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How to view webcam feed in Linux with VLC

Did you know that the VLC media player, in addition to being able to stream online video, convert video files or play DVD/Bluray, can also be used to view a live feed from desktop webcams? It’s true!

In this guide, we’ll go over how you can use the VLC media player as a webcam or capture card viewer. To start the installation process, ensure that you have a Linux-compatible webcam or capture card.

Installing VLC on Linux

As we are covering how to view webcams on your Linux PC with the help of VLC, we must demonstrate how to get the app working on your system, as not every Linux operating system comes with VLC pre-installed.

To install the VLC video player on Linux, start by launching a terminal window. You can launch a terminal window on most desktop environments by using one of two keyboard combinations. These combinations are Ctrl + Alt + T and Ctrl + Shift + T.

When the terminal window is open, follow the command-line installation instructions below that correspond with the Linux OS you currently use to get the app working.

Ubuntu

You can get the VLC media player on Ubuntu with the following Apt command.

sudo apt install vlc

Debian

To get VLC working on Debian Linux, execute the following Apt-get command.

sudo apt-get install vlc

Arch Linux

Need to get VLC working on your Arch Linux setup? Run the following Pacman command.

sudo pacman -S vlc

Fedora

To get VLC working on Fedora Linux, execute the following Dnf command.

sudo dnf install vlc

OpenSUSE

Are you running OpenSUSE Linux and need to get VLC working? Run the Zypper command below.

sudo zypper install vlc

Snap

The VLC media player is available as a Snap package. If you like using Snap packages and want to install VLC in this way, start out by following our guide to set up the Snapd runtime. Then, when the runtime is set up, execute the following snap install command.

sudo snap install vlc

Flatpak

It is possible to get the VLC application set up on Linux as a Flatpak package. To start the installation process, follow our guide to set up the Flatpak runtime. This runtime is critical for running Flatpak apps from Flathub.

Once the Flatpak runtime is working on your Linux PC, use the remote-add command to add the Flathub app store to your Linux PC.

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

Finally, use the flatpak install command to get the latest release of VLC media player up and running on your Linux PC.

flatpak install flathub org.videolan.VLC

View webcam feed in VLC

To view your webcam with the VLC media player, start by plugging it into your computer if you haven’t already. Once the device is plugged in, launch VLC on the Linux desktop by searching for it in the app menu.

With the VLC media player open and ready to use, look for the “Media” menu at the top left-hand area of the app. Inside of the “Media” menu, find the option that says “Open Capture Device,” and click on it.

Inside of the “Open Capture Device” menu, there are several options to choose from. Look for the “Capture mode” area and click on the drop-down menu to reveal the several options inside of the menu.

In the “Capture mode” menu, you will see many different options available. Sort through all of the options, and click on “video camera.” After setting VLC to open up your video camera, find “Video device name” and select the drop-down menu next to it.

Look in the dropdown menu for your camera. If you cannot see your camera, do not worry. Leave the text box blank. Do not fill it out, as VLC will attempt to open whatever you put in the text box. Instead, look for the “Options” section, and click on the drop-down menu next to it.

Inside of the drop-down menu set your webcam’s standard display type. Keep in mind that your webcam resolution should respect the camera’s specifications. For example, if you have an NTSC webcam, it’s best to set the video options to that, and not change it. Or, if you’re unsure about the video standard of the webcam, feel free to set it to “Undefined.” This option will allow VLC to tune the camera automatically.

Once you’ve set your camera resolution, locate the “Play” button in the bottom right-hand corner of the “Open Media” window, and click on it. When you click on the “Play” button, VLC will attempt to display the webcam. If nothing happens, click on the play button in the VLC player itself, and the camera will be live in VLC.

Note: the webcam broadcast in VLC may be a bit laggy, as VLC is a media player and not a full-fledged webcam utility.

To stop the playback of the camera in VLC, click on the stop button in the VLC player.

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