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Monday
Sep132010

Downloading and Converting YouTube Videos

If you see something you like on YouTube (or one of the other video sites) you might want to save the video so you can watch it later.

I found two tools that do a very good job of helping you download these videos. The first is RealPlayer SP and the second is ClipGrab.

Using RealPlayer SP

I’ve avoided installing RealPlayer for years until I found RealPlayer SP. RealPlayer SP is a free application. There is a paid upgrade, but you won’t need it just to download and convert videos.

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RealPlayer SP allows you to download a video a video in two ways.

First, it integrates with your browser [NOTE: I only tried it with Internet Explorer. I don’t know if it works with other browsers]

As you hover over a video, a pop-up “Download This Video” message will appear on the upper-right.

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But don’t click that button yet. There are a few things to know.

Before you download, it’s important to understand that it will download the video you are viewing, and not the highest quality version of it. So make sure you choose the highest resolution available.

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Now press the Download This Video button.

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And this RealPlayer Downloader will appear

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Downloading will very often take less time than watching the video. However sometimes, you’ll see it will take longer.

protip: Sometimes the downloading will seem to initially stall and not do anything. In those cases, I have often found that playing the video before you click “Download This Video” seems to start the download immediately.

When it is finished it will show up like this.

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And you’ll find the video Under “Videos / RealPlayer Downloads”

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As you can see from the file information this particular one is saved as an FLV. When downloading videos you’ll also see MP4 files. When the MP4 files are created the RealPlayer downloader will also create a “.meta” file with the same name. This appears to be binary format which presumably stores metadata about the MP4.

You can play the video by clicking on it in the Downloader UI

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And also there is a Convert button

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Pressing it will launch a special the RealPlayer Converter tool

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In the screenshot above I have selected MP3 Audio Only because I only want the audio, but I could easily convert it to other formats. After clicking Start, you’ll see the conversion is taking place.

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And finally it is done…

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Click OK

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And you can then see the MP3 next to the original FLV file.

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Limitations on converting MP4 files.

One unfortunate limitation of the free version of RealPlayer SP is that while it can download and view MP4 files, it can not convert them to anything else. If you try to do this it will simply tell you to upgrade to the paid version.

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The message is especially confusing because we are trying to convert to MP3 and not convert to MP4.

Playing the download videos

RealPlayer can play the FLV (and MP4) files, but I often use the VideoLan VLC player – the only issue I have discovered is that some videos downloaded with RealPlayer can play in VLC but I cannot fast forward or backward during the viewing.

protip: Occasionally you won’t see the “Download This Video” button in Internet Explorer. What has worked for me is to open up RealPlayer SP and use File/Open to go to the URL where the video is located. This will then shown the web page inside RealPlayer and I can see the “Download This Video” button there.

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Using ClipGrab

ClipGrab is an cool open source tool that works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux machines.

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protip: When installing ClipGrab don’t install the ClipGrab toolbar. It changed my homepage without my knowledge (very rude, IMO).

Unlike RealPlayer SP, ClipGrab is not integrated into the browser, but rather it is a stand-alone application.

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Simply paste the URL you want and press Grab this clip

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But, before you begin downloading you should explore the options on this page and the settings.

First, unlike RealPlayer SP which features conversion as something to be done after download, ClipGrab can do this during the download when you select a different Format

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Second, ClipGrab shows you all the quality variants in the Quality dropdown. This make the workflow a bit easier.

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Now press Grab this clip

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You’ll be asked where to save the file

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Click Save and you’ll see the download progress

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And finally it’s done!

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protip: Use the clipboard to speed things up

When ClipGrab is running, it is monitoring the clipboard for URLs to sites it known about (youtube, vimeo, etc) if you copy such a URL for example from a web browser or NotePad you will see a notification in the taskbar to download it. It

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Which do I prefer?

I prefer ClipGrab. It’s lighter, multi-platform, good user experience, free. What’s not to like?

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