Lucy downloaded a video which wouldn’t play and, in my advice to her to download VLC, I remembered that ages ago I’d promised myself I’d tell all my loverly blog people about it too.
Fact is, if VLC doesn’t play it, nothing will. This is because, with the very rare exception of playback types which have been deliberately crippled, VLC taps into the sexy underbelly of open source software projects which are cunningly crafted to look at the data file you want to play and try to pretend to be the software the video prefers to play back in, without actually having to install any extra gunk on your PC.
This is a particular problem for clips you’re not supposed to have, like TV programs you forget to record or watch when they were on which some kind soul has subsequently made available for you on BitTorrent.
Since many broadcasters don’t own the rights to re-distribute content via the tubey-webs for more than, say, 10 days, sometimes to watch an older program you have no choice but to technically break the law and fetch it from a P2P network. Unfortunately, while certain hardware capture cards which take an input from an analogue TV source and turn these videos into a file which playback perfectly well on the machine which made them, other machines (like yours) which don’t have that particular capture card manufacturer’s software installed, simply give out an esoteric error message, about how the world is about to end if you don’t install VidTits_not_a_worm_virus_honest.exe
This is where VLC steps in. It can save you hours of searching for freeware which recognises these obscure playback codecs. It will even make an attempt at rebuilding damaged or incomplete files so you needn’t trash a file that’s 99% completely downloaded, but which BitTorrent refuses to resume that last segment.
VLC is available for a whole bunch of different operating systems, but it comes into it’s own on the Mac, as it’ll think nothing of playing various file types wrapped in Windows Media Video as well as many of those strange AVI and MP4 clips of people falling off fast moving bikes and trains, which you have no idea why you keep, because you’ve already watched them a million times on YouTube and LiveLeak.
Downside: You need a good computer to playback certain High Definition clips.
Upside: Every time I think about Lucy, a dumb grin spreads across my face :)