How To Enable VLC’s Best Hidden Features

How To Enable VLC’s Best Hidden Features

VLC is easily one of our favourite media players (and yours too). While it can handle nearly every movie you throw at it, it can also do so much more. You don’t need to be a power user to understand all of its incredible, built-in features; you just need to know they exist. And we’re happy to show you everything amazing VLC can do on your desktop PC.

How to download YouTube videos with VLC

We’ve discussed plenty of ways to download YouTube videos before. However, you have one option already installed on your computer. VLC lets you play and download YouTube videos right from its desktop interface. Here’s how:

  1. Find a video on YouTube — like this one — and copy the URL from the address bar.
  2. In VLC, head to Media > Open Network Stream.
  3. Paste the YouTube link in the box and click Play.
  4. Under Tools, click Codec Information.
  5. In the box that says Location, right-click the block of text and click Select All. Copy this text to your clipboard.
  6. Go back to your browser and paste the link in the address bar. This will open the source file directly on YouTube’s servers.
  7. Right-click the video as it plays and select Save Video As.

You can also record clips from YouTube videos as they’re streaming in VLC by pressing the red Record button in the player itself. This isn’t as direct a method, but it’s handy if you need to grab a particular clip out of a long video.

2. How to record video clips with VLC (Windows)

  1. Load up a video”it can be anything. Hit pause before it starts.
  2. Right-click on the video and click View. Then, click on Advanced Controls.
  3. Start playing your video, and press the red Record button in the player itself. When its background turns blue-ish, you’re recording.
  4. Press the red Record button again to stop recording
  5. Go find the clip you created. In modern versions of Windows, that’ll be in your “Videos” user folder.

3. How to capture your desktop with VLC

This is a great trick if you’re trying to show someone instructions for doing something on their Windows or Mac systems”especially if you don’t have the ability to share your screen over a web meeting.

  1. Under Media, click “Open Capture Device.”
  2. Click the “Capture Mode” dropdown and select “Desktop.”
  3. Modify the frame rate. 15 f/s will probably be good enough for desktop recording, though 30 f/s may be required for more fast-paced movement.
  4. Click the dropdown arrow next to “Play” and select “Convert.”
  5. In the “Profile” dropdown, choose MP4″either h.264 or h.265.
  6. At this step, you can click the tool icon to modify the settings of this profile. Here you can modify things like resolution or bitrate. We’ll use the default settings for now, but you can come back here later if you need to tweak the final product.
  7. In the Destination box, choose a location to place the finished file.
  8. Click Start.

VLC will now capture a feed of your desktop behind-the-scenes. Let it run while you record your workspace. When you’re done, you can click the stop button in the player controls to end the recording.

4. How to convert video files with VLC

VLC also has a pretty decent built-in video converter, if you need a quick fix and don’t have time to fuss with something like HandBrake.

  1. Under Media, click “Convert/Save”.
  2. Add the file you want to convert in the File Selection section.
  3. Click “Convert/Save”.
  4. In the Settings section, pick the file type you’re converting to under the “Profile” drop-down. (We recommend an .MP4, h.264 or h.265.)
  5. Give the file a name and location under Destination.
  6. Click Start. If you want, you can watch the conversion’s progress (and get an estimated duration) within VLC itself.

The converted video file will be deposited in the target location. VLC certainly isn’t a replacement for a more robust application but for simple jobs, it’s a video converter many people already have on their computers.

5. How to record your webcam with VLC


Your webcam may or may not have come with software to take pictures and record videos. However, chances are VLC has some advantages over both. Not only can you choose several different types of formats to record to, you can also tweak a number of settings if needed. This is helpful for making YouTube videos or recording video messages to send to friends or relatives. Here’s how to record video from your webcam:

  1. Under Media, click Open Capture Device.
  2. In the “Capture mode” drop down, DirectShow should be selected by default. If it isn’t, select it.
  3. For “Video device name” choose your webcam.
  4. For “Audio device name” choose your microphone ” which might also be your webcam, if you aren’t using a separate one..
  5. Click “Advanced options”.
    1. If you want to use the software that came with your device to control input settings, choose “Device properties”.
    2. Otherwise, enter a value for “Video input frame rate.” 30 is a good rule of thumb for smooth video, though you can use less if you’re not concerned about quality.
    3. Click Okay.

At this point, you have two options. You can click Play to play live video through VLC and record segments as needed by pressing the red Record button (as mentioned previously). You can also choose “Convert/Save” from the dropdown menu and select where you would like the recorded file to go.

Both methods have their advantages. The former allows you to preview your video and take clips in short bursts. However, this method requires headphones, as it can create a feedback loop. It also also lead to a more sluggish recording on slower computers.

Using the Convert/Save method avoids the feedback problem, but it also doesn’t provide you much information on what you’re looking at or when you’re done recording. You can stop the recording by pressing Stop in the player, but there’s no indicator that you are still recording at the time.

How to subscribe to podcasts in VLC


You might not think of VLC as a podcast manager, but if you use it regularly, it’s actually pretty handy. To add a podcast, you’ll need the RSS feed of the show. As an example, we’ll use an RSS feed for Lifehacker’s The Upgrade podcast:

Copy that to your clipboard, then pull up VLC and perform these steps:

  1. In VLC’s sidebar, scroll down until you see Podcasts.
  2. Hover your mouse over Podcasts and click the plus sign on the right.
  3. Paste in the RSS feed URL of the show you want to add.
  4. Click OK.

Now, your podcast of choice will appear in the Podcasts sidebar section. Click on the name of a show and you’ll see a list of available episodes. Double-click on any one of them to start streaming.

7. How to cast to your Google Home speakers or Nest Hub using VLC


I just found this one out the other day, and it’s one of my favorite little tricks to stream audio from my computers to the various Google Home speakers around my house. (Even though I can yell at the speakers to load a Spotify playlist, not all of my music”and none of my videos”is streamable via the service.)

To cast music or video around your house via VLC, pull up whatever it is you want to stream. From there, click on the Playback menu and select the Render option, and then pick from any of the available speakers. It’s as easy as that, but you might not have thought to look for it under that awkwardly named option.

8. How to fix subtitles that appear at the wrong time via VLC

If you’re watching a movie with VLC and the subtitles are all off”either too early or too late based on whenever characters are saying their dialogue”you can fix this directly within VLC.

  1. Press Shift+H when an actor starts speaking a sentence you know you’ll recognize
  2. Press Shift+J when the associated subtitle pops up
  3. Press Shift+K to fix the delay.

(If a subtitle pops up before the sentence, swap steps one and two.)

9. How to set videos as your desktop wallpaper in VLC (Windows)

If you want to kick your Windows 10 wallpaper up to the next level, give this a try:

  1. Open VLC
  2. Click on Tools > Preferences
  3. Click on the Video section at the top
  4. Under “Output,” select “Direct3D9 video output”
  5. Close and reopen VLC
  6. Load a video and start playing. Right-click on the video and select Video, then “Set as wallpaper”
  7. For best results, make sure your video’s size (or aspect ratio) matches your desktop’s.

10. How to watch all your videos in ASCII (Windows)

Impress your geeky friends at your next party by putting a video on in the background…in ASCII.

  1. Load a video in VLC
  2. Navigate to Tools > Preferences > Video
  3. In the “Output” dropdown menu, select “Color ASCII art video output”
  4. Bask in your nerdiness

For what it’s worth, I couldn’t get this to work at all on my 64-bit version of VLC in Windows 10. You might have better luck with the 32-bit version, or on different video types, but I wouldn’t install a different version of VLC on a 64-bit system just for this little trick.

11. How to customize looped video on VLC (Windows)


If you only want to loop parts of a video and not the full thing, you can customize start and end points within VLC:

  1. Open your video and navigate to wherever you want your loop to start. (Tap “e” to go forward frame-by-frame.)
  2. Right-click on the video and click View. Then, click on Advanced Controls.
  3. Click on the little A/B icon once. That sets your start point.
  4. Navigate to wherever you want your loop to stop, and then click on the A/B icon again. You’ve now set your end point, and the loop will start playing and rewinding automatically.
  5. Click on the A/B icon one last time to delete the loop.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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