Better ways to watch the MIX11 videos, Part 1: VLC - Jon Galloway

Better ways to watch the MIX11 videos, Part 1: VLC

I'm still catching up on all the great content at MIX 11. There is a ton of great content - 116 videos when I last looked. Scott Hanselman already posted a great summary of ways to get and watch them. With this many videos to watch, though, you might want to bring out some big guns, and that's what this post is all about.

Streaming them at high speed with VLC

VLC has long been my favorite media player. It's lightweight, plays just about every media format without any codec hassle, streams from network and internet locations without a hiccup, can save output to disk, has nice playlist support, and has great keyboard commands.

We'll take advantage of three of those features here:

  • Playlist support
  • Streaming from URL
  • High speed playback

If you don't already have VLC, grab it from http://www.videolan.org/ (protip: it's also available at http://ninite.com, the best way to load out your Windows machine with great free software).

Loading the Playlist

Run VLC and pop into Playlist mode. You can do that from the View menu, hit Ctrl+L, or click on the Playlist icon at the bottom to do that.

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In the Playlist interface, expand the Internet group and click on + sign to the right of Podcasts.

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This brings up a prompt to enter the URL for the feed. You can enter the format of your choice here - in my case I'm going to pick the high bandwidth WMV feed: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/MIX/MIX11/RSS/WmvHigh

You have a few options (the types are obvious from the last bit of the URL):

Note: When I first looked at this, I ran into a case sensitivity issue with these feeds, but I checked in with Duncan Mackenzie and I think he's got that fixed now. I'm just mentioning in case you run into any wierdness with the feeds - use the properly cased feeds as shown above.

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That grabs the feed and builds a playlist for us, and we're ready to rock.

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Streaming the videos

Now hold on a second, you say. How did it grab all those big video files so quickly? Where did it put them? Are you messing with me?

Here's where we get to that second thing on the list - streaming from a URL. We didn't download any files, and we're not going to. We're going to stream them. If you wanted them downloaded so you can watch them from your bomb shelter with no internet access, you'll need to hold on for the next post, where we'll look at a PowerShell download script. So when you hit play, it buffers the files and plays them for you as you go. It works great for me - I get to watch the videos and I don't need to hassle with managing GB's of video files.

Watching at high speed

So, double-click on of the video files to start watching. You can toggle between the video view mode and playlist mode the same way we did earlier - Ctrl+L, from the menu, or with the icon.

Now we get to take advantage of the next feature: high speed viewing with VLC. Like before, there are two ways to adjust the playback speed. The simple way is to click the play speed indicator in the bottom right to bring up a speed slider.

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The easier way, though, is to just use the square bracket buttons on your keyboard. [ slows down by 10%, and ] speeds up by 10%. When you hit the button, you'll see a brief indication in the upper right corner of the video showing that the speed has changed.

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The audio is sped up without affecting the pitch, so it's still pretty listenable.

One more protip: VLC has tons of keyboard shortcuts, which you can find in Tools / Preferences / Hotkeys. Two indispensible hotkeys are F (toggle fullscreen) and Spacebar (toggle play and pause).

Published Thursday, April 21, 2011 5:22 PM by Jon Galloway
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