Chapter 3.  Basic use of VLC

Table of Contents

General interface description
Simple play
Using the playlist
Hotkeys
Using subtitles
Video and audio filters
Basic troubleshooting

General interface description

VLC has several interfaces: a cross-platform interface, for Windows and GNU/Linux, called wxWidgets, a MacOS X native interface and a skinnable interface for Windows and GNU/Linux.

Windows and GNU/Linux

This is the default interface on Windows and GNU/Linux (the screenshot is done on GNU/Linux, but it would look quite the same on Windows.

The wxWidgets interface

This interface also features an Extended GUI which contains many additional features. To display or hide it, go to the Settings menu and click Extended GUI.

The wxWidgets interface with extended GUI

Native Mac OS X (Cocoa)

This is the default interface on Mac OS X.

The Mac OS X interface

This interface features an Extended GUI as well. It is called "Extended Controls" and can be opened through the Window-menu.

The Mac OSX interface with with the extended controls panel

Simple play

Play a file

To open a file, open the File menu, and select the Quick Open File menu item. An Open File dialog box will appear. Select the file you want to open, and select Open. VLC will start playing the selected file.

An alternative is to Drag'n'Drop your file on the VLC main interface or playlist window from the file explorer (Finder on MacOS X).

The File menu - wxWidgets interface

The File menu - MacOS X interface

The Open file dialog - wxWidgets interface

The Open file dialog - MacOS X interface

Play a CD/DVD/VCD

To Play a CD, VCD or a DVD, open the File menu, and select the Open Disc... menu item. In the Open Disk Dialog Box, select the type of media (DVD, VCD or Audio CD). When reading a DVD, you can enable DVD menus by selecting the DVD (menus) Disc type in the wxWidgets Interface. In the MacOS X interface, this can be done by selecting the "Use DVD menus" dialog box.

You can select the drive from which the media should be read by giving the appropriate drive letter or device name in the "Device Name" text input. This should be autodetected on MacOS X.

If you want to start the DVD or VCD playback from a given title and chapter instead of from the beginning, you can set it using the Title and Chapter selectors.

You can start playback by selecting the Ok button.

The Open disk dialog - wxWidgets interface

The Open disk dialog - MacOS X interface

Play a network stream (WebRadio, WebTV, ...)

To open a network stream, open the "File" menu and select the "Open Network Stream" menu item.

  • To open a UDP unicast stream, select UDP/RTP , and set the appropriate UDP port in the selector (it is 1234 for streams sent by a VLC or VLS server).

  • To open a UDP multicast stream, select UDP/RTP multicast. Give the address of the multicast group in the "Address" text input, and select the appropriate UDP port.

  • To open a stream sent over http (Webradios, WebTVs, Shoutcast, Icecast...), ftp, or mms (Microsoft Media Server), select "HTTP/FTP/MMS", and give the corresponding complete URL, (such as http://live.stream.org:8080/live or mms://live.ms.stream.net:8080/live.asf) in the corresponding text input. This also the way to open a RTSP stream with the MacOS X interface.

  • To open a RTSP stream (sent by Darwin Streaming Server, VLC, etc), in the wxWidgets interface, select "RTSP" and give the URL in the text input.

You can start playback by selecting the Ok button.

If you get some stuttering during playback, you can try to increase the size of the read buffer. This can be done in the Open Network Stream dialog box, by selecting the Caching box. You can then choose the amount time (in milliseconds) VLC should store data in its buffer before starting playback.

The Open network dialog - wxWidgets interface

The Open network dialog - MacOS X interface

Play from an acquisition card

This currently only possible on Linux and Windows. Open the File menu, and select "Open Capture Device..."

On Windows, supported cards include webcams, TV cards, acquisition cards... provided they come with directshow compatible drivers (Almost all acquisition cards do). You can choose the device to use for video and audio capture using the "Video device name" and "Audio device name" selectors. If your device doesn't appear in the list, try to select the "Refresh list" button. You can access the settings of your acquisition device by selecting the configure button. Options here depend on the driver of the device. You can select the "Device Proprieties" box if you want the configuration dialog box of every device to be displayed after having pressed the Ok button. Select the Tuner properties box to be prompted for tuner settings (PAL/NTSC standard, frequency...) for TV cards. The Advanced options... button allows to select some further settings useful in some rare cases, such as the chroma of the input (the way colors are encoded) and the size of the input buffer.

The Open Capture device dialog and a device configuration windows - wxWidgets interface

On Linux, supported cards include webcams, TV cards, acquisition cards, provided they are supported by the Video4Linux architecture. Haupaugge PVR 250/350 cards are also supported, using the IVTV drivers .

  • For Video4Linux devices, you can set the name of the video and audio devices using the "Video device name" and "Audio device name" text inputs. The "Advanced options..." button allows to select some further settings useful in some rare cases, such as the chroma of the input (the way colors are encoded) and the size of the input buffer.

The Open Video4Linux dialog - wxWidgets interface

  • To use a Hauppauge PVR card, select the PVR tab in the "Open" dialog box. Use the "Device" text input to set the device of the card you want to use. You can set the Norm of the tuner (PAL, SECAM or NTSC) by using the "Norm" Drop Down. The Frequency selector allows you to set the frequency of the tuner (in kHz), the bitrate selector to set the bitrate of the resulting encoded stream (in bit/s). The "Advanced Options button allows to set some more settings, such as the size of the encoded video (in pixels), its framerate (in frame per second), the interval between 2 key frames, etc.

After having set all the required parameters, you can start the capture by selecting the "Ok" button.

The Open PVR dialog - wxWidgets interface

Using the playlist

VLC can of course store a list several files to play one after the other, using its playlist system. To access the playlist, click on the Playlist button on the main interface (see General interface description).

Each time you use the Open dialog box, the stream you select is appended at the end of the playlist and started.

The playlist window shows all the streams available in the playlist. Double-click one to have it played.

The Playlist - wxWidgets interface

The Playlist - MacOS X interface

Adding items, saving and loading playlists

In the wxWidgets interface, the Manage menu allows you to append an item at the end of the playlist (its playback won't start immediately), to save the playlist as a M3U or PLS file, or to import a playlist file.

In the MacOS X interface, saving a playlist can be done using the Save Playlist... function in the File menu. To import a playlist file, open it the same way as any other media file, using the Quick Open File... menu item.

Sorting

In the wxWidgets interface, Sort allows you to sort the playlist according to several criteria, or to shuffle it. You can also sort by clicking the header of the column

In the MacOS X interface, sorting can be done by clicking the header of the column matching the criteria you want to use for sorting.

Playlist modes

The playlist supports several playback modes.

In the wxWidgets interface, the toolbar contains three playlist mode buttons. They allow to enable random mode, to repeat the whole playlist or to repeat one item.

In the MacOS X interface, random mode can be enabled by selecting the Random box. A drop down menu allows you to enable playlist and item repeat modes.

Misc

Search

You also have a search tool. Enter a search string and hit search. The next item to match the string will be highlighted. Keep hitting Search to cycle between all matching items.

Moving items

In the wxWidgets interface, the Up and Down buttons at the bottom of the playlist window allow you to move an item. Select an item and use these buttons to move it.

In the MacOS X interface, you can move an item with the mouse, easily using a Drag'n'Drop.

Contextual menu

By right-clicking an item, a contextual menu will appear, giving access to a number of functions (play the item, disable it, delete it, or get info on it).

If you ask for info, an item info dialog box will appear. This dialog box also allows you to change the name, the author and the location of the item to play.

Item Info Dialog - wx Interface

Item Info Dialog - MacOS X interface

Hotkeys

Most of VLC functions are accessible using hotkeys

The list of the available hotkeys and their binding can be retrieved and altered in the preferences panel of the player. In the wxWidgets interface, preferences are available in the "Settings" menu, "Preferences" menu item. In the MacOS X interface, open the "VLC" menu, and select "Preferences". Select the "Hot keys" panel in the dialog. For each function of VLC, you get the bound hotkey in the dropdown in the right part of the panel. Several boxes gives the list of modifiers for the hotkey. To trigger an action using a hotkey, you need to press at the same time the keys corresponding to the different selected modifiers as well as the key set in the dropdown.

To change the binding of a hotkey, select or deselect boxes corresponding to the different modifiers, and change the key by using the dropdown. Select the Save button to apply the changes.

The Hotkeys Panel - wxWidgets interface

The Hotkeys Panel - MacOS X interface

Using subtitles

VLC supports many kinds of subtitles.

Media with included subtitles

Many types of media can have embedded subtitles. VLC can read subtitles for the following media:

  • DVD

  • SVCD

  • OGM files

  • Matroska (MKV) files

Subtitles are disabled by default. To enable them, go to the Video menu, and to Subtitles track. All available subtitles tracks will be listed. Select one to get the subtitles. Depending on the media, a description (language, for example) might be available for the track.

Select a subtitles track under Windows or Linux

Select a subtitles track under MacOS X

DVD and SVCD subtitles are merely images, so you won't be able to change anything for them. OGM and Matroska subtitles are rendered text, so you will be able to change several options.

Text rendering options can be changed in the Preferences. In the Modules section, text renderer subsection, open the freetype page. You can then set the font and its size. For the font, you have to select a font file. Under Windows, they can be found in C:\Windows\Fonts. Under MacOS X, they are in /System/Library/Fonts. Size can be set either relatively or as a number of pixels.

You need to restart your stream for the font modifications to take effect.

Subtitles files

While modern file formats like Matroska or OGM can handle subtitles directly, older formats like AVI can't. Therefore, a number of subtitles files formats have been created. You need two files: the video file and the subtitles files that only contains the text of the subtitles and timestamps.

VLC can handle these types of subtitles files:

  • MicroDVD

  • SubRIP

  • SubViewer

  • SSA

  • Sami

  • Vobsub (this one is quite special: it is not made from text but from images, which means that you can't change the fonts)

To open a subtitles file, use the Advanced Open dialog box (Menu File, Open file). Select your file by clicking on the Browse button. Then, check the Subtitle options checkbox and click on the Settings button.

Select a subtitles file under Windows or Linux

You can then select the subtitles file by clicking the Browse button. You can also set a few options like character encoding, alignment and size. The delay option allows you to delay the subtitles against the video if they are not in sync. If they are not at the same speed, you might also want to adjust the subtitles framerate.

Note

For Vobsub subtitles, you need to select the .idx file, not the .sub file

Encoding, alignment and size won't have any effect for Vobsub subtitles.

Font can be changed as explained in the previous section.

Video and audio filters

VLC includes a system of filters that allow you to modify the audio and video.

Deinterlacement and Post Processing

VLC is able to deinterlace a video stream using different deinterlacement methods. Deinterlacement can be enabled in the Video menu, Deinterlacement menu item. The Blend methods gives the best results in most cases. The discard method is a less resource consuming alternative.

On some particular streams (MPEG 4, DIVX, XVID, Sorenson, ...), some additional image filtering can be applied to the video before display, improving its quality in some cases. This can be enabled in the Video menu, Post processing menu item. Different levels of post processing can be chosen here. A higher level means more filtering.

Video filters

VLC features several filters able to change the video (distortion, brightness adjustment, motion blurring, ...).

With the wxWidgets interface, filters can be easily enabled using the Extended GUI. In the Video tab, simply select the filters to enable. Image settings can be easily adjusted.

Video filters selection in the wxWidgets interface

You can enable these filters through the Extended Controls panel on Mac OS X. Click on the triangle next to Video filters to select your filters or expand the Adjust Image section to change the contrast, hue, etc.

Video filters selection in the Mac OS X interface

For better control, you need to go to the preferences. To select the filters to be enabled, go to Video, then to Filters. In the "video filter module" box, enter the names of the filters to enable, separated by semicommas. Filters will be applied in the selected order. Valid names are "clone", "wall", "transform", "adjust", "crop", "deinterlace", "distort", "motionblur" and "logo".

If you want to tune the behavior of these filters, go to Video, Filters, [your filter] . For each filter, you will find a short description and the options

Audio filters

Equalizer

VLC features a 10-band graphical equalizer. You can display it by activating the advanced GUI on wxWidgets or by clicking the Equalizer button on the MacOS X interface.

The equalizer in the wxWidgets interface

The equalizer in the MacOS X interface

Presets are available in the Audio menu in wxWidgets, or in the Equalizer window in the MacOS X interface

Other audio filters

At the moment, VLC features two other audio filters: a volume normalizer and a filter providing sound spatialization with a headphone. They can be enabled in the Audio tab of the extended GUI for the wxWidgets interface and in the Audio section of the Extended Controls panel of the Mac OS X interface.

For better control, you need to go to the preferences. To select the filters to be enabled, go to Audio, then to Filters. In the "audio filters" box, enter the names of the filters to enable, separated by commas. Valid names are "equalizer", "normvol" and "headphone".

If you want to tune the behavior of these filters, go to Audio, Filters, [your filter]. The equalizer and headphone filters can be tuned.

Basic troubleshooting

Note

This is very incomplete

File does not play, only sound or only video

Maybe the file you are trying to read is not fully supported. VLC does not use the codec packs you might have installed. It comes with its own codecs. If there is no open-source decoder for the format you are trying to read, it won't be supported. (There is an exception, under Windows, for codecs that use the DirectShow framework).

To find out, open the Messages Window (View menu) and restart your stream. Look for error messages (red messages)

The wxWidgets messages window

In this example, the file contains a IV41 video stream, a codec that is not supported by VLC.

You may of course have other messages. If you post to a VideoLAN mailing list or in the forum, please include such a log, it is very valuable.

Weird VLC behavior ("stopped working")

A very common thing is a bogus preferences file. Don't hesitate to delete it if problems appear suddenly. You will find in the FAQ details on how to delete your preferences file.

Computer crashes / Video is corrupted

Another common problem is buggy video drivers. Try upgrading them from the website of your video card's manufacturer.

Also, you can try disabling Overlay (Preferences/General/Video, untick "Overlay video output")