Crossplatform local network browsing and media playback

One of the great features of libvlc is that it can play all sorts of network streams. This is possible thanks to a huge number of supported network protocols.

Classic network protocols such as FTP, HTTP, RTP and RTSP are well supported, but what about the usual media servers / network shares protocols?

Browsing your own medialibrary at home

Home media servers, NAS and other network shares most frequently communicate through SMB or UPnP.

LibVLC can browse these remote file systems and play their content.

Let’s see how we can achieve this in a crossplatform way using LibVLCSharp and Xamarin.Forms.

Show me the code

I used the MasterDetail Xamarin.Forms template to build this sample, since it has the initial navigation setup built-in.

To tell libvlc to start looking for local network shares, you need to create and start the MediaDiscoverer objects.

Do not confuse it with the RendererDiscoverer type, which is used for finding remote renderers such as Chromecasts.

The code would look like this:

Core.Initialize();

_libVLC = new LibVLC();

foreach (var md in _libVLC.MediaDiscoverers(MediaDiscovererCategory.Lan))
{
    var discoverer = new MediaDiscoverer(_libVLC, md.Name);
    discoverer.MediaList.ItemAdded += MediaList_ItemAdded;
    discoverer.MediaList.ItemDeleted += MediaList_ItemDeleted;
    discoverer.Start();
    _mediaDiscoverers.Add(discoverer);
}

The ItemAdded event provides us with a newly found Media which can be a new share, or a directory/file within a share we are currently browsing. I created a simple model class for the ListView.

public Item(Media media)
{
    Media = media;
    Name = media.Meta(MetadataType.Title);
    IsDirectory = media.Type == MediaType.Directory;
    Type = IsDirectory ? "Directory" : "File";
}

This is what the main ListView code looks like. I added databinding for a few things, such as loading new items with pull to refresh gestures and names of directories and files.

<StackLayout>
    <ListView x:Name="ItemsListView"
                ItemsSource="{Binding Items}"
                VerticalOptions="FillAndExpand"
                HasUnevenRows="true"
                RefreshCommand="{Binding LoadItemsCommand}"
                IsPullToRefreshEnabled="true"
                IsRefreshing="{Binding IsBusy, Mode=OneWay}"
                CachingStrategy="RecycleElement"
                ItemSelected="OnItemSelected">
        <ListView.ItemTemplate>
            <DataTemplate>
                <ViewCell>
                    <StackLayout Padding="10">
                        <Label Text="{Binding Name}" 
                            LineBreakMode="NoWrap" 
                            Style="{DynamicResource ListItemTextStyle}" 
                            FontSize="16" />
                        <Label Text="{Binding Type}" 
                            LineBreakMode="NoWrap"
                            Style="{DynamicResource ListItemDetailTextStyle}"
                            FontSize="13" />
                    </StackLayout>
                </ViewCell>
            </DataTemplate>
        </ListView.ItemTemplate>
    </ListView>
</StackLayout>

For WPF, it gives this layout:

Just as a typical file system, each item in this list is either:

  • A directory. It can be parsed and its content(s) will represent a new list of files and/or directories (and so on). It can be the root shares.
  • A file. It can be parsed and played by the libvlc engine.

Once the desired media has been found, it can be played transparently by using a simple page with a VideoView element and setting the Media on the MediaPlayer as usual.

Note: there is a current limitation with the iOS libvlc build.

As of now, the code produces native iOS, Android and WPF (Windows) apps with 100% shared code.

Support for Linux (GTK) and macOS (Cocoa) can be easily added without any (current code) change.

The full working sample is available on the VideoLAN GitLab.