VLC is one of the most widely used media players. It was one of the first open source media players to get encrypted DVD playback capability, and now, it looks like the time has come for Blu-ray playback capability also.

Playback of unencrypted Blu-ray ISOs and folder structures has been possible without menus since VLC 1.2. VLC also has a GPLed open source library for the implementation of the AACS specifications. From the end-user's perspective, the big missing piece of the puzzle was the AACS keys database and how to get it integrated with the VLC installation. A simple Google search was enough to reveal the key (pun intended).

The above configuration should help people with the playback of most of the older Blu-rays, while the more recent ones could be a hit or a miss. Will this be enough to replace commercial Blu-ray players like the ones from ArcSoft, Corel or Cyberlink? Unfortunately, that is still quite some time off. The following aspects need to be resolved for that to happen:

  • Audio codecs: There are no open source DTS-HD decoders available. VLC will only decode the Dolby Digital / Dolby TrueHD / LPCM / core DTS tracks in the audio stream. HD audio bitstreaming is also not currently supported.
  • PiP features: There is no support for Blu-ray Picture-in-Picture (PiP) features yet, but this should be possible considering that the VLM already supports generation of PiP output.
  • BD-Live: It can be safely said that VLC will probably never get BD-Live features which require BDA licensing. That said, I am not really sure BD-Live features are actually beneficial to the consumers in any way (I would love to hear feedback from readers on this).
  • Menu functionality: This is probably the most requested feature when one analyzes Blu-ray playback support. Fortunately, a recent tweet from a VLC developer indicates that a lot of progress has been made towards this functionality. It should get integrated into the main branch in time for the release of VLC 2.1 / 3.0. We are keeping a close watch on the development of this feature for VLC.

Blu-ray Menu Functionality in VLC (Courtesy: Hugo Beauzée-Luyssen)

The AACS keys will never be part of the official VLC releases (since it enables copy protection circumvention), but open source support for Blu-ray playback is bound to be a boost for the format amongst the consumers (though the licensing entities are going to fret the loss of revenue). If VLC gets full menu support along with HD audio bitstreaming for unprotected Blu-ray ISOs, that will be a huge step forward for the Blu-ray format.

Source: Google Search

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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - link

    Yes, it will be able to! But, not guaranteed with the latest discs.. should work well for the older ones though. You still don't get HD audio decode in all cases / bitstreaming etc.
  • aliasfox - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - link

    Cool, thanks! A pity on no lossless audio though. That said, I've never compared the lossless track against the regular Dolby/DTS track.

    Now I would just have to deal with HDMI handshake and HDCP issues between four different links in the chain...

    Anybody miss those blissful five or so years when you could buy the highest quality disc and be sure it played on your home theater, your laptop, your friend's laptop, etc? All without compatibility or noticeable DRM issues?
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - link

    Actually, if VLC or AnyDVD is used, I don't believe HDCP even comes into the picture. And if you're going to use Apple earbuds or laptop speakers, DD is way overkill in terms of quality anyway.
  • aliasfox - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - link

    I output to B&W 804s hooked up to a McIntosh amp, actually :-P (too bad my current apartment's too small, has bad acoustics, and pretty awful ambient noise characteristics. The downsides of living in NYC...)

    I'm intrigued as to how VLC would be able to bypass all of the HDCP issues. In fact, I thought the weak point in the chain would have been HDCP over a USB2 or Firewire connected blu-ray drive.

    Of course, all of this is 'nice to have.' As you partially pointed out, blu-ray really doesn't enhance the experience that much (or at all) if I were to watch on a laptop or even an iMac's 27" display. The purpose for this exercise (from my point of view) is to have a backup blu-ray player (in case something goes wrong with the standalone player), or if I happen to purchase blu-rays in the future without DVD copies included.
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - link

    HDCP is to secure the link. The player software has to setup HDCP with the display. Technically speaking, there is nothing preventing BluRay players from not using HDCP at all. Licensing and legal is another issue, of course.

    BluRay content protection is via AACS, which hasn't been an issue for years.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Why would anyone want menus? I cant stand menus, because then you usually have to wait an eternity to get to the menu, forced to watch all sorts of filler content that makes me feel like they should be paying me to watch their crap.
  • jecastejon - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I liked the video store. That is almost gone. I am not a fan of Netflix mail delivery. I can live with the online model if the prices goes down and the movie selection get serious. Then, there is the BR disc but I converted all my DVD movies to digital and I don't want to go back. So, there are options but all have serious disadvantages. One option had been the Blockbuster kiosk where I rent DVD movies for a dollar (I mean, now for 2-3).

    In the end I don't have a BR player. With the money I will put on a decent BR player I decided only to buy online a few movies and series I really like. Blue-Ray is a demo, it hasn't happened for me yet and I am waiting for online prices on BR to go down. Meanwhile I buy or rent DVDs.

    For TV series I know there is a higher cost for production, but what is the excuse on movies that are made using film and then converted. Isn't BR mature enough now to go mainstream? Why are we still paying the premium price these days?
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