Presenting with VLC

I lecture quite a bit on musical topics, often having to do with opera or dance. Putting together one of these lectures, or a set of them, often used to involve traveling with a bag full of LPs/CDs/DVDs/VHS tapes. Over the past few years, I’ve moved to digitizing everything, extracting just the excerpts I need. So now instead of a bag of stuff, I have a folder of MP3s and MP4s which I copy onto my laptop, and I’m good to go. It takes some upfront time the first time I prepare a lecture, but it’s well worth it.

On my old laptop, the video card had a feature which would automatically play videos fullscreen on an external monitor or projector even while they were windowed on my monitor. This meant I could still keep an eye on how much time was left or look for the next excerpt in Explorer while one was playing on the projector. But my new laptop doesn’t do that.

Windows 7 presentation mode is the first part of the solution; Win+X to brings up the mobility center, where I can quickly turn off my wallpaper and screen saver, and then Win+P lets me configure the projector as an extension of my desktop, rather than just mirroring it. The second part is setting up the excellent VLC to play all videos fullscreen on the projector while keeping the controls on my monitor. This isn’t my regular config, so I didn’t want to save the settings – I wanted something I could fire up easily when I was presenting. A little Googling and trial and error gave me the answer. I set up a shortcut called ‘VLC Presenter Mode’ with the following command line:

vlc.exe --fullscreen --no-embedded-video --vout=directx --directx-device=\\.\DISPLAY2

This tells VLC to separate the controls from the video and to open all videos fullscreen using DirectX on the second monitor (the projector). The controls stay right on my desktop where I want them. The DirectX option is needed to allow me to specify the output device; it also means that Windows will turn off Aero Glass (the pretty desktop effects) when I play a video, but that doesn’t really matter in this context.

Although VLC lets me control its output volume with Ctrl+Up and Ctrl+Down, I also want to give a shoutout to freeware volume control 3RVX. This lets me assign my own hotkeys for adjusting system volume and also gives an onscreen slider that doesn’t emit the Windows default beep when I change the volume, which can be annoying when you’re hooked up to an amplifier. (My laptop does have its own volume hotkeys, but due to some poor design choices by Dell, they’re hard to find when the lights are lowered.)