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How to Navigate Video Frame by Frame in VLC

In VLC Media Player, you’ve got multiple options for skipping backward or forward through video content. You can drag the seek bar or press the keyboard shortcut. However, what if you want to go frame by frame for a more precise look?

For example, while watching a recent movie, I was blown away by the magic trick pulled off by the protagonist. As a curious person, I wanted to see how it was done. So, I played the video frame by frame in VLC and discovered it was just clever video editing. Like me, if you too want to go through a video one frame at a time, read on and learn how to do it in three different ways in VLC Media Player.

Use the Frame by Frame Keyboard Shortcut

To move frame by frame in VLC, press the E key on your keyboard. It pauses the video and takes you to the next frame. Repeatedly pressing the E button allows you to navigate through the video one frame at a time.

If you want, you can take a snapshot of your desired frame by pressing the Shift + S shortcut. The snapshot is automatically saved to your Pictures folder (C:\Users\Username\Pictures, replace Username with your actual username).

Click the Frame by Frame Button

If you’d like to use your mouse to go through a video frame by frame, you can use the Frame by Frame button in Advanced Controls. By default, VLC’s Advanced Controls are hidden, to show them, select View > Advanced Controls at the top.

click on advanced options

As soon as you do that, you will see additional controls pop up above the main controls in the bottom bar. On this bar, click on the Frame by Frame vlc frame by frame button button. The video immediately pauses and goes to the next frame.

click frame by frame button

Repeatedly clicking the button lets you step through each frame.

Go Back a Frame in VLC

Unfortunately, you cannot go back a frame in VLC. For some reason, VLC has no “previous frame” option. However, if you are desperate, you can use a simple trick where you go backward one second and then navigate through the video one frame at a time. It’s not what you are looking for but it’s the next best thing you can do. Here’s how.

Pause the video and hit Ctrl + T to bring up the Go to Time window. Reduce the time by one second and click Go. Next, press the E key or Frame by Frame button to advance until you reach the frame you want to see.

Add Frame by Frame Button to Playback Controls

If you use the Frame by Frame button often, you can add it directly to the main video playback controls.

Go to Tools > Customize Interface. Make sure you’re in the Main Toolbar tab, then find the Frame by Frame option under the Toolbar Elements section. Drag this button to the Line 2 section and drop it.

add frame by frame button to vlc playback controls

Click the Close button.

close the toolbars editor

With that, the Frame by Frame button is added to the main video playback controls in VLC.

frame by frame button added to vlc playback controls

Change VLC Next Frame Shortcut

If you want, you can also change the default keyboard shortcut for stepping through frames in VLC. If you want to do that, follow the below steps:

First, click on the Tools option at the top and select Preferences. You can also press the Ctrl + P shortcut.

click on preferences

Go to the Hotkeys tab. Find and double-click on the Next frame action.

vlc next frame shortcut

Now, press the key or key combination you want to assign. For instance, I want to assign the letter “Q” as the hotkey. So, I pressed it. Finally, click Save.

change next frame shortcut

With that, you’ve changed the keyboard shortcut for the next frame.

There you have it. I’ve shown you three different ways to navigate through frames in VLC, including a workaround for going back a frame. Use the one you like best. Additionally, customize the playback controls to add the frame-by-frame button if you use it often. If you want, you can also change the Next Frame shortcut in VLC if you don’t like the default one.

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