why VLC Media Player may be the best player on the planet:
“One of the amazing things about VLC is that it can play anything that you’ve ever even thought about playing. That random media format that one site in Ecuador requires–VLC likely plays it, while Windows Media, Apple QuickTime, etc. likely will not. This is, in part, a natural result of VLC’s open source heritage.”
Because a global community of users iteratively improves VLC Media Player, it can handle many obscure video file formats. I almost never trip VLC up by throwing a new type of file at it.
It’s also true that because of the widespread open-source community that contributes to VLC Media Player, and all the plug-ins that extend it, it’s easy to miss many of the under-the-hood features it has. You can use it to broadcast your own video and audio content; you can use it as a video transcoder for converting video file formats,;you can listen to and manage podcasts with it, rip DVDs, watch DVDs and much more.
I addressed how to get up to speed on many of the non-obvious nice features that VLC has in this post on OStatic. There, you’ll find tips and tricks on doing logos and effects for videos, instructions on how to broadcast your own media, and a free online guide that takes you from installation to advanced tasks in a visual tour. These can be particularly helpful for an open-source application, because good documentation is often a weak point in the open source arena.
I also previously covered the new portable version of VLC Media Player here. This is a lightweight version of the application that you can use to view and work with video and audio anywhere, perhaps toting it on a USB flash drive or a netbook.
If you haven’t used VLC Media Player, and especially if you’ve stayed tied to default media tools such as Windows Media Player, give it a trial run. The price is right, and you may agree with me that VLC is outstanding.
Share your VLC Media Player tips in the comments.