There’s no denying that Flash has changed the world of entertainment in some pretty profound ways. Sure, some might argue that we could have done without the flash-enabled advent of floating ads, gaudy movie websites and cheaply-animated stoner cartoons, but we think that the good outweighs the bad. After all, without Flash, we’d be missing out on a whole slew of rad flash games, clever web interfaces and cheaply-animated stoner cartoons. And let’s not forget YouTube and its ilk, which have truly revolutionized the way we waste time.
However, there’s a problem with streaming video: you don’t get to keep it on your computer when you’re done. So if you want to watch something again, or to show it to your friends, you have to go back and find it on the website again. But it’s pretty easy to rip streaming video to your hard drive, and in this article we’ll show you how, as well as how to convert that video to other formats so that you can play it on your device of choice.
Finding Flash Video
Nobody can beat the sheer, monolithic number of videos hosted on YouTube, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to check out other video sharing sites. Most of YouTube's competitors offer a higher signal-to-noise ratio than the video giant, as well as better-quality streams. For instance, we recommend that you check out some of these excellent streaming video sites:
Blip.tv – A video site that only hosts user-submitted content, largely composed of TV show-style amateur programming, without Google’s 10 minute length cap. Blip.tv stands out as having some of the best video quality of any of the streaming video sites, featuring widescreen video at a high resolution.
Break.com– One of the more popular non-YouTube video sharing sites, Break.com hosts a large selection of mostly-entertaining clips, and is always good for a couple of time-wasting tidbits.
Vimeo– Offers a wide selection of user-created video in (relatively) high definition. It also integrates a more comprehensive social networking element than most other video sharing sites, allowing users to create and subscribe to channels, and to control who can and cannot view their uploads.
Metacafe – Yet another site with a self-purported focus on original content (though you wouldn’t know it to look at the front page) and a system of financial rewards for top “producers,” or uploaders of original videos.
Once you've found some clips you like, keep reading; we'll show you the easy way to save them to your hard drive with a free program called Moyea FLV Downloader.
Downloading a File with Moyea FLV Downloader
Once you’ve found some streaming video that you want to save, it’s time to fire up Moyea. When you first open the program you’ll see a screen that looks like this:
In this window you’ll notice the prominent button that says “Start Recording.” This controls Moyea’s coolest feature: the ability to have it run in the background and automatically download any videos you stream to your computer. But before we click it, let’s configure how Moyea will save the videos. To do this, click on the “Settings” button.
In the options window, if you navigate to the “Auto Recording” tab, you can change where Moyea saves downloaded movies, and what it calls them. If you check the “Use default name prior” box, the program will attempt to save the videos using their original names. There’s a very tempting “Auto convert” checkbox in this window, but don’t be fooled; that feature is only available in the non-free version. Instead, we’ll use another free program to convert our files shortly. The “general” tab has some additional options for fine-tuning Moyea’s behavior, but that can wait until later. For now, let’s try downloading a video.
First, put Moyea into recording mode by clicking the big “Start Downloading” button in the middle-left of the client, then use your browser to play a streaming video. You don’t need to watch the whole thing; once you open the stream Moyea will automatically snag the entire video, even if you close the browser or start viewing another video. The little box floating on the top right-hand corner of your screen (which you can make go away by right-clicking on it and choosing “hide”) will display your download’s progress.
You can now view the downloaded video with the .flv player that comes with Moyea (if you don’t already have your own). Note that Moyea doesn’t work for every source of streaming video. For instance, if your plan is to snag episodes of TV shows from Hulu, you’ll need to think again. It’s not impossible, though it is of dubious legality, so we’ll let you Google for programs that can accomplish that particular task on your own.
So, that’ all well and good, but what can we actually do with that .flv? A couple things, actually. Keep reading and we'll show you how to convert your .FLVs so you can play them on your mobile devices and your TV.
Here's three of our suggestions for what you can do with your downloaded .FLV files:
1) Take it on the go
Between the iPhones, G1s, Storms, PSPs and everything else, it’s getting sort of hard to find a mobile device that doesn’t play video. So how can we get our ripped videos off of our hard drives and into our pockets? With SUPER, a free app that can quickly and easily convert between video encoding types.
There are a lot of apps out there which allow you to convert video formats, but we think that SUPER is the best, based both on the breadth of encoding options it gives you, as well as its large number of preset configurations. When you first open SUPER, you may be a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of options presented to you, but don’t worry; we’ll show you how to do the conversions you need without having to become an expert in digital video formats.
The most important option given to you by SUPER is in the top left. It’s the dropdown which lets you select what container the output video will be packaged in. You can select any of the standard containers, such as avi, mp4, wmv or even flv, or you can select a device preset. For instance, if you want to create a video file that your iPod or iPhone can play, you can simply select “Apple – iPod / iPhone (mp4)” from the dropdown list, and SUPER will automatically select the appropriate container, audio and video codecs, and aspect ratio.
There are presets for Apple’s players, the PSP, the PS3, the Zune, phones from Sony Ericsson, Nokia, NEC, Siemens, and even for the Nintendo DS (modded, of course). If you’re hoping to play your video on one of these, you’re in luck. You can just select your device from the list and you’re almost done. If you’re using a device not on the list, you’ll have to do a little homework to find out what settings to use. As usual, Google’s your friend on this one; a search like “G1 video encoding” will usually turn up what kind of containers and codecs your device can play.
Once you’ve specified the kind of file you want SUPER to output, you can either drag and drop the flash video files you want to convert to the empty box toward the bottom of the window, or you can browse to them by right clicking in SUPER and selecting “Add multimedia file(s).”
Once you’ve queued up all the files you want converted, press the “Encode (Active Files) button. Encoding is a processor-intensive process, and can take a while on slower computers. When it’s done, SUPER will by default place the converted files in a folder called “Output” in its install directory. If you want to change the output location, you can do so by right clicking and selecting the “Output File Saving Management” from near the middle of the list.
2) Stream it to an Xbox 360/PS3/Wii
If you want to be able to watch your ripped flash video on your television and you have an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, you can stream to it with a program called TVersity. We could tell you how to do this, but we’d rather just point you to the very thorough how-to already posted on that very subject.
3) Burn it to a DVD
Want to save your flash vids for posterity? Want to be able to play Numa Numa on your DVD player? Then you’ll probably want to burn a video DVD. It’s possible to author video DVDs using only free software, but it’s a bit tricky. Fortunately, we’ve also written a guide about how to do exactly that. One note: before you begin, you’ll need to use SUPER, as described in the above section, to convert your .flv files to .AVIs.