How to Create Your Personal Online Video Collection
Here’s a simple way of watching anything you want, anytime and anywhere. Want to build your very own video library? Or maybe you need to record your favorite online radio stations and music services like Spotify. How about recording video chats, online web conferences or even online education? Well, all you need is some software that can ‘grab’ the video that comes into your computer via the Internet (known as “streaming” video).
In a nutshell, you’ve got two ways to record streaming video: either ‘recording’ or ‘capturing’ it.
Recording is better than capturing because the quality is better, but it doesn’t always work because some broadcasters or other online video service providers block people trying to download their programs in the ‘background’ (but don’t worry, they won’t cut you off from watching the program in your web browser….). For example, the UK’s public service “Channel 4” is notoriously difficult to record and on occasion, I’ve had trouble with Hulu too.
So when ‘recording’ fails, you can move to ‘capturing’ instead which works 100% of the time and quality is pretty good too. It works by literally capturing what’s on your screen (or just an area of your screen). Once you’ve captured the program, it’s perfectly OK to watch it on your laptop or your TV by connecting your laptop to the TV. There are several pieces of software in the market that can do this but almost all of them can’t record the video frame-rates quickly enough meaning that the end result is jerky video….far from satisfactory.
I thought a simple demo might be helpful, so I put a video together showing both methods (please wait a few seconds…, this is a large video but not too long : 8 mins). In the first video, I show you how I go about ‘recording‘ using the BBC’s iPlayer from the UK as an example. And in the following video, I do another brief demo of ‘capturing’ from Hulu.
Over the last couple of years, I tried out various streaming recorders, but I couldn’t find any that would really provide me consistently good performance over several different streaming sites and with good quality. Some recorders were sporadic and managed to grab videos from some sites, whilst from others it didn’t grab anything and then most annoyingly, I experienced several lack-lustre performances with video and sound de-synchronized. Anyway, here are my reasons why I finally settled with Replay Capture Suite (from Applian Inc.)
- It comes with software allowing you to “record” and “capture”.
- When “recording” videos, I can only say that the quality of video and sound is astonishing. Also, when I tested it out versus other competitors, I found Applian’s software to provide the highest success rate across multiple TV station sites world-wide since, like I mentioned above, some sites make it very difficult for you to record from (I’ve personally tested in the US, UK, Spain & Australia).
- The quality of video and sound when “capturing” is also very good (although not quite as high as recording). Some ‘free’ and even paid recorders out there can’t keep up with “frame-rates” that online video produces resulting in jerky video & de-synched sound and, therefore makes for really irritating viewing.
- The bundle comes with software allowing you to edit and convert your videos into other formats. And with the “recording” software ( “Replay Media Catcher“) you get a built-in conversion facility to an impressive 126 different formats including iPad, iPhone, iTunes, MPEG, AVI, etc..
- Applian has dedicated itself to producing media recording software since 1997. They don’t do anything else: they just focus on high quality media software and I think, at very reasonable prices. So this means that Applian are really committed to producing good quality software in just this specific area (and wouldn’t still be in business if it was rubbish).
- The software works perfectly in any version of Windows: I’ve tried and tested the software in XP, Vista and Windows 7 and it works fine.
- Really good customer support & quick to respond.
On the third point I mentioned on capturing, I was really surprised by the quality of video and sound even when grabbing High Definition videos from the BBC iPlayer. Ok, it’s NOT Blu-ray / HD-quality but it’s more than good enough to watch on the TV. And although I’m in the multimedia business myself, I don’t have any special gear in my lounge: my wife would disown me if I did! What I have is a Samsung 60″ HD flat-sceen TV. Yes, it’s a nice TV and yes, I watch captured programs on it and the quality is perfectly acceptable. Another thing I like is the in-built scheduler with Replay Media Catcher (or the ‘recording’ software) so you can program to record live events too…it’s a pity they don’t have something similar with the Replay Video Capture.
I do have a major gripe with the software though which is they don’t do a version for Apple computers. I have no idea why but since I’m not a big Mac user, it doesn’t affect me greatly. There is a way around this though albeit a bit cumbersome: first you install Parallels and then Windows and, according to Applian, their software will work perfectly OK. And although I haven’t tested it myself, an alternative is to try iSkySoft’s iTube Studio for Mac which retails for $29.00. But apart from this omission, the simple fact is that I wanted quality video & sound since it’s really annoying to watch anything unless it’s half-decent.
What also attracted me to Replay Capture Suite was the offer of 7 more pieces of software which are:
- Replay Converter: allows you to convert video and sound into any number of different formats. When recording video, it typically saves the resultant file in Flash Video format. But with this application you can convert it so you can watch it, for example, on your iPod. Another bonus here is that you can actually rip (or ‘read from’) and burn DVDs.
- Replay Splitter: this is a simple yet effective video and audio editor. So if you wanted to cut out ads from your recorded program, this software will allow you to do this.
- Replay Music: this is a very reliable program allowing you to record or download high-quality music directly from your computer or, from online radio stations or subscription-based music sites like Spotify.
- Replay AV: records from Internet Radio or TV stations and includes a ‘scheduler’ and a built-in ‘converter’. The scheduler is just like your home video: you can program it to record something whilst you’re out.
- Skype Telecorder: records your Skype video or voice calls. This is really useful if you want to record teleconferences or even private chats.
- Video Padlock: I really love this simple application. It allows you to ‘lock’ your videos, photos or even other documents with a password (128-bit encyption). Very useful if you’re worried about allowing the kids viewing unsuitable material or simply maintaining your own privacy at home.
- Replay Director: this is a central ‘control panel’ which allows you to easily navigate to any of the seven applications in the Replay Media Suite with ease.
Replay Capture Suite is priced at $79 which, personally, I think is pretty good value for money. If you think about it, that’s around 60% less than a modern DVD / hard-drive recorder or a ‘media center’ than you buy in the stores these days. And although I have a DVD hard-drive recorder, I hardly use it anymore since I put all my favorite programs on my laptop (I even get requests from my wife!). So your computer becomes the place for documents, photos, music, DVD player and now your own personal video collection too although, rest-assured, I don’t drag the laptop to the TV everyday! It’s just really satisfying to watch something you really fancy whenever you want and not be at the mercy of your Internet connection either (especially when there’s high demand). Another thing which I find really irritating are time-limit restrictions. For example, on the BBC iPlayer website, you have a certain time to watch the program before it expires and disappears from the website so grabbing a high-quality recording overcomes this problem.
But if you have a problem with the $79 price-tag, then I would simply settle on the Replay Media Catcher which sells for $39.95 but bear in mind that you might not be able to grab everything. If you want 100% guaranteed results, then go for for Replay Video Capture which also sells for the same price. The only downside with Replay Video Capture is that the quality isn’t quite as good and you miss out on all the format-conversion facilities that Replay Media Catcher offers. Obviously, if you want the best of both worlds, then just purchase the whole suite because you get all of Applian’s software which collectively would cost you $259.60. I don’t know about about you but I’d much rather save the $180.60 and pay the $79 ! 😉
Enjoy! As always, feel free to leave a comment on the main blog page or just email me.
p.s. As I mentioned before, Applian offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so if it’s not for you, just ask for your money back!
Page last updated: September 18, 2010