It's not all clips of burping babies and snoozing grannies: YouTube offers some real gems, too. Using RealPlayer, you can download your favourite clips for offline viewing and even convert them to a format compatible with your portable player.

It's not all clips of burping babies and snoozing grannies: YouTube offers some real gems, too. There are thousands of music videos and some great live performances, for example, plus plenty of sports clips to browse through. Increasingly, film and TV companies are also making films and TV series available on the site.

YouTube streams video within your web browser, which means clips play automatically. But this also means you lose the clip as soon as you close your browser and have to wait for it to stream again before you can watch it a second time. You'll need to be online, too.

If only you could download video clips and store them permanently on your PC's hard disk, letting you watch your favourite clips offline whenever you want. It would be even better if you could convert the resulting file into a format compatible with your iPod, mobile phone or other portable device of choice.

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Fortunately, a number of programs enable you to download video from the web. You'll need a second piece of software to convert YouTube clips formatted as Flash video files, however - these aren't natively supported in Windows Media Player. Alternatively, get a program that can play back Flash video.

Many free and paid-for programs can handle one of these tasks; RealPlayer, our favourite, does all three. The basic version of the program is free for download from real.com/realplayer.

Over the following pages, we'll demonstrate how to download your favourite YouTube clips to your computer and enjoy them offline using RealPlayer.
We'll also show you how to convert video to a format compatible with your MP3 player, portable video player, smartphone or PC.

Download web video using RealPlayer

Step 1. Download RealPlayer SP. It's compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google's Chrome browser, and runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, so you should be able to use it without changing your existing computer setup.

RealPlayer step 1

Step 2. Follow the RealPlayer installation wizard and agree to the default settings. Be sure to select the option marked ‘Enable browser download button' in the ‘Download and Recording' section of the dialog box. This option will be necessary for directly downloading video from web pages.

RealPlayer step 2

It's not all clips of burping babies and snoozing grannies: YouTube offers some real gems, too. Using RealPlayer, you can download your favourite clips for offline viewing and even convert them to a format compatible with your portable player.

Step 3. The free version of RealPlayer is ad-supported. Click No to all offers punted to you, then choose the ‘Basic RealPlayer' installation. A RealPlayer Message Center will be installed in the Taskbar; you can turn this off by right-clicking the icon in the Taskbar, selecting ‘Preferences' and deselecting everything.

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Step 4. After watching the Australian Open, we found some great clips of Roger Federer on YouTube. When you open a page that has a video you'll see the RealPlayer download button appear just above the clip. Click this button to download the video, or right-click the clip and choose the relevant option.

RealPlayer step 4

 

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Step 5. The RealPlayer Downloader window appears, showing the clip you're currently downloading. A number of useful options are available in this window, including Convert to and Copy to. For now, just click the thumbnail preview of the video to open it and play it back using RealPlayer.

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Step 6. The clip has now been downloaded to your hard drive in the Flash video (.flv) format. Flash isn't compatible with Windows Media Player, so you'll either need to convert the file or watch it in RealPlayer. RealPlayer can also be used to download Flash video from other websites, such as DailyMotion and Vimeo.

RealPlayer step 6

It's not all clips of burping babies and snoozing grannies: YouTube offers some real gems, too. Using RealPlayer, you can download your favourite clips for offline viewing and even convert them to a format compatible with your portable player.

Step 7. Next to the RealPlayer download button that appears in YouTube is a small triangular button that displays a drop-down menu. You can use the ‘Save this video as' command offered here to change the name of the video file when you save it on to your hard drive.

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Step 8. Choose the Preferences option in this drop-down list to visit the Preferences panel in the main program. Under ‘Downloading & Recording', you can change various settings such as the folder where clips should be saved. You can also alter the behaviour of the download button or switch it off altogether.

RealPlayer step 8

 

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Step 9. Choose Advanced Settings. If you want to play your video clips on a portable device, you'll need to convert - or ‘transcode' - the original .flv file into a compatible format. RealPlayer's default transcoding option is Best Performance. This is fast, but the resulting video quality can be poor. We've instead selected Highest Detail.

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Step 10. We're now ready to convert our clip for use on an iPod. The Downloader window offers ‘Convert to' and ‘Copy to' options. Copy to is the quickest, converting the file and automatically preparing it for transfer. By default RealPlayer is set to copy to an iPod, but you can select another device from the drop-down menu.

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It's not all clips of burping babies and snoozing grannies: YouTube offers some real gems, too. Using RealPlayer, you can download your favourite clips for offline viewing and even convert them to a format compatible with your portable player.

Step 11. RealPlayer also lets you download a batch of clips and convert them simultaneously using the ‘Convert All' button. Other handy options include the ability to send video directly from the Downloader to your Facebook profile, or send a link to the YouTube page via email or Twitter.

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Step 12. We selected the ‘Copy to Apple iPod' option. RealPlayer downloaded our batch of Roger Federer clips and converted them into the H.264 format. It then added the converted files to our iTunes Library, ready to be transferred to an iPod. Plug in the iPod and tell iTunes to synchronise the files.

RealPlayer step 12

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Step 13. The ‘Convert to' option is similar to the ‘Copy to' command, but provides more control over the conversion process. One useful feature is the ‘Enable multi-select' option, which lets you specify multiple conversion options simultaneously - perhaps creating versions for your iPod, mobile phone and PC.

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Step 14. Click ‘details' next to any option to modify the conversion settings, including resolution and video quality. If you don't want to use iTunes or RealPlayer for playback, you can also convert video into Windows Media Video (.wmv) files that are compatible with Windows Media Player.

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