Welcome Back, VLC

No one I’ve met has every said a bad thing about VLC. It opens just about every media format in existence, it has a lot of features to play video files (deinterlace is my personal favorite), and it’s free. After an extended absence, it returned to iOS over the summer and has been a great app for screening videos in class.

Playing a clip of Un Chien Andalou using VLC for iOS.

Playing a clip of Un Chien Andalou using VLC for iOS.

It’s much easier to add videos to VLC for iOS than it is for the built-in iOS Video player app. With the latter, you can only add videos from the iTunes store or through the desktop iTunes application. VLC provides more convenient options for adding videos, such as…

  • Opening a Network Stream
  • Downloading a video from a website (works with WebDAV, too)
  • Uploading a video from a desktop computer over WiFi
  • Adding a file through Dropbox

Using VLC for iOS keeps my bag light for class. It allows me to leave the laptop at home. It also spares me from carrying a stack of DVDs and trying to find the relevant clips for class. To use an iOS device to present videos, you might have to buy a VGA adapter for your iOS device. There are two versions, one for the older 30-pin connector and one for the new 9-pin Lightning port. As long as the connector fits, it should work on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

Since 2006, educators have been able to circumvent copy protection on DVDs to extract excerpts of motion pictures for study in a classroom. In order to qualify for the exemption, which was reaffirmed in 2012, there are several conditions:

  1. The DVD must be in the library of a college or university’s film or media studies department.
  2. The extracted content must represent only a excerpt of the DVD.
  3. The extracted content must be used in a classroom for educational use.
  4. It specifically exempts media studies and film professors.
Add files using drag and drop.

Add files using drag and drop.

You can extract the clips using Handbrake and libdvdcss. And once you have them on your computer, you just upload them to VLC. The easiest way is to use the WiFi upload feature. You can drag-and-drop your video files or you can use the upload button to navigate via the file system.

There are two benefits of using VLC over the Videos app. First, compared to the built-in Videos app, you are spared the trouble of adding the files to iTunes and having to sync the files with your iOS device. Second, while you are using VLC and connected to an external display or projector, only you can see your VLC controls. The audience only sees the vidoes as you play them. It’s a great feature since I prefer not to show my students everything that I might have on my iPad. Although I have only used the MPEG–4 format, it supports MKV and other formats that Apple doesn’t readily support.

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