If you’ve ever wanted to watch a high resolution movie like an MKV, MPEG, or AVI file that’s currently on a computer, but on an iPhone or iPad, you know that the default iOS Video app isn’t always going to cut it. Sure Videos.app stores iTunes movie downloads and can play a fair amount of video formats copied over to it, but there are many movie formats not supported by Videos, or that just don’t play that well in the client. Fortunately, there’s VLC, a free video playing staple from the desktop world that is available for iOS. VLC plays just about every movie file format imaginable, plus it has it’s own filesystem of sorts for iOS that lets you easily copy over video files to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, without having to use iTunes.
We’ve discussed VLC for iOS before for it’s versatility, but this time we’re going to walk through using VLC and a web browser to transfer video files from a computer to an iOS device – wirelessly – and then play that HD movie file directly on the iPhone or iPad.
While we’re using an MKV file as an example here, VLC supports just about every video file format, so you can copy over and watch MKV, MPG, MP4, AVI, DIVX, WMV, MOV, and just about anything other movie you may come across. Additionally, VLC can copy or stream video files stored on DropBox and Google Drive, but that’s a topic for another tutorial. Because VLC relies only on a web browser to copy the files to iOS, you can initiate the file transfers from any machine too, whether it’s a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer, and whether or not it’s your own PC or someone else’s also doesn’t matter, the whole process circumvents the traditional iTunes method for copying the video to iOS – it’s that versatile.
1: How to Copy Video Files to iOS with VLC
This works to transfer any movie file to any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, from any computer. The only requirement is that the computer with the video files and the iOS device are on the same wi-fi network.
1a: Prepare VLC from iOS
- Get VLC for free from the App Store on your iOS device
- Open VLC app on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and tap on “Done” to skip the intro (or flip through it and learn a bit more about VLC if you want)
- Tap on the Cone icon in the upper corner
- Look for the “WiFi Upload” switch and toggle it to the ON position
- Make note of the IP address that is listed (in this example, http://192.168.1.11)
With the VLC upload server now active, you can transfer video content from a computer easily, that’s what we’ll cover next.
1b: Copying the Movie Files Wirelessly to iOS from Any Computer
- From any computer (Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, etc) open any web browser
- Enter the IP address into the URL bar of the web browser exactly as provided from VLC (example: http://192.168.1.11), this loads the VLC upload client running in iOS into a web browser
- Drag and drop movie file(s) you want to copy to the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into this window, or click the + button to select them in the file system manually
- Let the upload process complete the file transfer from the computer to iOS
Now that you’ve copied a movie or video file over, you can watch it from the iPhone / iPad!
2: Watching the MKV Movie on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch with VLC
- Back on the iOS device, the media library in VLC will update when the movie has finished copying, or you can access the freshly copied MKV, AVI, etc, video file at any time from the Cone icon -> “All Files”
- Tap on the video file of choice to start watching it on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
VLC plays video content just about flawlessly regardless of the movie format type. Tapping on the video once it’s playing will reveal the familiar video player controls of pausing, reverse, fast forward, a timeline, and audio controls.
Additionally, VLC gives you advanced controls like playback speed (helpful if you want to watch something faster or slower, or if audio is out of sync), and even the ability to adjust what the picture looks like, including brightness, saturation, gamma, hue, and contrast. These picture controls are perfect for when a movie is too bright or too dark, or just looks weird in general. Or, if you feel like converting a color video to black and white for a noire effect, you can do that too.
Enjoy your video files on the go! Keep in mind that high resolution video formats like MKV, which is often a BluRay rip, can eat some serious storage capacity on an iOS device, so unless you have a larger capacity iPad or iPhone, you may want to use lower resolution and more compressed video files to begin with. That’s also when the more space-conscious AVI, MPEG, m4v, MP4 can be good video format choices, particularly since the screen size and resolution of smaller iOS devices, even with a retina display, don’t really use the full high definition MKV potential. That makes the MKV files probably best for an iPad, but they certainly work on the iPhone and iPod touch too.