Updated: March 9, 2018
VideoLAN (VLC) is probably the most versatile media player in the world. I've written perhaps a dozen different articles covering this program and its features. There's little it can't do. Anything media-related you can think of, VLC definitely has. Streaming, no problem. DVD playback, check. Subtitles, yes please. Plugins, filters, portable mode. It's cross-platform, and it's free. And now there's a new version.
VLC 3.0 hails a whole range of improvements, including all the fancy new formats that plebes love, stuff like 4K, 8K, UHD, 60FPS, 360-degree video and images, and more. Ask any professional, and they will laugh in derision at the notion of capturing video at soap-opera rates, but plebes love them numbers, and the bigger the better. VLC obliges, with its most ambitious and spectacular release yet. Shall we take a close look?
Believe it or not, for a player that has a version for anything, ranging from Windows Vista to Windows Store, with 32-bit, 64-bit, Linux, and Android releases in between, getting VLC 3.0 to run was a bit tricky for me, for several reasons. Specifically in Linux, at the time of the testing, a couple of weeks ago or so, few distros had the new edition in the official repos, so I had to download and install the snap version. This worked fine, but the Snap package looks ugly on Plasma, for example. In Windows, things were smoother, but I hit a snag there, too. More in a jiffy.
Ah yes. So, 4K, 8K and such. Technically, I fully understand why we need this - the wheel of innovation and profit must roll on. Larger videos mean more bandwidth mean more money. You can't expect TV, phone and monitor companies to suddenly stop and stay, 1080p is enough. That way, we'd still all be using VHS in all its 144p glory or something, but the fact is, we're still far from the ocular 800-900MP quality, and there's more we can do before physics cries bullshit.
In this regard, VLC champions the battle, and it will play anything. In official parlance, here comes the lingo train: HDR, hardware decoding, 4K, 8K, 10-bit videos, 360-deg videos, 3D audio, Chromecast streaming. The list is more than impressive. It's bloody marvelous. Truly great. First, I tried the usual content, and it was all cushty.
Then I tried a few sample 360-deg videos, and this didn't work as well as I hoped. In Windows, I couldn't get the videos to zoom or anything like they were supposed to do. I even downloaded the special version of VLC, the one with the -git suffix, which was noted in several online guides on the subject, but this obviously was a redundant move, as the official release is supposed to have all the goodies. I only had regular playback, and 4K was quite choppy on the Lenovo G50 machine with Windows 10 and Intel graphics.
Testing in Linux (same box), specifically KDE neon and Kubuntu 17.10, the results were much better. Smooth playback, even for 4K, and the 360-deg videos actually worked as they should. I'm not sure what went wrong, but it must be some sort of a glitch. Or perhaps I got confused. In the end though, VLC delivered.
Apart from a single crash with a 360-deg video loading, everything was stable.
In Windows, scanning for devices on the local network to cast the media resulted in the Windows firewall complaining. This is something that could potentially mar the experience for less savvy users, as they might not even know what their devices are showing, or why VLC is being blocked.
The rest of it was all good. This is still the same, familiar VLC, with a wealth of features and options and settings, almost casually overwhelming within its simple, unassuming GUI. But that's part of its charm and power.
Vetinari is a pretty decent VLC release. One, it's the familiar product, and there are no surprises there, which is good from the user perspective. Two, unassumingly, you gain a whole load of new options and features, and they cover the bleeding edge of the media technology. Three, all of that for free, on any which device you want.
My testing shows there are still some rough edges, and that the setup in Linux should be easier, and 360-deg playback in Windows more intuitive. But I also know things will quickly get better as these small bugs are ironed out. One thing that VLC has proven in the past fifteen years is that it's stable, robust, rich, and that it inexorably marches forward, into the storm of technology. Speaking of technology, VLC 3.0 grabs it by the horns and the balls. Perhaps 4K or 8K videos have no intrinsic value except to bleed your bandwidth and battery, but when it comes to fads, VLC has all the corners covered and then some, years ahead. It's a tech demonstrator and a clear, undisputed leader. Job well done. Time to watch some movies, then.