DME Forensics Blog

Video Playback Stuck in VLC?

Occasionally, you will encounter video clips that only appear to display the first frame when played in VLC. When this occurs the progress bar continues to move but no additional video frames appear to be displayed. “Scrubbing” across the video will sometimes allow you to move to a certain position beyond the first frame, but even this doesn’t always work. We recently had a DVR Examiner user ask us about this. They were reviewing AVI files exported from DVR Examiner and some of them played fine in VLC and some simply froze at the first frame.

We did a little research and it turns out what is occurring is that VLC is attempting to decode frames but it isn’t doing it fast enough so the frames are being discarded. It seems this may occur on some systems but not others, and on some files but not others. There are many factors such as the complexity of the video, the abilities of the system, and other processes active on the computer.

One technique we have found to work is to change the demuxer within VLC. Let’s take a look at how to do this.

  1. First, start VLC and select “Tools”, then “Preferences”.
  2. Within the Preferences window, choose “Inputs/Codecs”.
  3. In the lower left corner of the Preferences window, you need to change from “Simple” to “All” in order to see all of the more advanced settings.
  4. From the list on the left, select “Demuxers”. You’ll see on the right hand side that the default is “Automatic”.
  5. Use the drop down list to select the demuxer to use. “Avformat” tends to work well, however you could try other demuxers if this doesn’t resolve the issue.
  6. Click “Save” on the bottom right corner of the Preferences window.
  7. Close and restart VLC in order to use the newly selected demuxer.

As a final note, I generally recommend attempting playback of files in multiple players such as VLC, GOM, ffplay, Windows Media Player, etc. You may be surprised how different the playback results can be.