We review the first major release in three years of this ever-popular cross-platform multimedia player.
VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and streaming protocols.
Version 3.0 is the first major release in three years. It activates hardware decoding by default to get 4K and 8K playback, supports 10bits and HDR playback, 360° video and 3D audio, audio passthrough for HD audio codecs, streaming to Chromecast devices (even in formats not supported natively), playback of Blu-Ray Java menus and it adds browsing of local network drives.
When consumer-centric PCs first hit the market, they were plagued with a specific problem: pre-installed software that offered newcomers a suite of tools that required hefty user manuals to understand. More advanced users, on the other hand, were stuck trying to modify their machines or just get used to the limited capabilities associated with factory-installed programs.
When the ability to download software came along, users had more choices and more of a say in how their computers would operate. Novices could still take advantage of whatever their computers came with, and veteran consumers could upgrade thanks to new software.
VLC Media Player is a title that puts those pre-loaded media software offerings to shame. With unparalleled compatibility and cross-platform support all packed into an open source title, it gives users a somewhat misleading interface: the simple design belies the full capabilities this media player provides.
These days, any newsworthy media player will support all the major formats, but VLC also doesn’t require codec packs to work with even the most obscure file types. Even better, the software’s input media supports not just a lot of file types but also DVD as well as video and audio CD, UDP/RTP unicast and multicast, HTTP/FTP, DVB (satellite, digital TV, cable TV), MPEG encoder, video acquisition, and many, many more. It also supports content from webcams and live streams.
As far as customization, VLC Media Player offers users literally dozens of different skins to choose from, including several different variations on Sony PSPs and classic “throwback” styles from previous decades’ media players. These skins do not all work on Mac OS X, but instructions for incorporating them into other operating systems only require you to download the skin of your choice and then change it in the software’s settings. Even better, VideoLAN offers a tool to create your own to suit your wants and needs with its VLC Skin Editor.
For those who consume content on the go, VLC Media Player offers a Portable version that packages the player and your media like an app for multiple mobile device operating systems. You can even put the player and your files on a flash drive to use on public or shared computers without worrying about having to download anything to a shared computer or leaving your information behind for someone to track later.
One of the developer’s key requirements for its title is that it be a truly open source experience. Donations are welcome, of course, but parent company VideoLAN does not deploy ads or rely on spyware or tracking in order to foot the bill for this powerful tool. To download VLC Media Player for yourself, click here for 32 bit and here for 64 bit.