LifeDrive Notes: Saving Streaming Video On A PC

I came across a streaming .WMV file (actually .WVX in its URL!) that I wanted to keep and (eventually) play on my (still dead) LifeDrive. This set off a Google Hunt for solutions.

My first stop was All Streaming Media, a site that provides a chart of many of the available choices. I was, of course, looking for something free.

The first thing I tried was WMRecorder. But I couldn’t get this to work. The stream refused to stream every time I tried to record it! The brief demo mode was free but I would have been willing to pay for this had it worked.

Next I turned to Streambox VCR v1.0 beta 3.1 v3.1, which is not supposed to be legal nor available (as if either roadblock would stop anyone on the Internet!). To save myself the scourging certain CopyNazi authorities would love to dole out to a stubborn Fair Use son of a bitch like me, I will not provide the URL where I found it. As usual, Google is your best friend and illicit pusher. Upon launching, it demanded information from me. I refused. That ended that.

Then I found some guidance at Lifehacker.

I then tried vlc. My first attempt worked, but there was no sound! I must have clicked a wrong option. Another attempt seemed to work, but apparently — after having it save as RAW video — I did something wrong in specifying its extension (.WMV) after saving it. Neither vlc nor Windows Media Player (10 — and the 11 it made me just upgrade to!) could then play it.

This was getting frustrating!

I next tried SDP Multimedia. But I couldn’t get it to work.

I went back and re-read those Lifehacker posts. A light went on in my dim head. When I tried SDP Multimedia, I didn’t bother to specify I wanted to use http:. So I set that and let it rip.

It worked!

To save myself future anguish, let me remind myself what I did step-by-step:

1) Got the URL for the stream. This can be done in a variety of ways. One easy way I found was to open the stream in WMP 11. Then I right-clicked on its title in the right-hand list and selected Properties. Under the File tab, it showed Location. This was the URL I needed. I highlighted it and Copied it.

2) In SDP Multimedia (which is called SDP Downloader on its icon, go figure!), I clicked on the Open button and Pasted in the URL. When it asked if I wanted to Save the location, I said No. Then I clicked the VCR On button to start the recorder. Next I clicked on Go and specified a filename (the box by default will be filled with a ginormous URL that is gibberish; get rid of that!). Once I clicked on Save, it started the process of contacting the streaming server and the stream began to flow. Once it finished, I clicked on VCR On again to toggle it off, then clicked on Exit to close the program.

SDP Multimedia has a network monitor that runs during the process. Several times I was shocked to see the throughput line go into the red for several seconds. I noted these times. But when I played the saved stream back, everything was there. No video or audio dropouts.

SDP saved these files as .ASF. I could play them in WMP 11 and vlc just fine. My next step will be to determine if I need to transcode these to play on the LifeDrive. For any necessary transcoding, I’ll probably try SUPER, which I referenced here.

Additional information about saving multimedia files on a PC can be found at HOWTO: Save nearly any multimedia file in your web browser to your hard drive. Also, Engadget has an interesting article: How-To: Stream almost anything using VLC.

For Mac owners (perhaps the future me?): Record any video stream to disk using VLC.

For sites that rely on Flash video, such as YouTube, I simply use a Firefox extension, VideoDownloader. And then make sure I give it a name other than the stupid default of Get Video, and then change the extension to .FLV. This makes it a standalone Flash file that I can then double-click on and play in a free Flash player, FLV Player. At one time, I was using a free converter program which seems to have gotten lost(!) somewhere on my PC. Better choices than that one now seem to exist. See both Lifehack and My Digital Life.

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