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Introduction to GPU decoding in VLC

The VLC framework can use your graphic card (aka GPU) to decode H.264 streams (wrongly called HD videos) under certain circumstances.

VLC, in its modular approach and its transcoding/streaming capabilities, does decoding in GPU at the decoding stage only and then gets the data back to go to the other stages (streaming, filtering or plug any video output after that).

What that means is that, compared to some other implementation, GPU decoding in VLC can be slower because it needs to get the data back from the GPU. But you can plug ANY video output (sink) to it and use all the VLC video filters.

Introduction to compilation of VAAPI in VLC

This page is about compiling VLC with support of GPU acceleration on Linux. For Windows, look at VLC_DxVA2.

This howto has been written by Jean-Baptiste Kempf and tested with nVidia GPU.


Before starting


Install libva from http://www.splitted-desktop.com/~gbeauchesne/libva/.[dead link] We do not support other libraries than the one from Mr Beauchesne.



http://www.splitted-desktop.com/~gbeauchesne/vdpau-video/ for nVidia.[dead link] Use at least version 0.6.2.


http://www.splitted-desktop.com/~gbeauchesne/xvba-video/ for ATI.[dead link] Use at least 0.6.4.

Check if LIBVA environment variables are correctly configured:

set | grep LIBVA

Should output something like:


If not, add these, according to your library path, to your system environment variables (/etc/environment ?)

Then run


which should return something like:

VAProfileH264High               :	VAEntrypointVLD
VAProfileVC1Advanced            :	VAEntrypointVLD

To check if everything works.

FFmpeg trunk

Get the latest FFmpeg trunk as of 2010-January. Compile it with vaapi hwaccel support.

./configure --enable-gpl --enable-postproc --prefix=/path/to/ --enable-shared --enable-vaapi
make install

Copy vaapi.h to the includes, if not done (newer FFmpeg should do that automagically)


Get VLC from Git. Get the necessary external libraries (on debian/*buntu: apt-get build-dep vlc)


Compile VLC with vaapi

Configure VLC.

Edit vlc-config and add

-lX11 -lva-x11

to the avcodec line. (Step no longer required with recent builds)

Mine looks like this:

     cflags="${cflags} -I/home/jb/VideoLAN/vlc/vlc/extras/ffmpeg"
     libs="${libs} /home/jb/vlc/extras/ffmpeg/libavcodec/libavcodec.a /home/jb/vlc/extras/ffmpeg/libavutil/libavutil.a -lz -lm -lva -ldl -ljack -lasound -lm -lX11 -lva-x11"

Recompile VLC

make clean && make


That everything went ok:

./vlc --list | grep avcodec

should return something.


Activate acceleration in the preferences.

Or directly on command line

vlc --ffmpeg-hw

Exemple: on playback log output (with -v debug and ATI VAAPI)

[0x7f8c4cc03ba8] avcodec decoder: Using VA API version 0.32 for hardware decoding.