RealNetworks began public beta-testing version 12 of its venerable RealPlayer today. Like the last version, the free RealPlayer SP (which stands for "social and portable") lets you rip streaming Flash videos from the Web to your hard drive. What's new: you can also transcode them into appropriate formats for playback on portable devices. If you're using an iPod or iPhone, the RealPlayer will even generously insert the transcoded version directly into your iTunes library.CNET's John Falcone has already done a of the RealPlayer SP beta, but I was intrigued enough to try it myself. My first thought was to rip YouTube videos, but then I realized that it's much more convenient simply to use the built-in YouTube icon on my iPhone to stream them directly to the phone (as long as I've got a wireless connection, which I usually do).
Then I remembered that one of the best features of Microsoft's new Bing search engine, which launched , is its video search. (The predecessor to Bing, Live Search, had most of the same video search features as well.) There's nothing wrong with Google's video search, but I personally prefer the Bing interface, and I like the way the video is previewed right in the search results.
Using them together was a breeze--once installed, the RealPlayer automatically adds a small pop-up message to any embedded video in your browser (I tested it with both Internet Explorer and Firefox), asking you if you want to download the video. Transcoding takes a few minutes, particularly for long videos, but in the last half-hour I've managed to rip the new Grizzly Bear video, the reunited Pink Floyd's entire Live 8 performance, and a live version of Ozzy's "Crazy Train" with Randy Rhoads into iTunes in both video (H.264) and audio-only (MP3) formats. All came from different original sources, but all were available through Bing.
I'm particularly impressed with the RealPlayer's video-to-audio transcoder--my 8GB iPhone is way too small to fit a lot of videos on it, and transcoding video to audio files has been a bit of a hassle in the past. Now I can do it on the fly, as I download them. Kudos to RealNetworks on a nice piece of software.
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