Whether you want to save a video to watch a Flash video offline, convert a music video for your MP3 player or whatever, learning how to rip and convert Flash videos is a useful skill. Here’s how it works.
When it comes to ripping Flash videos, there’s more than one way to accomplish the task, and in many cases it depends greatly on where you’re grabbing the video. We’ll cover a number of different options for downloading Flash videos, as well as several ways you can convert them into more useful formats. Once you’ve seen the options, you can choose the one that works best for you and your situation.
Downloading the Flash Video
Most online videos these days use the FLV format to store the actual video files, so our first task is to get a copy of that file. Some sites, like YouTube, will offer an MP4 download in certain cases, but if not, the FLV file can be converted in the next step to a more usable format, so let’s concentrate on getting the file downloaded.
The easiest way to download any video from the majority of online video sites is with the Video DownloadHelper extension for Firefox. Once you’ve installed the extension, head to any video page, and then click the DownloadHelper button button (see screenshot below) to see a list of the available media to download on that page. The extension provides a built-in method for converting video files, but they will end up watermarked, so just download the files in MP4 if possible or FLV if not.
If the Video DownloadHelper extension doesn’t detect the video on the page, you can sometimes head into Tools -> Page Info -> Media, find the video file in the list of resources, and then click the Save As button. If you are a Linux user, you can also just wait until a Flash video is entirely loaded, and then grab the file from your /tmp folder.
Downloading YouTube Videos
You can’t talk about ripping Flash videos from the web without giving special attention to YouTube, since much more specialised tools are available for easily downloading and converting video from YouTube in a single step.
If you’d rather not use a separate piece of software, you can use the Get YouTube Video bookmarklet, or any number of specialised sites like KickYouTube, KeepVid, deturl or Vixy to download and rip videos from YouTube or some other sites. The problem with most of these types of sites is that they go up and down and often end up covered in sleazy ads that trick you into clicking the wrong thing — though Vixy seems to be a solid option for now.
Converting Flash Video to Other Formats (Video or Music)
Once you’ve got the Flash video downloaded, you’ll probably want to convert it into a format that’s easier to use on other devices (like, say, your iPod). If you’re using the YouTube Downloader or one of the video ripping sites you can download and convert in one step, but if you downloaded from elsewhere you will probably want to convert them.
On the other hand, instead of installing a conversion utility, you can always grab yourself a copy of the command-line ffmpeg utility, which is what most video conversion applications use behind the scenes. To convert FLV to another video format like MP4, just use a command line similar to this one:
ffmpeg -i filename.FLV -qmin 2 -qmax 5 -ar 22050 filename.MP4
The qmin and qmax parameters are important for making sure the quality of video is good — the lower the parameters, the better the quality. The -ar parameter is the quality of the audio, and the extension of the filename on the last parameter tells ffmpeg what format to convert the file into. For instance, to convert a flash video to MP3, you could use something like the following:
ffmpeg -i filename.FLV -ar 44100 filename.MP3
What about you? What’s your favourite method for downloading and ripping Flash videos? Share your thoughts and expertise in the comments.