08 February 2011

the Realplayer Video download phenomenon

See important qualification at the end - 23 Jun '13 .

Some months ago I downloaded the latest version of RealPlayer. It’s not my preferred software but I needed it to watch a particular video. Since then I began to notice the appearance of an invitation: “Download Video with RealPlayer?” whenever I hovered my mouse over a video in YouTube.

Still not that interested in the message, I ignored it. Easy... as it vanished whenever I moved my mouse pointer away. Who downloads video anyway? With modems and routers permanently online these days, any video you might want is only a click away, right? Yes, but recently I decided to download a documentary to watch on my iPod. I clicked on the Realplayer message and collected a chunky video file. Next a dialogue box asked me what format I would like to convert the file to. The options catered for a host of end viewing platforms. I chose mp4 (for iPod).

But where is all this leading? I watched an hour long documentary on a screen the size of a matchbox but hidden in the recesses of my mind was the list of other file formats I had spotted on RealPlayer’s lengthy menu of conversion options.

Fast forward to last week when I was rummaging through a horde of over a hundred mp3 albums I had acquired from my friend Steve during my trip to England. Oddly some albums were missing a track here and there. The cogs in my head turned and there was a faint smell of burning. Hmm, music tracks are widespread on YouTube. Could I download the relevant video file using the obliging Realplayer downloader then convert to mp3 using the helpful Realplayer file converter? Yes, it worked!

Teenage scavengers of music may well have winkled out this little scam long ago but I have only just hit upon it. Today I picked half a dozen albums from my wish list, obtained a track-listing for each, searched for the tracks on YouTube and found ninety-nine per cent of them.

I triggered the RealPlayer Downloader for each, switched the YouTube quality control to 480p or above, hit the download button and soon had a dozen tracks downloading in a jolly, nice list-box. A few were preceded by irritating adverts but the helpful men at RealPlayer had that covered too. If the commercials are embedded, then when the download is complete you just call up the handy RealPlayer Trimmer, set start and end points on the video file and clip off the loathsome parts.

Next you open the video files in RealPlayer Converter and choose mp3 from the list of conversion options. After the swift conversion process you’re left with a music file recognizable by any portable player. I like to burn the best albums to CDR for my hi-fi so I chose a high-ish bit rate for mp3 encoding.

Next you slip the files into a folder named after the album and save that in a folder named after the band/artist. Then you open the music file “tag”-editor by right clicking the tracks and choosing “properties”. That way you can categorize the music with band, album, track number, genre and year tags for correct sorting when imported into Windows Media Player.

I like to print some of my patented cases on cardstock to store any burned discs complete with cover art harvested from Google Images and track listings prepared in Excel.

I should acknowledge that downloading is usually slightly illegal. But this method uses software available free from Internet giants and does not involve wicked file-sharing sites. Users of the YouTube/RealPlayer system rely on naughty people uploading their favourite new music to YouTube and newly released albums are subject to a flurry of deletions from YouTube. Literally millions of tracks from almost any CD you care to name, new or old, mainstream or obscure are on YouTube either with a video or a still image.

Finally, I am a fan of many bands and have spent a small fortune on a large CD collection and scores of concert tickets. For more than a casual listen I support the artist and invest in the CD (if you can call this convoluted process of downloading, trimming, converting, tagging, burning and printing casual!)

23 Jun '13 - I am adding this qualification. This month when attempting to use the Real Converter on my Windows 7 laptop I was confronted with an offer from RealPlayer to BUY the software! There is no option to decline. Clicking 'close' on the offer just stops the entire process and no conversion takes place.

Various Forums are suggesting this is a temporary issue between RealPlayer and YouTube and is under investigation. However the 'free' nature of this set-up seems under threat. I tried using various older versions of RealPlayer but none was compatible with the latest Firefox or IE. Another problem seems to be that files downloaded from YouTube are coming in the form of MP4 which limits the choice of converter. As a workaround I uninstalled RealPlayer and replaced it with just the RealDownloader. I am currently using the conversion feature in Freemake Video Converter (Take care to uncheck all the bloatware that comes with it) to convert from video file to MP3.

I might add that RealPlayer functions in the latest version remain (for now) unaffected on my Windows Vista laptop.


Russell 'C.J.' Duffy said...

To paraphrase that old Platters song, Only You could have discovered this 'naughty but nice' methodology. It probably isn't that new to the young but it is a revelation to me.

Perfect Virgo said...

Russell, Guess what I'll be doing today!

'Naughty but nice' also reminded of Dick Emery's comic character whose catchphrase was, 'Ooh you are awful but I like you!'

Pickled said...

I am one young'un who had no idea.
Great post! :)

Perfect Virgo said...

C - An old codger gets one up on the youngsters! It's a fascinating new passtime and highly addictive, especially for an acquisitive music collector.