Master VLC, the ultimate Windows media player for power users

VideoLAN's free media player can stream files to and from the Internet, manage podcasts, capture webcam videos and even play Blu-ray

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The actual process of copying discs is fairly straightforward, however. Open Media > Convert/Save again, but instead of adding files in the File tab, click Disc to select a disc to rip. Afterward, the transcoding options are the same as with a straight file-to-file conversion, and, yes, copying a disc takes a long time. If, on the other hand, you want a straight-up copy of the original files on the disc, just check the Dump Raw Input box.

Copying DVDs and audio discs shouldn't be an issue, but ripping Blu-rays can occasionally be an exercise in frustration. If you run into problems, MakeMKV is a great Blu-ray-ripping resource that can handle modern BD+-encoded Blu-rays and older AACS-encoded Blu-rays alike.

Saving webcam and Internet streams is simple, but the methodology is a little different than with physical media. Open the file using Media > Open (Network Stream or Capture Device), but rather than hitting Play, click the arrow to the right of it and select Stream from the list. Identify the source, press Next, then make sure the destination is set to File, and fiddle with the transcoding options the same way you would when saving a DVD or doing a file-to-file conversion.

One final note: You can capture the video you're watching at any time by simply clicking the Record button. To add the Record button to the toolbar, click View > Advanced Controls.

Transform your videos into ASCII art

Let's close things out with a bit of fun: VLC can translate video into ASCII art consisting of nothing but numbers and letters. Why? Who knows? It's pointless, but fun.

To get the alphanumeric party started, select Tools > Preferences > Video. Then, click the drop-down box next to Output (in the Display section) and select Color ASCII Art Video Output. Now, just start a new video and enjoy the text-based show. Be sure to change the output back to Default when you're done!

These tricks only scratch the surface of what VLC can do. Advanced users can set the VLC player to stream video to the Web, batch encode files based on their extension, capture only the audio track from a DVD, access movies from other computers on your network, and more. Check out VideoLAN's incredibly helpful wiki and forums for more tips, tricks, and help with any issues you may run into.

This story, "Master VLC, the ultimate Windows media player for power users" was originally published by PCWorld.

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