Of all the media players out there on the World Wide Web, nothing is more useful than the open-source VideoLAN Client Player. More commonly known as VLC, it’s the world’s most popular media player, a system all people love. An elegantly simple 20 megabyte amalgamation of codec packs and a simple GUI, it doesn’t break, crash or waste a machine’s memory. It can play almost any file format thrown at it. It’s so easy, even academic settings use it, and they do. Instructors use it to play back videos relevant to their course. Anime fans use VLC to watch their favourite series. Since its release in 2001, it’s been one of the most well-received media players on the market, an indispensable tool in an anime fan’s arsenal. After that comes a large hard disk and a powerful network adaptor. One thing’s for sure…no one wants to watch anime in Windows Media Player.
At least, that’s how I feel about VLC. Technically, VLC is not compatible with every single format out there, being unable to render and play QuickTime, RealMedia and 10-bit .mkv files. The key feature of VLC is the inclusion of a wide range of decoding and encoding libraries in the standard distribution, avoiding the need for finding/calibrating proprietary plugins. This contrasts many other players out there, which require the installation of multiple other codecs in order to function normally, in turn reducing the file size dramatically. This alone allows VLC to be incredibly easy to use, setting it above other media players like MPC, which require codec packages to decode and playback media files. Finally, VLC was originally designed to be a streaming client, and so, plays files by breaking it up into packets. The end result is that the client can play incomplete or even broken files, something even MPC is unable to do.
That said, VLC is not invulnerable. I’ve already mentioned that it cannot overcome 10-bit .mkv files, and another issue arises when one tries to play high resolution files in the form of video tearing during skipping. These two factors are not sufficient deterrents from using the program: VLC is strongly recommended for being a highly self-contained media player overall, more so than MPC, which takes additional time to set-up. I realise that some fansubbers are releasing 10-bit .mkv files and then telling people to get MPC or go home. The solution is outlined by my article on Nightly Handbrake, which is capable of converting these files into .m4v. Truth be told, 10-bit .mkvs are like electric cars in the sense that while they have their merits, they are not practical for the moment.