VLC PlayerThere’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with VLC, the high quality audio and video player for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Its speed, portability, and built-in support for most common codecs make VLC an extremely popular choice for playing video. While that’s all well and good, VLC can do a lot more than basic video playback, including things like video encoding, DVD ripping, volume normalization and more. Today we’ll look at some of VLC’s most interesting and little-known features that help make this an indispensable application for nearly all desktop platforms.

Video File Conversion

We’ve touched on video encoding with VLC here before, but VLC has been updated since then and the process is FAR simpler now. To convert a video file from one format to another, choose Media -> Advanced Open File. Make sure you pick Advanced, as the simple file opener dialog does not display conversion options. Add your file or files using the Add button, and once finished move the mouse cursor to the arrow next to the Play button to choose Convert.


At the second dialog, simply choose your output format and filename, click Start, and you’re all set.


DVD and Audio CD Ripping

While playing DVDs is common enough in VLC, many people don’t think of it when looking for a ripper. There are certainly more feature-rich DVD rippers out there, but VLC can always be counted on if you’re unwilling or unable to use a dedicated ripper program. To start, you use a process very similar to the Encoding section above. Click Media -> Open Disc to get the disc screen, and you’ll find buttons at the top to choose the DVD or Audio options.


Choose Convert instead of Play Then simply choose output name and type, just like the Video File Conversion section above.

Jump to Time

This is a great example of a tiny, simple feature that can come in very handy. If you find yourself hitting the wall in Hour 9 of your Star Wars marathon, you can take note of the current play progress and jump back there tomorrow once you’ve had a chance to eat, sleep, and rethink your life. Just tell VLC where you left off and it’ll jump right back.


Last.fm Scrobbling

While mainly for video, VLC is a fairly capable music player as well. If you’re a Last.fm user, you can use VLC to submit your tracks. The option to enable this is in the same place as the normalizer function, Tools > Preferences > Audio.


Automatic Audio Normalization

Many people and programs who encode video don’t always respect good practices when it comes to audio volume. There are few things more annoying while running a video playlist than to have to jump out of your chair and crank down the volume because someone didn’t respect decibel limits. Fortunately, VLC includes a live audio normalizer that detects and suppresses sudden jumps in sound. To access it, choose Tools -> Preferences -> Audio.


It’s worth noting that there is a slight delay in the normalizer. If you’re watching a video where a gunfight breaks out, the first shot might be missed by the normalizer but it will kick in shortly after. Also, it seems that if you enable this function while a video is playing, you will need to restart the video for the normalizer to take effect.

If you’ve got a useful tip for getting the most out of this excellent application, let us know in the comments below.