Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

VLC: My new favourite media player

VLC Screenshot About 18 months ago I waxed lyrical about Media Player Classic (MPC) – an open source clone of Windows Media Player 6.4. But now I’ve found a new favourite media player in VLC (the ‘VideoLAN Client’). Here I’m reviewing the latest Beta – 0.8.2-test2.

Like MPC, VLC is open source, but VLC is “more” open source than MPC because its codecs are open source too. MPC just uses the standard DirectShow codecs that every other Windows application uses. This probably comes about because VLC is cross-platform and MPC is Windows-only.

Both play back DVDs but VLC has its own libraries. These libraries let you get around the region encoding on DVDs (so a Region 2 drive bought in the UK can play a US Region 1 DVD) and also lets you skip the usually unskippable DVD intros that appear before the DVD menu. Let’s face it, once you’ve seen one copyright warning, you’ve seen them all.

Despite being cross-platform, VLC is much more efficient in terms of CPU usage. Programs with high CPU usage are a problem for my computer, with its tired cooling system, so this is a definite plus point for me.

VLC also has a skins mode, and comes with two interfaces. The default is the standard wxWindows interface that makes it look like a standard Windows application. The other is a brushed-steel Mac OS X-esque theme which I’ve used in the screenshot.

Negative points? The Preferences window is a bit of a usability nightmare since it includes almost every option under the sun. Although this beta version is an improvement over 0.8.1 it could still do with simplifying, in the same way that Firefox’s preference dialog is much simpler than that of Mozilla. Previous versions have suffered problems with playback – the video has been too pixelated or stuttery, but this beta version seems to solve those.

All in all, I think it’s a great little program. The screenshot, by the way, shows the end of this week’s episode of Doctor Who. Next week’s looks utterly awesome.


  1. How did you manage to grab a screenshot? Whenever I try all I get is a black screen where video should be. VLC is a pretty awesome mediaplayer, the ‘Wallpaper’ feature is neat.

  2. I just hit Print Screen. You might have to fiddle with the video options – open Preferences, choose Video and disable ‘Overlay Video Output’.

  3. It should be noted that turning the overlay off can increase the CPU’s overhead and reduce the frame rate, but as Neil said it’s necessary to do that to obtain screen captures. It’s a good idea to them it back on afterwards, though.

  4. VLC is definatly an impressive program. I’ve been using it for a month or so and it keeps suprising me how much faster than Windows Media Player it is. The only problem I have found with it is it doesn’t seem to like the sound on a couple of my DVDs, I think Spaced is one, I can think of the others.

  5. I just wanted to thank you for the advice for VLC. It’s great!