It's called the Swiss Army Knife of video players, and not for nothing. VLC is your standard go-to software when you end up with some bizarre codec-locked movie file that just won't play in your standard players. With the news that Apple was relaxing its App Store regulations and letting in all kinds of video players, we prayed to see VLC show up. It did, and we grabbed it the moment we could.
First off, we've got nothing but great things to say about our desktop and laptop installations of VLC. Even with DVDs we've rented that won't play on our friends' PCs, VLC rides to the rescue. Simply put, we've never had a file format that could stump the software. And when CineXPlayer came to the App Store, we prayed our VLC iPad dreams would come true. That day has arrived.
However, unlike our the desktop counterpart, this mobile iteration of VLC might be a bit different for some users. For that reasons, we've compiled a small selection of tips on how to get started with the VLC Player for iPad.
To begin, you can queue up videos in the client by hooking up your iPad to your computer, selecting the device in iTunes, and going to the Apps tab. There, in the lower File Sharing part of the screen, you select VLC from the list of programs that support USB syncing, click Add, and then select the media files to add--that's all there is to it. (You can even drag and drop if that's more your style.)
As easy as 1, 2, 3, 4
There's a surprising lack of tweaks you can perform on the VLC app. Videos auto-populate a row of shelves in chunky block icons, and you scroll through them by running your finger along the screen. Videos seem to fill in randomly and are not sorted alphabetically, nor are there options to view them as a list. You'll need to make sure your titles indicate what movie you want to view because if you upload several short files, they can get lost in the shuffle. Longer titles trail off into ellipses, so short and sweet is your friend.
Touch the icon and the video loads and begins to play. On the shelf, below the image of the video is the title, along with the length of the video, the size, and the aspect ratio, though not the format. This last piece of information would be especially helpful if you have multiple formatted versions that you're testing.
The video controls are the usual ones--fast forward, reverse, pause, drag to advance, and volume--and can be accessed by tapping on the screen. Turn your iPad horizontally, and you can watch movies in landscape or portrait mode. Clicking the OK button in the top left corner takes you back to your shelf of videos, and video playback picks up where you left off when you return to the app.
The Usual Control Button Scheme
As far as we could tell, there were few files that VLC would play that the iPad couldn't. The app did manage to open a DivX encoded AVI file, so if you only want one alternate video app, VLC might be your choice. However, Ogg Theora was unsuccessful, as were Windows Movie files, digital video (.dv) files from a camcorder, FLV, MKV, and MPEG. iTunes claimed that they were loaded on to the iPad, but the app refused to recognize them. If you're a longtime Handbreak junkie, you may wish to steer clear of any of the aforementioned formats if you're planning an iPad video party.
While playback was often good, there were some videos that froze the app or caused image ghosting and freezing while the audio continued to play. Some experimentation with the bitrate settings in your ripping software may be neccessary for optimal performance.
Ghosting Images Make Strange Art
Despite some of the limitations of the VLC app, we'll be eagerly looking forward to updates, with the hope for a bit more functionality and an ever-increasing list of compatible formats.