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Video Wallpapers With VLC Media Player


When I originally bought Windows Vista, I was really excited about the DreamScene feature. It allowed videos to be used as wallpapers in Windows, something that I had never seen before. To use it, you had to buy Windows Vista Ultimate, the most expensive edition. I was happy to do this, given that Windows was the foundation of all the work I did in my career. Unfortunately, the extras included with Ultimate weren’t really worth the extra money, in the end. I’m sure they had their applications, but they really didn’t enrich my life, personally. DreamScene, in particular, turned out to be a disappointment. It was an interesting idea, but I found that if I played a game, and returned to Windows, the video wallpaper would often be gone. This problem was enough to stop me from using it. As of Windows 7, they removed video support, though some people managed to get it working.

For those of you who are curious about having video wallpapers, I recently read that you can have VLC Media Player play a video directly to the Windows wallpaper. In case you never heard of it, VLC is a free, open-source media player that is available for most platforms. Though the interface is nothing special, it is the only media player I know that can play pretty much any file I throw at it, without me needing to manually download the proper codecs. I highly recommend it.

Once you have it installed, here’s how to get the video wallpaper working:

  1. Considering backing up your existing wallpaper, just in case.
  2. Launch VLC.
  3. Click Tools > Preferences in the menu bar.
  4. Click Video in the left sidebar.
  5. In the Display section, you’ll find an Output field. It will most likely be set to “Default”. Change this value to “DirectX video output”.
  6. Restart VLC.
  7. Open a video file. In my case, I tried an .AVI, and Windows automatically switched to Windows 7 Basic. This is normal – when you close VLC, your previous theme will return.
  8. Right-click the video output you’re seeing in VLC, and select Video > Direct-X Wallpaper.

You should now be seeing the video instead of your wallpaper. VLC will be looking fairly strange during this, so I suggest minimizing it. If that interrupts the video, you can try making the window as tiny as possible. Either way, the VLC window needs to remain open. It is powering your wallpaper, and is still useful for the video controls. When you’re finished, repeat Step 7, or simply close VLC.

I initially discovered this trick by reading a Lifehacker article: Set a Video as Your Wallpaper with VLC.