How to Go Frame by Frame in VLC

While playing a media file in VLC, sometimes you will have the need to go frame by frame. To get to an exact shot or scene, you will need to play the video forward one frame at a time. VLC has a frame by frame feature that allows you to step just the tiniest bit ahead in a movie. It gives you full control of where you want to reach in the timeline. Unfortunately, VLC doesn’t support frame-stepping backwards; it’s only possible to move forward.

There are two simple ways you can follow to move one frame ahead at the time. One is by using the shortcut key and two is from the Advanced Controls bar of the player interface.

Shortcut Key

This has to be the simplest method. Just navigate in the timeline where you want to capture or pause at a frame. Then, hit the shortcut key: e.

To use this shortcut, your video can be either playing or pausing. If it is playing, then hitting ‘E’ would stop the play and will navigate it forward one frame at a time. Tap on the ‘E’ key on your keyboard a couple of times to get to the accurate place in the media.

If the hotkey ‘E’ doesn’t work for you, then it is likely that another keyboard character has been assigned to the task. You can view (or even edit) the shortcuts by going to Tools > Preferences and then by switching to the Hotkeys tab. Enter frame on the search area to bring it up easily. Edit it if you want or keep it as it is.

Next Frame Hotkeys

You may be interested in: How to Edit VLC Media Player Shortcuts or Hotkeys

Advanced Controls

The default layout of the player doesn’t display the next frame button on it. You will have to bring it up in the interface. If you haven’t changed anything, then go to the View menu and then click on Advanced Controls to turn it on.

You will notice another line of player controls appear right above the default set of media control keys. Press the last button in the advanced controls to access the frame by frame feature.

Next Frame Button

It looks like a film strip; actually, two film strips like they’re skipping (frame skipping). If you put your mouse pointer over it for a while, it will show the info. Press it and it will take you forward in the media one frame at a time.

If you can’t find the button in the advanced control interface, then you can add it using the Tools > Customize Interface feature.

To get additional details on customizing VLC interface: How to Customize VLC Media Player Interface

46 thoughts to “How to Go Frame by Frame in VLC”

  1. There are many users coming from Mac to Windows and who use Quicktime desperately looking for a solid windows video player. I can’t believe after all these years VLC still won’t support this super simple request. They need to hurry thought because personally I got tired of waiting and started using the Daum POT Player which I really like. If they ever release the frame by frame I’ll consider coming back to VLC but not until that point.

  2. COMPLAIN Complain complain… yes backwards feature would be tops but it’s free and I’ve gotten very good at reversing past the time I want play it and pause exactly where i want it. If you a programmer, make it, get the bragging rights we’ll applaud you, otherwise put up or shut up. i Like, OLE!

    1. You know what’s also free? MPC-HC, it’s better in most ways AND it has a previous frame button. As for being a programmer, this isn’t that hard of a problem. It would take a copy paste of the same code to go forward, but you change it to -1 instead of +1. If I provided my own fix, who would it help? Myself? Maybe three other people who find my fix, and yet the problem would stay there forever bugging common people who don’t know how to program or find and use unofficial fixes.
      No, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. We need a previous frame function.

      1. I do happen to have MPC-HC but never tired using it that way, Thanx for the info, my hat off to you.
        I don’t like “squeaky wheel gets the oil” saying, people us it negative instead of a productive way. But I understand what you mean. They’ll never going to provide it. VLC prove me wrong LOL.
        Adios Muchachas, OLE!

    1. Big simplification here, but the way that most compressed video works is that there are only so many frames that have full information stored (called “i-frames”), and every subsequent frame just records what the changes are from the previous frame (these are called “p-frames”). Going forward one frame is easy: you just substitute the current frame with whatever the new information contained in the new frame is. Going back is much trickier, you need to go all the way back to the last keyed frame, then go forward to frame before the one that you want to go back to.

      Or, in other words, moving forward one step involves moving forward one step, moving backwards one step involves moving backwards 15 steps and forward 14.

      (there are bidirectional step frames, called “b-frames”, but they are rarely used)

  3. Memory isn’t a problem today so why not . why not just place images rendered to the screen on a stack and pop the stack 1 frame at a time until reaching an arbitrary prior frame. Then move backwards some arbitrary number frames and then push frames from that point onto the stack. Moving forward is easy. Just advance to the next frame and push it on the stack. If special effects are modified to a range of frames which are on the stack, go back to your initial reference and rerender the images with the new effects and place those frames back onto the stack. Not elegant but it should be easy to implement and a better solution can be implemented later. People will smile. 😀 🙂 😎

  4. Frame by frame will stop working after like 10-15 frames. then its hooped. problem dates back 10+ years so if your here looking for a solution. its to use a different program.

  5. Jan 2019 – Sure could use a frame step back hotkey. Only being able to navigate frame by frame in one direction is pretty useless.

  6. VLC (2.2.2-5) has many problems with HD content. Even with Jump to Time, I can only progress forward on many Youtube videos in MP4 format. Even larger jumps like + 1 min, the only direction is forward. And sometimes, VLC only accepts about 3-4 jumps, regardless whether in native VLC commands or in Jump to Time. After those 3 or 4 jumps VLC will hang and has to be killed. And yes, I did increse the cache (to 4 seconds).

  7. love VLC by accident i discovered frame by frame feature, didn’t know that windows media player has forward backwards feature. he’s the irony, for me backwards works on media but not forward. on vlc forward works but not bcakwards LOL i just move the slider back a few seconds and go forward frame by frame. works for me.

  8. VLC Devs — Put in a previous frame hotkey. it’s 2019 and we’ve had move forward 1 frame but no option to move backwards 1 frame.

    I wouldn’t care so much about this if A LOT of people didn’t use it and it wasn’t such an easy thing to implement.

    Hell, Youtube, and other HTML5 and variant embedded video players have this functionality. It’s mind boggling some of the simple features developers ignore for weeks, months, years, and decades. — Further you guys don’t communicate with the public very well. IE: We intend to have this functionality in the X.X.X.X release by Q1 of 2019 or whatnot.

    What’s up?

  9. Does anyone from VLC ever read these requests. I am also looking for a back key. It seems that people have requested it for a long time and there has been no response. I thought this was supposed to be one of the best players, but as someone else noted I could do more with some of the older Windows products regarding forward and back stepping

  10. Yes! My company moved us from Mac to PC, and Quicktime player is slow and buggy on a PC but please, add this feature asap before people like me start looking for an alternative! I have to select frames from clips and make gifs and images from them and do you know what a pain it is to only be able to move frame by frame forward? Also please let us choose our own hot key for it so we can assign it the arrow keys. Thanks!

  11. Here another supporter for adding frame stepping backwards. Preferably controled with the cursor keys or the mouse wheel. Thanks in advance for developing this feature.

  12. If you install the Jump to time (Previous frame) v2.1 VLC extension and modify the lua script, you can use alt+b and alt+f to move back/forward one frame at a time.

    https://addons.videolan.org/default/hive/show/content/156396

    After installing, change the following two sections of script in the lua file:

    jumps = { — drop-down list
    {“1/FPS”, “vlcfps”},
    {“2 sec”, 2},
    {“20 sec”, 20},
    — {“30 sec”, 30},
    {“1 min”, “1:00”},
    {“5 min”, “5:00”},
    {“10 min”, “10:00”},
    {“1/2 sec”, 0.5},
    {“1/x”, “reciprocal”},
    {“1/23.976”, 1/23.976},
    {“1/24”, 1/24},
    {“1/25”, 1/25},
    {“1/29.97”, 1/29.97},
    {“1/30”, 1/30},
    {“1/60”, 1/60},
    }

    AND

    function activate()
    Create_dialog()
    click_Get_time()
    click_Use_jump()
    end

    Now when you launch a video in VLC, hit alt+i, up-arrow twice (or until you have the Jump to Time extension highlighted in the menu), enter, then you can use alt+b/alt+f to move back/forward one frame at a time.

    Someday, when I’m more familiar with VLC extensions, maybe I’ll figure out how to enable and launch the extension dialog by default, or with one simple hotkey. But until then, this at least makes the functionality possible, and easy enough to enable/use.

    1. The version 3 of the extension seems to have your trick already included in the script BUT is not working with my VLC version 3.0.3. I tried aswell to edit the version 2.1 of the extension but it didn’t work. Any idea?

  13. There certainly needs to be a backwards step (and it should be controlled by the cursor keys, so that its easy to find), its a bit silly no one has done this yet 🙁

  14. As you have heard many times, having a “step-forward” without a “step-backward” is almost useless. I had heard that VLC was the best player, but with that feature not available, it’s no better than media player classic on windows xp. it’s 2017 and you guys can’t do it, but windows has had that feature for ages. Come on!

  15. “Next frame” needs “Previous frame”.
    Any users of this will want to go backwards when they stepped too far…

    Also, please make the arrow keys control this by default. This should be easily discoverable, without needing to do a web search, or searching through hot key lists.

  16. From the comments above, many users have need of this functionality.Any guestimate of when “frame stepping backwards” might be included?

  17. Yeah i love using VLC, but its so sad that it doesnt have the frame-stepping backwards, as an animator i would like to be able so switch back and forth to analize better how a movement is made, please considered it for the next update, thank you

  18. I’m glad I found the “next frame”-key. Without a “previous frame”-key it makes only have sense, in searching keypoints, however. Please include this function soon!!

    Thanks for the VLC-Player anyway!

    Greetings from Switzerland.

  19. “It gives you full control of where you want to reach in the timeline. Unfortunately, VLC doesn’t support frame-stepping backwards; it’s only possible to move forward.”

    If it doesn’t support frame-stepping backwards, it doesn’t allow full control of where you want to reach in the timeline! Please, please include this feature. You would make so many users so very happy.

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