You may think the colors are a bit off on a YouTube video. Or you might have failing eyesight, like yours truly, and think every video looks fuzzy, like if your screen was coated with Vaseline. VLC is here to help.
There are countless guides explaining how you can tweak your videos to enhance their looks, but they all end up demanding the recompression or transcoding of your files. This is a procedure that can take anywhere from five minutes to five hours, depending on your content and your PC’s capabilities. Why spend so much time, effort, PC resources, and electricity if all you want is to watch a video, but upgraded with better contrast and maybe more pronounced details?
Read on to see how you can apply VLC effects and filters in real time, as the video plays, for that purpose.
Effects and Filters
Although it can be used as an editing tool, VLC is, first and foremost, a media player. Thus, the effects and filters it has work primarily in real time.
This means you don’t have to pre-process a video but can enable and modify it as it plays on your screen to tweak it to your liking.
To access the effects and filters, with the video playing (or paused), right-click it and choose “Tools -> Effects and Filters,” or press Ctrl + E on your keyboard.
Hue and Saturation
Some videos may look washed out, others like moving splashes of color. In both cases, the Hue and Saturation sliders are your friends. You can find them, as every option we’ll examine here, in the “Video Effects -> Essential” panel.
After enabling “image adjust,” you can shift the full range of colors with the Hue slider. This will rarely be required, compared to the Saturation slider that regulates the richness of the colors in a video stream. All the way to the left, and your video will turn black and white, while at the opposite edge, it will make the video look like an old VHS tape.
Brightness, Contrast and Gamma
Can you see some grey block dancing in pitch-black areas of the video, or do lights and shiny white surfaces look to be like a dull grey? You have a brightness and contrast problem.
Tweak the two sliders until everything looks right. A quick “cheat” is turning the Brightness down until the darkest point of a dark frame looks as black as your screen can get, then increasing the Contrast until the brightest part (like a light or a shiny metal surface) looks the opposite, as bright as your screen can show.
If your whites and blacks look OK but somehow every frame feels washed out or, the opposite, every shape pronounced like a cartoon, tweak the Gamma value.
Sharpen and Film Grain
To people with perfect eyesight, the results of the following tweaks will look horrid. If, nevertheless, every video looks too fuzzy to you, enabling the Sharpen effect and increasing its Sigma value might make you feel like you’re wearing brand new glasses, boosting the finer details.
Don’t overdo it, or your video will turn to a late-Picasso in motion. Stay left of the first mark.
Film Grain emulates the annoying noise that was noticeable in analog video signals. The reason you might want it enabled is that the pixels it adds in flatter areas of a frame and help our used-to-detecting-motion eyes perceive more detail.
It might be an illusion, but try it out on a low setting, and you might find the result a surprising upgrade.
Those simple tweaks will help you upgrade every video you watch in VLC – or at least tailor its looks to your liking. Every person is different, so what looks too colorful to one might feel like greyscale to another.
It’s not only a matter of personal preference, as each individual video is a different case. As an extreme example, colorful anime videos usually need a different set of tweaks compared to old Hitchcock thrillers.
It’s unfortunate that, at least as far as we know, VLC doesn’t offer an option to create tweak profiles and every change you make will apply either to the active video (if you click “Close” after the tweaks) or to everything VLC plays from now on (if you choose to “Save” them).
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