In its upcoming RealPlayer 11.0 release RealNetworks is taking a serious stab at integrating features that let you save and organise web videos to your PC and also burn those videos to CD and DVDs. UPDATE: Real Player fully released on 28 June 2007

RealPlayer 11.0 was released to consumers on June 28. Previously, Real gave us the opportunity to test a beta version of RealPlayer 11.0. Here is what we found.

The single defining feature new to RealPlayer 11.0 is the software's capability to save web video in one click from thousands of websites. With RealPlayer 11.0 you don't even have to watch the video. Just visit a site such as YouTube and, before the video even starts, a "Download" button pops up. You can choose to just download the video - without watching – and continue surfing to other sites on the web.

When using RealPlayer 11.0 beta you hover your mouse over the video a "Download" button appears allowing you to begin the download. Don't expect to be able to download just any video with RealPlayer 11.0, however. Those that are authored using copyright protection are off limits. For example, when our US colleagues tried to download any of the full episodes of TV shows offered for free by CBS, they received an error message from Real stating: "This video's copyrights owner may have copy-protected the video file with DRM."

Video formats supported for download by RealPlayer 11.0 are Windows Media, RealVideo and Flash.

The RealPlayer 11.0 Download Manager allows you to keep tabs on downloads. In our test it took only a few minutes to download an 11-minute 300K video. You can also download multiple web video streams at the same time.

RealPlayer 11.0's My Library is where you can manage your videos by name, genre, star rating, quality and format.

Playback is limited to the RealPlayer 11.0 viewer. RealPlayer 11.0 allows you to create playlists for watching multiple videos at the same time in a row, just like with audio playlists.

Along with the ability to save video, RealPlayer 11.0 offers the ability to burn videos to video CD (VCD) or DVD for playback on your TV or PC. Users of the basic version of RealPlayer 11.0 will be able only to create a VCD. RealPlayer 11.0 Plus users will be able to author DVDs as well as transcode stored video into formats other than the proprietary format Real stores them in.

RealPlayer 11.0 capability to transcode files in different formats is key for anyone interested in playing back video on anything other than a PC such as Apple TV or mobile devices like the PlayStation Portable.

Plus

We didn't test the Plus version of RealPlayer 11.0. But here are a few of the other features besides being able to burn to DVD that you'll get if you decide to make the upgrade:

* Advanced video controls
* Video brightness, contrast, sharpness, and hue tools
* Audio ripping, mixing, and burning.

Interface upgrade

Lost in the RealPlayer 11.0 upgrade hoopla over video is the fact the RealPlayer has received a meaningful facelift with some improvements to usability. This version of RealPlayer 11.0 looks a lot more like Windows Media Player. Gone are some of the big navigational tabs up top, replaced by content buttons.

Sour notes

On the downside, RealPlayer 11.0 appears to store video files in a (.ivr) format making them unplayable on other media players like Windows MediaPlayer and WinAMP. Real says only in "some situations" it renames the video with a different (.ivr) extension. In my test downloading dozens of videos all files were saved using this extension.

We wouldn't care about the format, but because it seems to be so closely tied to the RealPlayer We're limited to only burning and playing back videos with RealPlayer. Paying customers of RealPlayer 11.0 Plus can take the additional step and transcode files into a different video file format and theoretically edit and burn videos using any video editing software package. We assume this to be true, but didn't test the Plus version of the software.

We do understand RealNetworks' insistence on using what we consider an unwieldy format in the free version of RealPlayer 11.0. It creates a need to upgrade to the paid-for version of RealPlayer 11.0.

Sites such as KeepVid.com, Vixy.net and Zamzar.com help you convert Flash videos to a format of your choice for free. Windows applications such as KeepV.com, VDownloader, YouTube Grabber, and Orbit Downloader are also free. Vidtaker and Ook? Video Ook! are two free Firefox extension that can download videos from most streaming sites.

RealPlayer 11.0 beta: Specs

  • (FOR REAL PLAYER 10): 500MHz Intel Pentium III processor
  • 128MB of RAM
  • broadband connection
  • 65,000-colour video display card
  • CD writer
  • 700MB available disk space
  • DVD player
  • Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
  • Internet Explorer 6.0
  • Windows Media Player 9.0 or later
  • Quicktime 6.4 or later
  • (FOR REAL PLAYER 10): 500MHz Intel Pentium III processor
  • 128MB of RAM
  • broadband connection
  • 65,000-colour video display card
  • CD writer
  • 700MB available disk space
  • DVD player
  • Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
  • Internet Explorer 6.0
  • Windows Media Player 9.0 or later
  • Quicktime 6.4 or later

OUR VERDICT

It's hard to ignore the video explosion taking place on the Internet. We're glad RealNetworks is responding with RealPlayer 11.0 - a tool for taming, tagging, and bagging videos. We look forward to a more polished beta.

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