The Long Awaited Streaming Report

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Photo by paperdog2005

Memories from NMC 2007 are somewhat faded, but one of the most interesting sessions for me was the IUPUI presentation on “Searching for an Ideal Live Video Streaming Technology”. A promise was made to publish the detailed results of “the search” by the end of the summer. Well, it’s been delivered, and let’s give a huge round of applause to VLC! What is VLC? Well in a bit of Jim Groom style hyperbolic flare, it’s only the best program ever. I’m only half kidding. VLC stands for VideoLAN Client and it is a multi-purpose media player. The list of its capabilities is truly staggering.

First off it is completely cross platform. Windows (including Vista), Macintosh, AND Linux versions exist. Jim Groom highlighted this program in a post about Mac video tools a while back, so he can vouch for the viability of using this program on OS X. An interesting side note is that this program was actually developed as a student project in a Paris, France school, so it was literally born in the education world.

I promise a full article on all of its talents, but here is a short list. It plays virtually all of the media formats, audio and video, that you could think of. More importantly it plays files very efficiently. I have seen in the case of some high bitrate DivX files, DivX’s own player stutter with the playback, while VLC handled the same file with aplomb. The only major exception to format compatibility is the Real Media format, which is perhaps for licensing issues. That format is pretty dead, though UMW certainly dabbled in it. VLC also can function as a DVD player, playing discs back with full menus. It also has a great playlist feature (we employed at our recent freshman student orientation presentation). Throw it a directory of files, again video or audio, and it will play them back one-by-one. I use it to play DivX and FLV (like YouTube) files, my two favorite formats.

Finally, as the title of this post suggests, you can stream from your computer live video. That’s right it’s both a client and server program for live streaming video. As you can see, IUPUI thought very highly of it. Now how much would you pay for it? Did I mention that it was free? It’s versatility is unmatched and you will hear me speak of it often in my role as New Media Specialist here at the University of Mary Washington. The multi-faceted VLC.


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