Power Up Your Video with VLC Media Player and Other Free Tools

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 28, 2014

If you've got some time to add another open source application to your arsenal, getting to know VLC Media Player, available for Windows, the Mac and Linux, is one of the best choices you can make. The application is famous for handling nearly any kind of video file format for playback; you can use it as a video transcoder for converting video file formats; and you can listen to and manage podcasts with it.

Version 2.1.5 of VLC Media Player is available now. One thing that people routinely miss about this application is that it's not just a player. You can use it to stream and broadcast video and other media content, and that includes streaming content to a smartphone, iPad or other mobile device. Here is our newly updated collection of getting started guides for VLC, including guides for streaming your content.

 Broadcasting Basics. While the vast majority of VLC Media Player users use the application for watching video, it is also a fantastic video streaming server. There are many easy tutorials online that show how to do this if you're interested. This one is a particularly simple, screenshot-driven guide, as is this one, and video tutorials are also easy to follow. You can find many more non-obvious uses for VLC Media Player in this post.

A Visual Guide. FLOSSManuals, which offers many free manuals on open source applications and platforms, has a good, concise, free online guide to installing and using VLC Media Player on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux, found here. The instructions are good for introducing you to VLC Media Player's main functions. You'll find individual "chapters" on how to perform various functions along the left rail of the guide.

Tips and Tricks. ThinkDigit has a very good collection of tips and tricks on VLC Media Player, found here. You'll find tips on how to do non-obvious things like taking snapshots of video, streaming video across a network, overlaying logos and adding effects, and using VLC as a video transcoder.

Get the Portable Edition. VLC Media Player Portable is downloadable here. It's a lightweight version of the application that you can even carry on a pocket USB flash drive for playing and working with media anywhere, on any computer.

Ripping DVDs. Many people love VLC Media Player for ripping DVDs (you can also watch them with it--which I do on airplanes). The How-To Geek has done a nice visual tour showing how to rip DVDs with VLC. For many users of the application, this is a favorite capability.

Skin It. Not everyone realizes it, but you can skin VLC Media Player to look much more slick than it typically does. Check out this tutorial for step-by-step instructions on making the application look great.

Finally, don't forget that there is ample documentation and there are tutorials available from the VLC Media Player site.

Spend a little time getting to know aspects of VLC Media Player that you may not be used to. It will be worth your while.

Are you interested in more resources for working with video and streaming content? Through a series of "course sprints," groups in partnership with FLOSS Manuals have produced an Open Video Workbook that is a really good introduction to using open video tools.  If you want to get a video ready for the web, or subtitle a video in a compatible way, or you want to stream a video, then begin with this workbook. It can even help you annotate online videos with live tweets and interactive maps. The course will also introduce you to useful sites, such as EngageMedia, a free and open online video sharing website.

Do you create and work with video files regularly?  If so, you may be interested in Jubler, a FOSS tool for creating and translating subtitles that you can use with Linux, Windows or Mac OS X. (It uses MPlayer for playback.) FLOSS Manuals has a visual guide to getting started with Jubler, available here.  

 You may also be interested in hosting your own video offerings online. There are some good open tools that can help you do so, and FLOSS Manuals has an exploration of these here. The guide provides alternatives for people who want to reduce their reliance on services like YouTube and Vimeo.

If you're working with video, it is essential to focus on good audio, and there are some good open source resources for producing good audio. We've covered Audacity on a number of occasions. Audacity is an audio production platform that compares very well with software used in professional environments, including tools for silencing ambient noise, combining, cutting, moving, and mixing tracks. Check this post for more.

Meanwhile, Sonicvisualiser has become a very popular tool for studying what's actually inside digital audio recordings. It was developed at the Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary, University of London. It's available for Linux, OS/X, and Windows, and lets you see visualizations of your audio files, including annotations.

And finally, here at OStatic, we've compiled a guide to some of the best free video-focused applications you can get. You'll find some gems collected there.