VLC is a portable multimedia player, encoder, and streamer supporting many audio and video codecs and file formats as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It is able to stream over networks and to transcode multimedia files and save them into various formats. VLC used to stand for VideoLAN Client, but that initialism is now deprecated.
It is one of the most platform-independent media players available, with versions for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, GNU, Linux, BeOS, and BSD.
The default distribution of VLC includes a large number of free decoding and encoding libraries; on the Windows platform, this greatly reduces the need for finding/calibrating proprietary plugins. Many of VLC’s codecs are provided by the libavcodec library from the FFmpeg project, but it uses mainly its own muxer and demuxers. It also gained distinction as the first player to support playback of encrypted DVDs on Linux by using the libdvdcss DVD decryption library.
- VLC is popular for its ability to play the video content of incomplete, unfinished, or damaged video downloads before the files have been fully downloaded. (For example, files still downloading via BitTorrent, eMule, or Gnutella). It also plays m2t MPEG transport streams (.TS) files while they are still being digitized from an HDV camera via a FireWire cable, making it possible to monitor the video as it is being played. This is because it is a packet-based player.
- The player also has the ability to use libcdio to access .iso files so that the user can play files on a disk image, even if the user’s operating system does not have the capability of working directly with .iso images.
- VLC supports all audio and video formats and all file formats supported by libavcodec and libavformat. This means that VLC can play back H.264 or MPEG-4 video as well as support FLV or MXF file formats “out of the box” using FFmpeg’s libraries. Alternatively, VLC has modules for codecs that are not based on FFmpeg’s libraries. This feature is not unique to VLC, as any player using the FFmpeg libraries, including MPlayer and xine-lib-based players, should be able to play those formats without the need for external codecs.
- Using a FireWire connection from cable boxes to computers, VLC can stream live, unencrypted content to a monitor or HDTV.
- VLC media player can display the playing video as the desktop wallpaper, like Windows DreamScene, by using DirectX (only available on Windows Operating Systems).
- VLC media player can do screencasts and record the desktop.
- On Microsoft Windows, VLC also supports the Direct Media Object (DMO) framework and can therefore make use of some third-party DLLs.
- On most platforms, VLC can tune in to and view DVB-C, DVB-T and DVB-S channels. On Mac OS X the separate EyeTV plugin is required, on Windows it requires the card’s BDA Drivers.
- VLC can be installed and run directly from a flash or other external drive.
- VLC can be extended through scripting. It uses the Lua scripting language.
- VLC can play videos in the AVCHD format, a highly compressed format used in recent HD camcorders.
On Windows, Linux, Mac, and some other platforms, VLC provides a NPAPI plugin, which enables users to view QuickTime, Windows Media, MP3 and Ogg files embedded in websites without using additional products. It supports Firefox, Mozilla Application Suite, Safari, Opera, Chrome and other Netscape plug-in based web browsers. Before switching to Adobe Flash, this plugin was initially used by Google to build the Google Video web browser plugin.