Jan 14

If you’re looking for a simple and effective way to record iPlayer programmes to your computer, then please goto this special page that I put together which includes a simple video demo on how I actually go about recording iPlayer.

I use this method to not only grab programmes from iPlayer but also ITV and C4 or indeed, any TV service that is available online (you can also record YouTube videos if you want). Once I have the programmes I’m interested in, I typically connect my laptop to my TV (just to be a bit more sociable!) when my wife & I want to watch something in particular. There’s information on how to do this further below.

For me, the main benefits of using this approach are:

(i) First and foremost, I can record programmes and watch them anytime I want without restriction. When I (eventually!) find the time, I can watch what I want, when I went (and also wherever I want if I’m travelling).

(ii) Since the programmes you record are nothing more than electronic ‘files’ stored on your computer, this makes it easy to change the ‘name’ of the programme just by renaming the name of the file. It’s far less irritating than writing on a DVD (I never seem to have a DVD-pen handy…..do you?) and on harddrive DVD-recorders, changing the name of a programme can be time-consuming and a real pain in the neck.

(iii) You can organise your favorite programmes into seperate folders on your computer. You put all your documentaries in the “Documentaries” folder, your favourite sporting events in “Sport”, etc. Now you don’t have a stack of DVD’s with different programmes on them and saves you the hassle of finding the exact thing you want to watch.

(iv) Even if you don’t want to drag your laptop around, it’s pretty easy to ‘convert’ the grabbed videos to make them compatible with a standard DVD-player. You can see how to do this here.

(v) For better or worse, my faithful laptop has become my central ‘place of information’. I have my work, my personal photos & videos and now my favorite programmes all in one place. I don’t have ‘data’ dispersed on that DVD, this HD-recorder, that memory-stick (is my data on that blue, red or yellow one?) and that video-camera. Naturally if you’re interested in this strategy, you need a large hard-drive but even external drives are not outrageously expensive (at least, I don’t think so considering what I’m doing) and in any event, they’re getting cheaper year after year. And of course, it’s important to keep backups in this situation. I use software to make automatic backups every night to an external hard-drive to have peace of mind. Of course, you may view this as somewhat extreme but I tend to think that with more and more things going ‘electronic’, I simply like to have everything in one simple place. When it comes to backups, needless to say, losing my precious family photos and videos would leave me pretty heart-broken.

Anyway, if you’re interested in recording iPlayer programmes to your computer instead of recording to a DVD or DVD-Harddrive recorder, as I said please check this special page I put together which, I hope, will explain things clearly.

With kind regards, Andy

written by Andy Taylor

Apr 30

I’ve had a quite a few readers (especially Arthur who’s been waiting for my reply for months!) emailing me wanting to know how to record iPlayer videos to a DVD so I’ve put up this blog post and a full video explaining exactly how you do this.

For the benefit of new readers to this blog, I recommend you read the information on the “Recording iPlayer” page FIRST.

Otherwise, here’s a quick overview of the whole process:

  1. Before you can even think about recording iPlayer programmes to a DVD, you need to “record” or “capture” the video from iPlayer first. Once you’ve done this, you’ll lend up with the recorded programme on your hard-drive on your computer. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check the “recording iplayer” page.
  2. If you’ve used the “recording” method (which is the one I recommend), you’ll lend with a file called “programme-name.FLV” stored in a folder on your computer.  The ‘FLV’ bit stands for “Flash Video” (a popular video format invented by Adobe Systems). But the problem is Flash Video can’t be played on most DVD players so you have to convert the ‘FLV’ file to a DVD-formatted file first.
  3. Once it’s converted, you can then burn the newly-converted files to a blank DVD. The problem is that you’ll find several types of DVD’s in the shops so which one do you buy? Well, most modern DVD players can play any type of DVD so go for DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW or DVD-RW. Personally, I’ve had better luck with the “+” variety. The only difference between “R” and “RW” is that “R” discs only allow you to record ONCE to the disc. With “RW” discs, you can write to them, then erase them and write to them again many times over.

Applian supply a piece of software called “Replay Converter” which will do steps 2 and 3 for you completely seamlessly. There are other software programs out there that can do this too if you don’t want to use this particular one. “Replay Converter” is included as part of the better package deal called “Replay Capture Suite“. When you get the whole suite, you also get the software to cover Step 1 (plus a whole bunch of other useful media related tools).

And one last thing: don’t forget that your computer needs to have a DVD-writer (most newer PC’s / laptops do) OR you need to have an external DVD-writer connected to the PC.

OK, the next video is, err…,..a bit long (17 minutes to be exact). I didn’t script it in anyway (I should know better) and it’s really designed for the complete beginner so bear with me if you’re more experienced. If you get trouble watching the video, it’s because so many people are hitting my website at the same time…. and it can’t cope (I’m working on an upgrade at the moment). And if you’d rather not listen to me wobbling on, just below the video are the written instructions plus the other tips I mention in the video.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Start the “Replay Converter” software.
  2. Put in a blank DVD in your computer.
  3. Click on “Add Files” and then go and find & choose the files you want to put onto the DVD. Holding down the “CTRL” key on your keyword and clicking on the left-mouse button at the same time will allow you to select multiple programmes. If you used “Replay Media Catcher 4″, you’ll find the programmes stored in a folder called “My Streaming Media” (normally within the “My Documents” folder). If you used “Replay Video Capture”, you’ll find the programmes stored in a folder called “RVC Recordings” (normally within the “My Videos” folder).
  4. Click on the “Burn to CD/DVD” radio button (bottom-right hand side).
  5. Where it says “Choose a Target Format”, select “Burn to a DVD-PAL” or if you live in the USA, “Burn to a DVD-NTSC (US)”.
  6. Click on the big “GO” button and wait……
  7. The software will now start converting the “FLV-formatted” programmes to a special DVD-format. For each programme that’s an hour long, this will take 45 minutes (if you’ve got a fairly fast computer). There’s no way around this: even other software that I have takes about the same time. You can still use your computer whilst it’s doing this conversion but your computer will be much slower: the conversion process is very heavy work on the main processor (known as the CPU). Therefore, I recommend you do this before going to bed!
  8. Once it’s converted, the software then prepares your blank DVD to receive the converted files. After that, it starts ‘burning’ the programmes to your DVD. This process takes about 30 minutes.

That’s it. All you need is patience and you’ll have your favourite programmes on a DVD.

Other Tips / Notes

  • If you’re going to use DVD+RW or DVD-RW discs, make sure it is BLANK before you start. If you don’t know how to do this, search for “erase a DVD” in Google or here’s a link if you’re using Windows Vista: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Erase-a-CD-or-DVD
  • Remember that once you’ve recorded the files onto the DVD, it won’t have any fancy-pants menus or ‘chapters’ that you’re probably used to with purchased DVD’s. As soon as you put the DVD into your home player, it will start playing the first programme automatically. To see the next programme you’ll have to press the “Next” button on your remote control. And to go back to the previous programme, you’ll have to hit the “Back” button one or more times to go to previous programmes. If you want more fancy stuff with chapters inserted into each programme and pretty menus, email me and I’ll let you know how to do this.
  • I strongly recommend you limit the amount of hours of video you record to FOUR or FIVE hours at the most – the less the better. If you try to put more than this, the video will start to ‘jump’ and quality is reduced too.
  • Quality is really very good indeed but if you want top-notch stuff, buy yourself a Blu-Ray player and get the original programme on Blu-Ray from the online BBC Shop. You won’t believe just how good David Attenborough or Top Gear stuff is on Blu-Ray…

Ok, hope that helps. Send me over an email if you get stuck and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Cheers, Andy

written by Andy Taylor

Feb 08

Hi there,

If you have a laptop computer and want to watch BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s On Demand service, Hulu, Youtube videos or even Skype video-chats on your TV instead, there are a few ways you can do this. Everything depends on what connectivity options you have on your laptop and TV.

The most recent and reliable method is to connect your computer and TV via what’s known as an HDMI cable but this can only be done if you have a fairly new laptop and a High-Definition TV. So all you need to do here is purchase an HDMI (stands for ‘High Definition Multimedia Interface’) connecting cable. However, if you don’t have HDMI on both ends, you’re going to have to find alternatives. They’re more fiddly to setup and also, the quality is obviously not the same as HDMI.

So if you find yourself with older gear, here’s the best way to do this:

1. First you should check whether the graphics card in your laptop has a “TV-mode” or not. In XP or Vista goto “Control Panel”, then “Display” which allows you to change the resolution of your screen. If you’re using Windows 7, it’s highly likely that your laptop has an HDMI port (back to this in a minute). Once there, click on the”Advanced” button and this is where you’ll see several tabs of different options related to your graphics card including an ‘information’ tab. In this ‘information’ tab, it should tell you whether your card can send signals to a TV or not.

2. Now you need to connect the laptop to the TV with either cables or via a converter box. If you laptop is really that old, the best you’ll be able to manage is via the “VGA” port which normally allows you to connect your laptop to an external monitor. But VGA and TV signals are not compatible so you need a converter box to do this for you as well as having the various possible cables. The best package I’ve found that has both the box and most of the likely cables that you’ll need can be FOUND HERE (if you’re in the UK / Europe) or here if you live in the US.  This box will work for both common TV systems used around the world. In the US & Japan, they use NTSC and in most of Europe, they use the PAL system. The only exception is France and other franco-phone countries which use the SECAM system. However, you don’t need to worry about this. In any case, if you ever buy a TV in France, they almost all come with PAL integrated (as well as SECAM), so you won’t need yet another box to convert PAL to SECAM (phew!). So this converter box will take your VGA signal from the computer and output it to a PAL or NTSC “audio-visual” signal (or AV for short). The resolution (or quality of image) on this box can be set to maximum of 1024 x 768 pixels which is fairly reasonable on older TV’s (would be pretty horrible on large, new HD flat-screens), and it’s also compatible with PC’s or Mac’s so you don’t have to worry about that either. By the way, if you decide to take this option make sure you switch everything off (TV, PC, DVD, whatever) before installing the box and cables.

3. So far so good? Well, not quite. This converter box only converts the video signal. So yes, you’ll have picture on the TV but the sound will come out of the laptop! So now we need to get the sound across too. Thankfully, this is a little simpler. Your laptop should have a small headphone socket or jack which, yes you guessed it, allows you to listen to stuff on your laptop with headphones. So all you need to do is buy a cable that takes sound from this socket and plug the other end into the TV or, via an ‘input’ of your Video or DVD Player / Recorder. The typical cable consists of this small ‘headphone’ plug on one end (plugs into computer) and two ‘phono’ or ‘RCA’ male plugs on the other end, which are normally coded in two colours: red (right stereo) and white (left stereo). These two RCA cables plug into either your ‘input’  sockets on your TV directly or the ‘input’ sockets of your DVD / Video recorder.

4. Remember that your cables have to plug into the same place. You can’t have the video stuff going direct to your TV and the sound via your Video / DVD recorder or, vice-versa. Both sets of cables have to go either to the ‘input’ sockets or jacks of your TV or to the ‘input’ connections of your DVD or Video recorder.

Now, if you find yourself with a newer laptop, you may find a round “S-Video” connector which many newer TV’s accept. Again, however, this only transmits video. Another possibility is that your laptop will have a DVI (Digital Video Interface) socket but confusingly, there are several different types of DVI. So these combinations complicate things when it comes to purchasing cables. But don’t worry, I’ve found something to help you out! The best thing I’ve found on the web is a site that asks you for your PC and TV (or DVD / Video) connectors and, it gives you list of what you need to purchase. You can click on each item and the site then takes you to a well-known UK electronics store (Maplin). For folks in the US, just take a note of the cables and you’ll find them on Amazon. The site is very easy to use and extremely useful:  http://www.plugpctotv.com  .

If you’ve purchased a laptop that’s one or even upto two years old, then it should have an HDMI port. And, as long as you have one of those rather nice High Definition TV’s, it will also have one or probably several HDMI ports so all you need to do is buy a male-to-male HDMI cable which you can get pretty much anywhere. When you connect the cable, both Mac’s and PC’s automatically “sync” your computer with the TV so everything is done for you (well, make sure you choose the right HDMI ‘channel’ on your TV!).

If you have any questions, just post a comment. Thanks for reading!

Andy

written by Andy Taylor

Feb 07

Hi there,

Since the BBC released the iPlayer in 2007, I’ve always been intrigued as to how I could keep a copy on my computer so I could see it later. Although you can download the programmes and watch them later, you’ll notice that programmes are often kept from anywhere between 7 and 30 days so if you’re too late, that’s the end of it (even if you haven’t watched it)!

So there are times when I just fancy watching a particular programme whenever I want and not have this restriction. Probably like you, I lead a busy life and I just don’t get round to watching something I’d really like to see but I simply forgot or am way too busy. It’s really annoying to find something has expired. And, I don’t exactly keep a diary of when the time limits expire.

The reason the BBC and other similar online streaming sites like Channel 4 On Demand (amongst others like Hulu in the United States) is down to copyright law. Whilst you could record things onto your home video or DVD / Hard-drive recorder, strictly speaking you’re not supposed to keep them for more than a “reasonable” time-frame (applicable for the UK, the US is different). See the BBC ‘s iPlayer  message board to see what I mean at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F7331806?thread=7263538.   Of course, it goes without saying that re-distributing programming is a definite no-no: that’s called piracy! But how the BBC exactly intend to check (and later, enforce) everyones Video / DVD-HD  recorder, I have no clue…

If you’re interested in keeping something for a little while longer and want to record from iPlayer as well as other related things like capturing your screen to record Skype video phone calls with friends and family, this blog is designed to help so I’ll post more info over the next few posts….

Best regards,

Andy Taylor

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