How to enable gpu accelerated decoding in VLC
If you are noticing choppy playback in VLC Media Player when playing high resolution video files, you may under certain circumstances benefit from gpu accelerated decoding in the media player to smooth things out. The feature in theory uses the processing power of the graphic card to lighten the load on the processor of the system which in turn makes playback of the video file smoother.
There are a couple misconceptions about this though that need to be addressed first before you can make an educated decision about turning the feature on.
First, according to VLC's GPU Decoding page, it is available for H.264, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV3, VC-1 streams only on Windows. On Mac OS X only H.264 is supported right now and on Linux, it depends on whether an Intel or Broadcom graphics card, or an AMD or Nvidia graphics card is used.
For the former, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Visual, WMV3, VC-1 and H.264 are supported, and for the latter, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Visual (and possibly H.263), WMV3, VC-1 and H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC, are supported.
Second, the data is decoded with the help of the GPU at the decoding stage and then transferred back to the player so that the other stages, filtering and streaming for instance, can be processed. This means that it can under circumstances be slower than before (without gpu acceleration enabled).
Last but not least, GPU decoding is only available for select operating systems. While Windows Vista and newer versions of the Microsoft operating system are supported, Windows XP is not at this point in time. The majority of graphic cards should support hardware acceleration just fine. Make sure you have installed the latest drivers though.
Enabling hardware acceleration in VLC
Open VLC Media Player and click on Tools > Preferences or press Ctrl-P to open the settings window of the program.
If you are using the simple settings interface, click on Input & Codecs on the left sidebar and make sure Hardware-accelerated decoding is set to Automatic. If you notice issues, try setting it to one of the available decoding options. On Windows, those are Direct3D11 Video Acceleration or DirectX Video Acceleration.
Tip: you can deactivate the feature here as well if you notice playback issues after enabling it.
If you are using the "all" settings interface select Input/Codecs > Video Codecs > FFmpeg and make sure that Hardware decoding is set to automatic instead to enable acceleration this way.
Click on the save button afterward and restart the media player to work with the new setting.
Try playing several video files that use different formats to see if hardware acceleration makes a difference in terms of playback. If it does, keep the setting enabled. If it does not, just go back to the settings to modify the option or disable it right away instead.