I once received a movie file a couple years ago from a reliable source. It was in a format I had never seen before: 3ivx. My usual players, Windows Media Player, Quicktime Player, and a DIVX Player, could not display the file. Confused, I looked online for a suitable means to play the file. From my search, I found a media player called VLC. I installed it, and I was able to view my file successfully. I have not used another media player since. There are many positive aspects to the VLC player. First of all, it is free and does not have any hidden charges whatsoever. As described above, it can read some of the most obscure file formats you will encounter. It also plays the most common ones, such as .avi, .wmv, .mov, .flv, etc. I have tried almost every file I have, and it can play all of them. This is a useful part of VLC because I no longer have to install multiple players and switch between them when I want to watch something.
There are numerous tweaks, such as changing the aspect ratio or disabling/ enabling the video or audio. It comes with other additional options that make it a solid choice. For example, you can take screenshots of movies. I took a picture with VLC of a video I was playing, and it automatically saved the photo to my picture folder on my computer.
One feature that is underestimated or not considered of the VLC player is its ability to play a DVD of any region coding. To clarify, DVDs are coded by the region of the world they are made in. For example, a North American DVD is coded as 1, whereas the Hong Kong region is designated as 6. If you buy a Region 6 disc, you must have a player that is able to read that region or is multi regional. Finding such DVD players is expensive and can be difficult for the uninitiated. If you do not have the correct equipment, you will not be able to play that DVD.
I have run into this problem before as an undergrad. For one of my foreign cinema classes, I rented a DVD that had a different regional code. Luckily, my computer's software allowed me to change the region coding of my player, although it was limited to 5 changes before I had to pay to change it again. VLC is free and is able to decode any DVD, regardless of origin. Other programs can decipher different region DVDs, but they may require that you pay for the software like my previous computer did.
Sound files can also be utilized. I sometimes use it to play my .mp3 music files. I have not yet figured out, however, if I can transfer or create playlists that have multiple music files. Right now, I play songs individually, so I do not know if VLC is a suitable replacement for current software like iTunes at this time.
There is a minor downside to the VLC player. The size of it is around 17MB, which is a bit large for its kind, and it is updated regularly, so you may need to download another version occasionally.
I would recommend the VLC player for all your video file needs. I do not use any other software at this point, nor do I feel the need to change to a different one as of this writing. If you find yourself changing between media players often, consider this as a universal solution. It can be installed on both Windows and Macintosh computers.