Record video in VLC

You may have heard you can capture video with VLC, the popular open source media player. But how you do it isn’t intuitive and there’s some advice out there that doesn’t work. That said, it’s possible, and works well for certain use cases once you get used to the steps. In this blog post, I explain how to capture video with VLC, or record video in VLC.

VLC is primarily a video player, but it can act like a lightweight video capture tool. You can record video from VLC in 10 steps.

Record video from VLC

capture video with VLC
You can record or capture video with VLC from the Media menu, choosing Open Capture Device, and following a few fairly straightforward steps. The trickiest part is clicking the down arrow next to Play (above) and selecting Convert.

VLC is designed for playback more than recording, but it’s also a versatile video capture tool. The only reason it’s difficult is because it’s rather configurable. I’ll walk through the most useful options for each setting.

To record video from VLC, first stage what you want to capture. VLC can readily capture whatever is running and showing on your desktop. Next, open VLC media player, or switch to it if you were already running it. Click on Media > Open Capture Device.

A new dialog box opens. Navigate to the section labeled Capture Mode, and select Desktop. This will make VLC capture whatever is taking place on your desktop as a video file.

Set the desired frame rate to 30.00 frames per second (fps), unless you know you need a different frame rate. Other common rates are 24, 25 and 29.97 frames per second. But chances are, if you need one of those other framerates, you already knew that. When in doubt, use 30 fps.

Click on the down arrow next to the button labeled Play and then click Convert.

A new dialog box will appear.

Choose a filename. You can name the file whatever you want, but the last four characters (the extension) must match the file type you want to use. Unless you have a reason to use another format, use .mp4 as the last four characters. You can also specify a path. Either type a path directly or click Browse to choose the folder you want to save the file in.

Under Settings, choose a video profile. Video H264 + MP3 (MP4) is generally the one you’ll want to use.

Click Start at the bottom of the dialog box and your recording will start. Minimize VLC media player to get it out of the way.

To stop recording, all you need to do is close VLC.

And that’s how you capture video with VLC.

Why capture video with VLC?

My main use case for capturing video with VLC is when I’m configuring a piece of software and need to be able to go back and document the steps or explain it later. I can step through the process while recording it and not have to pause to take notes as I go. Then when I’m finished, I can go back, play the video, pause at any point, write down what I need to, then continue.

Personally, I prefer to pause and take notes as I go, but it can take 30 minutes to write down the steps for an action that takes 5 minutes to carry out. If I only have five minutes, I can capture the video with VLC, save it, then go back later when I have 30 minutes and write what I need to. It’s a useful time management trick when working in fast-paced environments. Who would have thought VLC was a productivity tool?

Having video also also gives me the option to go back, edit the video for length, record a voiceover, and turn it into a video for use in an LMS or a service like Youtube if need be. I need other tools for the editing process, but in a pinch I can even use ffmpeg.

Installing VLC

You can download VLC from the official website, but when using VLC on Windows, I like to use a package manager like Chocolatey to install it because then the package manager can keep it up to date for me as well, or install it from the Windows Store and then use winget to keep it up to date. VLC updates rather frequently with minor enhancements, bugfixes, and security fixes, so it’s a good idea to keep it up to date.

There are a lot of websites out there that do a bait-and-switch on you, promising to tell you how to record video with VLC, then give you steps that either don’t work or are needlessly complex and try to sell you something else. There’s no need to buy something else. Those dedicated tools may be easier, but VLC is free and reasonably nimble.

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