The amazing thing about VLC that helped make it so ubiquitous was that this tiny, free, open source package could play absolutely anything you could throw at it without going through the hassle of finding and installing various codec packs. Well, apart from the one DVD library for legal reasons.
In recent years though, VLC has slowly begun to lag behind. With other media players making better use of multi-core systems, and the inability to play Blu-Ray films or 10-bit content, the lightweight media player that could play everything was anything but.
Enter VLC 2.0. It’s finally been released nearly three years since 1.0 was finished, which itself took 13 years. With apparently 7000 code commits by 160 volunteers, there are huge changes that have been made throughout its core, as well as some tweaks to the interface.
The list of changes goes on for miles, but there are some highlights that are well worth noting. As foreshadowed above, some of the major noticeable changes include the ability to now watch Blu-rays and 10-bit HD video. Unfortunately though, the Blu-ray support is a bit limiting – firstly menus will not show up so you’ll need to do some deductive reasoning to figure out which chapters and scenes you want to be watching. Also, like its DVD support, you’ll need to grab an extra library or two to get them working.
It’s a huge step in the right direction though, and the main reason that it’s not fully supported just yet is because of the amount of work that has gone into the core rendering engines. Video outputs have been added, and older ones rewritten, now supporting better GPU optimisation and multi-threaded decoding for HD content.
The result is it plays content better than ever, whether it’s locally, in a browser, or streaming to other devices. And still it remains a tiny package that is extremely lightweight, especially now that it’s taking full advantage of a computers hardware.
Hopefully the Blu-ray support will be increased over the next year, either through the normal bug patch releases or a minor upgrade to 2.1. Even without this full support though, VLC has successfully reclaimed it’s crown as the best video playing solution.
The ultimate media player has lived up to its reputation by overhauling the core and adding support for new and better HD codecs, as well as basic support to play Blu-ray content, without losing and of its previous functionality. All this while staying small and lightweight through better hardware optimisations