VLC media player

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VLC media player
VLC Icon.svg
VLC Media Player 2.1.6.png
A screenshot of VLC Media Player 2.1.6 running under Ubuntu MATE
Developer(s) VideoLAN
Initial release February 2001; 17 years ago (2001-02)
Stable release
  • Desktop:
    2.2.1 (16 April 2015; 3 years ago (2015-04-16)) [±][1]
  • iOS:
    2.5.1 (31 March 2015; 3 years ago (2015-03-31)) [±][2]
  • Android:
    1.3.2 (30 April 2015; 3 years ago (2015-04-30)) [±][3]
  • Windows Phone: (29 April 2015; 3 years ago (2015-04-29)) [±][4]
Preview release
  • Windows RT:
    0.0.5 (11 April 2014; 4 years ago (2014-04-11)) [±][5]
Written in C, C++ (with Qt), Objective-C
Operating system Windows, OS X, Linux, BSD, Solaris, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, QNX, Haiku, Syllable, OS/2[6]
Platform IA-32, x64, ARM, MIPS, PowerPC
Available in 48 languages[7]
Type Media player
License GNU Lesser General Public License v2.1+ [8][9]
Website videolan.org/vlc/

VLC media player (commonly known as VLC) is a portable, free and open-source, cross-platform media player and streaming media server written by the VideoLAN project. VLC is available for desktop operating systems as also mobile platforms as Android, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. VLC is also available on App stores as Apple's App Store.

VLC media player supports many audio and video compression methods and file formats, including DVD-Video, video CD and streaming protocols. It is able to stream media over computer networks and to transcode multimedia files.[10]

The default distribution of VLC includes a large number of free decoding and encoding libraries, avoiding the need for finding/calibrating proprietary plugins. The libavcodec library from the FFmpeg project provides many of VLC's codecs, but the player mainly uses its own muxers, and demuxers. It also has its own protocol implementations. It also gained distinction as the first player to support playback of encrypted DVDs on Linux and OS X by using the libdvdcss DVD decryption library.


The VideoLan software originated as an academic project in 1996. VLC used to stand for "VideoLAN Client" when VLC was a client of the VideoLAN project. But since VLC is no longer merely a client, that initialism no longer applies.[11][12]

It was intended to consist of a client and server to stream videos from satellite dishes across a campus network. Originally developed by students at the École Centrale Paris, it is now developed by contributors worldwide and is coordinated by VideoLAN, a non-profit organization.

Rewritten from scratch in 1998, it was released under GNU General Public License on 1 February 2001, with authorization from the headmaster of the École Centrale Paris. The functionality of the server program, VideoLan Server (VLS), has mostly been subsumed into VLC and has been deprecated.[13] The project name has been changed to VLC media player because there is no longer a client/server infrastructure.

The cone icon used in VLC is a reference to the traffic cones collected by École Centrale's Networking Students' Association.[14] The cone icon design was changed from a hand drawn low resolution icon[15] to a higher resolution CGI-rendered version in 2006, illustrated by Richard Øiestad.[16]

In 2007 the VLC project decided for license compatibility reasons to not upgrade to the just released GPLv3.[17]

After 13 years of development, version 1.0.0 of VLC media player was released on 7 July 2009.[18]

Work began on VLC for Android in 2010 and it is now available for Android devices on the Google Play store.[19][20]

In September 2010 a company named "Applidium" developed with endorsement of the VLC project for iOS a VLC port under GPLv2, which was accepted by Apple for their App store.[21][22] In January 2011, after VLC developer Rémi Denis-Courmont's complaint to Apple about the licensing conflict between the VLC's GPLv2 and the App store's policies,[23] the VLC had been withdrawn from the Apple App Store by Apple.[24] Following, the VLC authors began to relicense in October 2011 the engine parts of VLC from the GPLv2 to the LGPLv2 to achieve better license compatibility, for instance with the Apple App Store.[25][26][27][28] In July 2013 the VLC application could then resubmitted to the iOS App Store under the Mozilla Public License.[29]

Version 2.0.0 of VLC media player was released on February 18, 2012.[9][30]

As of 2012 VLC topped the sourceforge.net overall download count;[31] as of 2013 more than 1.3 billion downloads had occurred.[32]

A version for the Windows Store was released on 13 March 2014. Support for Windows RT, Windows Phone, and possibly the Xbox One are also in development.[33]

Design principles

Modular design

VLC, like most multimedia frameworks, has a very modular design which makes it easier to include modules/plugins for new file formats, codecs, or streaming methods. VLC 1.0.0 has more than 380 modules.[34]

The VLC core creates its own graph of modules dynamically, depending on the situation: input protocol, input file format, input codec, video card capabilities and other parameters. In VLC, almost everything is a module, like interfaces, video and audio outputs, controls, scalers, codecs, and audio/video filters.


In VLC, interfaces are modules, which means that VLC's core can launch one, many, or no interfaces.

The default GUI is based on Be API on BeOS, Cocoa for OS X, and Qt 4 for Linux and Windows, but all give a similar standard interface. The old default GUI was based on wxWidgets on GNU/Linux and Windows.[35]

The interface contains an Easter egg which changes the VLC traffic cone logo so that it's wearing a Santa hat. The logo changes on December 18, one week before Christmas, and reverts to its normal appearance on January 1.[36]

VLC supports highly customizable skins through the skins2 interface, also supporting Winamp 2 and XMMS skins. The customizable skins feature can malfunction depending on which version is being used. Skins are not supported in the Mac OS X implementation of VLC.[citation needed]

For console users, VLC has an ncurses interface and a remote control interface. As VLC can act as a streaming server, rather than a media player, it can be useful to control it from a remote location, and there are interfaces allowing this: the remote control interface is a text-based interface for doing this; there are also interfaces using HTTP (Ajax) and telnet.[citation needed]


Keyboard mapping: VLC basic.

In addition to these interfaces, it is possible to control VLC in different ways:


Because VLC is a packet-based media player it plays almost all video content. It can play some, even if they're damaged, incomplete, or unfinished, such as files that are still downloading via a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. 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. The player can also use libcdio to access .iso files so that users can play files on a disk image, even if the user's operating system cannot work directly with .iso images.

VLC supports all audio and video formats supported by libavcodec and libavformat. This means that VLC can play back H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 2 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. VLC is one of the free software DVD players that ignores DVD region coding on RPC-1 firmware drives, making it a region-free player. However, it does not do the same on RPC-2 firmware drives, as in these cases the region coding is enforced by the drive itself, however, it can still brute-force the CSS encryption to play a foreign-region DVD on an RPC-2 drive. VLC media player has some filters that can distort, rotate, split, deinterlace, and mirror videos as well as create display walls or add a logo overlay. It can also output video as ASCII art.

VLC media player can play high definition recordings of D-VHS tapes duplicated to a computer using CapDVHS.exe. This offers another way to archive all D-VHS tapes with the DRM copy freely tag. 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 create screencasts and record the desktop. On Microsoft Windows, VLC also supports the Direct Media Object (DMO) framework and can thus make use of some third-party DLLs. On most platforms, VLC can tune into 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 or run directly from a USB flash drive or other external drive. VLC can be extended through scripting; it uses the Lua scripting language.[37][38] VLC can play videos in the AVCHD format, a highly compressed format used in recent HD camcorders. VLC can generate a number of music visualization displays. The program is able to convert media files into various supported formats.[39]

Operating system compatibility

VLC media player is a cross-platform media player, with versions for Android, BeOS, BSD, iOS, Linux, OS X, OS/2, QNX, Solaris, Syllable, and Windows.[6] However, forward and backward compatibility between versions of VLC media player and different versions of OS are not maintained over more than a couple or so generations.[40] 64-bit builds are available, and an experimental version is available for 64-bit Windows.[41]

Windows 8 support

The VLC port for Windows 8 is backed by a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to add support for a new GUI based on Microsoft's Metro design language, that will run on the Windows Runtime. It brings support for DVDs, VCDs, and unencrypted Blu-ray Discs, none of which are supported natively in Windows 8. All the existing features including video filters, subtitle support and an equalizer are present in Windows 8.[42]

A beta version of VLC for Windows 8 was released to the Microsoft Store on March 13, 2014.[43]

Android support

In May 2012, the VLC team stated that a version of VLC for Android was being developed.[44] The stable release version 1.0 was made available on Google Play on 8 December 2014.[45]

Use of VLC with other programs


Developer(s) VideoLAN Project
Initial release 1 February 2001
Stable release 1.1[46]
Written in C
Type Multimedia Library
License GNU Lesser General Public License
Website wiki.videolan.org/LibVLC

Several APIs can connect to VLC and use its functionality:

  • libVLC API – the VLC Core, for C and C++
  • VLCKit – an Objective-C framework for Mac OS X
  • JavaScript API – the evolution of ActiveX API and Firefox integration
  • D-Bus controls
  • Go binding[47]
  • C# interface
  • Python controls[48]
  • Java API[49]
  • DirectShow filters[50]
  • Delphi/Pascal API: PasLibVlc by: "Robert Jędrzejczyk"[51]
  • Free Pascal bindings and an OOP wrapper component, via the libvlc.pp and vlc.pp units. This comes standard with the Free Pascal Compiler as of 6 November 2012.[52]
  • The Phonon multimedia API for Qt and KDE applications can optionally use VLC as a backend.

Browser plugins

On Windows, Linux, OS X, and some other Unix-like platforms, VLC provides an NPAPI plugin,[53] which enables users to view QuickTime, Windows Media, MP3, and Ogg files embedded in websites without using additional products. It supports many web browsers including Firefox, Mozilla Application Suite, and other Netscape plug-in based browsers; Safari, Chrome, and other WebKit based browsers; and Opera. Google used this plugin to build the Google Video Player web browser plugin before switching to use Adobe Flash.[54]

Starting with version 0.8.2, VLC also provides an ActiveX plugin, which lets people view QuickTime (MOV), Windows Media, MP3, and Ogg files embedded in websites when using Internet Explorer.

Applications that use the VLC plugin

VLC can handle some incomplete files and in some cases can be used to preview files being downloaded. Several programs make use of this, including eMule and KCeasy. The free/open-source Internet television application Miro also uses VLC code. HandBrake, an open-source video encoder, loads libdvdcss from VLC Media Player.

Format support

Input formats

VLC can read several formats, depending on the operating system VLC is running on, including:[55]

Container formats
3GP,[56] ASF, AVI, DVR-MS, FLV, Matroska (MKV), MIDI,[57] QuickTime File Format, MP4, Ogg, OGM, WAV, MPEG-2 (ES, PS, TS, PVA, MP3), AIFF, Raw audio, Raw DV, MXF, VOB, RM, DVD-Video, VCD, SVCD, CD Audio, DVB
Video formats
Cinepak, Dirac, DV, H.263, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, H.265/MPEG HEVC,[58] HuffYUV, Indeo 3,[59] MJPEG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, RealVideo 3&4,[60] Sorenson, Theora, VC-1,[61] VP5,[61] VP6,[61] VP8, VP9,[58] DNxHD, ProRes and some WMV.
Audio formats
AAC, AC3, ALAC, AMR,[56] DTS, DV Audio, XM, FLAC, It, MACE, Mod, Monkey's Audio, MP3, Opus,[62] PLS, QCP, QDM2/QDMC, RealAudio,[63] Speex, Screamtracker 3/S3M, TTA, Vorbis, WavPack,[64] WMA (WMA 1/2, WMA 3 partially).[65]
DVD-Video, SVCD, DVB, OGM, SubStation Alpha, SubRip, Advanced SubStation Alpha, MPEG-4 Timed Text, Text file, VobSub, MPL2,[66] Teletext.,[66] Closed Captions, WebVTT
Network protocols
UDP, RTP (unicast or multicast), HTTP, FTP, MMS, RTSP, RTMP, RSS/Atom
Network streaming formats
RTP/RTSP ISMA/3GPP PSS, Windows Media MMS, Flash RTMP, MPEG Transport Stream, Apple HLS, MPEG DASH
Capture devices
Video4Linux (on Linux), DirectShow (on Windows), Desktop (screencast), Digital TV (DVB-C, DVB-S, DVB-T, DVB-S2, DVB-T2, ATSC, Clear QAM)

Output formats

VLC can transcode or stream audio and video into several formats depending on the operating system, including:

Container formats
ASF, AVI, FLV,[66] Fraps,[66] MP4, Ogg, WAV, MPEG-2 (ES, PS, TS, PVA, MP3), MPJPEG, FLAC, QuickTime File Format, Matroska, WebM
Video formats
H.263, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, H.265/MPEG-H HEVC, MJPEG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, VP5,[61] VP6, VP8,[61] VP9,[58] Theora, DV, Dirac
Audio formats
AAC, AC-3, DV Audio, FLAC, MP3,[67] Speex, Vorbis
Streaming protocols


The VLC media player software installers for the Mac OS X platform and the Windows platform include the libdvdcss DVD decryption library, even though this library may be legally restricted in certain jurisdictions.[68][69]

United States

The VLC media player software is able to read video and audio data from DVDs that incorporate Content Scramble System (CSS) encryption, even though the VLC media player software lacks a CSS decryption license.[70] The unauthorized decryption of CSS-encrypted DVD content or unauthorized distribution of CSS decryption tools may violate the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.[70] Decryption of CSS-encrypted DVD content has been temporarily authorized for certain purposes (such as documentary filmmaking that uses short portions of DVD content for criticism or commentary) under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act anticircumvention exemptions that were issued by the US Copyright Office in 2010.[71] However these exemptions do not change the DMCA's ban on the distribution of CSS decryption tools like VLC.[72]

See also

Notes and references

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  17. Denis-Courmont, Rémi. "VLC media player to remain under GNU GPL version 2". videolan.org. Retrieved 2015-11-21. In 2001, VLC was released under the OSI-approved GNU General Public version 2, with the commonly-offered option to use "any later version" thereof (though there was not any such later version at the time). Following the release by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) of the new version 3 of its GNU General Public License (GPL) on the 29th of June 2007, contributors to the VLC media player, and other software projects hosted at videolan.org, debated the possibility of updating the licensing terms for future version of the VLC media player and other hosted projects, to version 3 of the GPL. [...] There is strong concern that these new additional requirements might not match the industrial and economic reality of our time, especially in the market of consumer electronics. It is our belief that changing our licensing terms to GPL version 3 would currently not be in the best interest of our community as a whole. Consequently, we plan to keep distributing future versions of VLC media player under the terms of the GPL version 2. [...]we will continue to distribute the VLC media player source code under GPL "version 2 or any later version" until further notice.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  21. hands-on-with-vlc-movie-player-for-ipad.ars on Arstechnica
  22. the-vlc-ios-license-dispute-and-how-it-could-spread-to-android on Arstechnica
  23. vlc-for-ios-vanishes-2-months-after-eruption-of-gpl-dispute.ars on arstechnica
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  29. VLC under Mozilla public relaunched. Accessed 10/10/2013
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  32. "Top Project Listings". VideoLAN. Retrieved 2013-01-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. vlc-for-the-new-windows-8-user-experience-metro on kickstarter.com
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  56. 56.0 56.1 Until VLC 1.1.0, to use AMR as audio codec, VLC and FFmpeg had to be compiled with AMR support. This is because the AMR license is not compatible with the VLC license.
  57. This feature needs sound fonts and might not work on every OS. Support under Windows was dropped after version 2.0.8 due to security issues.
  58. 58.0 58.1 58.2 "VLC 2.1.2 Rincewind". VideoLAN. Retrieved 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  59. Indeo 4 and 5 codecs are not supported
  60. from 0.9.9 and over
  61. 61.0 61.1 61.2 61.3 61.4 This is from the 0.8.6 version.
  62. "VLC 2.0.4 Twoflower". VideoLAN. Retrieved 2012-10-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  63. RealAudio playback is provided through the FFmpeg library which only supports the Cook (RealAudio G2 / RealAudio 8) decoder at the moment.
  64. As of 2010, only supported in mono and stereo, so no multichannel support.
  65. VideoLAN team. "VLC playback Features". Retrieved 2010-01-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  66. 66.0 66.1 66.2 66.3 This is present in 0.9.0 and newer version.
  67. VLC must be compiled with mp3lame support
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External links