VLC’s next major release will include support for the VDA decoder API on Mac OS X thanks to Sébastien Zwickert, who added the needed code both to VLC and libav.
So, what’s the use? This adds hardware acceleration to H.264 video decoding on Mac OS X 10.6.3 and later! This way, VLC’s CPU load is reduced by up to 40 per cent on supported devices! These include Mac models equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M, GeForce GT 330M, ATI HD Radeon GFX, Intel HD Graphics and others.
More technical information is available on Sébastien’s github page.
You can find an initial pre-release build here, based upon VLC’s current development branch. Please note that this build is not made for production environments, could hurt your kittens and could do all the other bad stuff pre-alpha software is known for to your Mac and its surroundings.
Note that VDA decoding isn’t enabled by default. To enable it, go to Preferences (VLC menu), click on “Show all” on the bottom left, choose “Input/Codecs” -> “Video codecs” -> “FFmpeg” on the left hand side and scroll down on the right until you see the checkbox labelled “Hardware decoding”. Check it. That’s it. Make sure to restart the playback, if applicable.