Streaming a YouTube video into VLC Media Player offers more useful controls than watching on YouTube itself. In addition to common tasks like changing the aspect ratio or play speed etc, you can also take snapshots of the video – and you don’t get the in-video adverts that appear when watching on YouTube.
VLC is an extremely popular free media player for Windows, Mac and Linux – it recently achieved the milestone of over 1 billion downloads from the developers’ servers (not including Linux).
It is easy to use VLC to stream YouTube videos – we’ll cover the manual method first and then an automated method for Firefox users.
How To Stream – Manually
1. Browse to the video you want to stream on the standard (http) YouTube site. [If you use the https secure YouTube site instead you will have to manually edit the URL in Step 4 later as VLC can’t stream videos with an https prefix].
2. Right click on the URL (web address) in the address bar and select Copy – the URL should look something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPIXAtNGGCw
3. Open VLC – from the menu bar, select ‘Media’ then ‘Open Network Stream’ to display the Open Media window.
4. In the network URL box, right click and Paste (or Ctrl + V) the URL you copied earlier as shown below. [If it is an https URL, remove the ‘s’ to change it to http]
5. Press the ‘Play’ button and the YouTube video should start streaming in VLC – you can use the standard controls to adjust the video if required and can skip along the timeline the same as on YouTube.
How To Stream – Automatically From Firefox
Although the ‘Open With’ add-on for Firefox is designed primarily to open a web page (or link) in another browser, you can also set it to open any program which accepts a URL as input. We can use this feature to add a button to Firefox (and/or a context menu option) to automatically open VLC and start streaming the YouTube video on the current page – with just one click.
To do this, first install and configure Open With as described in our review.
Then, in the Open With ‘Options’ window, press the ‘Add’ button and browse to/select the vlc.exe program file – it is usually located in the C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC folder.
An entry for VLC should now appear in the right hand panel of the Options window as shown below:
Here you can press the Up arrow if you want to change its position in the list of items or Rename it if required.
Close the add-on’s Options tab – the VLC button should appear in the Firefox Tab bar (if displayed) as shown in the top right of the picture above – or you can select it from the context/tab menu.
When selected, it opens VLC and starts playing the current URL video automatically – no need to open VLC manually and copy/paste the URL :-)
Tips On Playback
A modern computer and decent (at least 2 mbps) broadband connection should be able to handle the streaming playback ok – if there are issues, check the following:
- Update to the latest VLC (currently 2.0.5 Twoflower at the time of writing) to resolve a lot of incompatibilities.
- Open VLC – from the menu bar, select ‘Tools’ then ‘Preferences’ and select the ‘Input & Codecs tab’ – tick ‘Use GPU accelerated decoding’.
- Note that VLC is not able to stream YouTube Live Events.
It is easy to manually stream YouTube videos in VLC Media Player but Firefox users can install the Open With add-on to make it an automatic single click process.