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The video runs but the picture is distorted.

There is probably a problem with the output layer. There are several ways of troubleshooting it. First, try with another output plugin, for instance:

% vlc -V sdl
% vlc -V x11

Second, change your screen depth and/or definition. It quite often helps.

Lastly, if running Unix, have a look at your X.Org video driver.

This page is part of the informal VLC Support Guide.
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