To a guy like me, "Flash" means only two things. One is something you're not supposed to do at a sporting event and the other has the word "Gordon" at the end. As soon as I Googled "Flash," however, I found out more than I wanted to know.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
How to save YouTube 'Flash' videos the easy way

May 27, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   I knew I was in trouble when a friend asked me to grab a video off YouTube and put it on a DVD so he could show it at a meeting.
   YouTube? Were grownups -- grandfathers, yet? -- allowed to drop by at the YouTube site and look at any of the videos? Wasn't it just for 11-year-olds?
   So I peeked. Cute site! Interesting videos! And not just for kids, as I could see right away.
   But my confidence fell to the floor when I tried to save the video my friend told me about. I right clicked on it. Left clicked. Double clicked. Control-half-nelson clicked. All I ever got was a polite little message about Flash.
   To a guy like me, "Flash" means only two things. One is something you're not supposed to do at a sporting event and the other has the word "Gordon" at the end. As soon as I Googled "Flash," however, I found out more than I wanted to know.
   First, Flash is a video format, a way of storing and transmitting movies and video clips. That's nice. But, ugh, what happened to the idea of letting common folks download stuff? Flash videos are non-downloadable. Or at least they're supposed to be non-downloadable.
   Ahem. The grownups who came up with Flash forgot about the 14-year-olds who came up with cleverness. So I asked a passing 14-year-old if Flash videos could be downloaded and saved to my hard drive and he said, "Pffft." Which I think is 14-year-oldese for "Are you kidding me? Where you been, dude? Just get one of those downloaders from a hacker site and do it."
   So that's what I did. I'd be happy to tell you all about it, but you wouldn't be happy to hear all about it. Getting Flash videos was easy, but dealing with them once I had them was a nightmare. I downloaded and installed 28 programs before I found one or two that did a good job converting my downloaded Flash videos to something I could play on both a computer and an iPod.
   So let me tell you the good part. I'll start with a quick explanation.
   I did all this on my Windows PC. The software I'll tell you about is Windows software. Later, I did the same thing on my Mac for comparison, and you can read what took place on my blog. Go to http://blog.syracuse.com/technofile to read all about the Mac side of things. (Here's a one-sentence teaser: One of the two computers made everything easy.)
   Making an end-run around the no-download nature of streaming Flash videos was easy. I used the free Moyea FLV Downloader, from www.flvsoft.com. You simply type the Web address of the Flash video into the FLV Downloader's form, and you have it on your hard drive a few minutes later. This was easier than I thought it would be, because all I had to do was click on a video on YouTube. After my browser started showing the video, I copied the address from the browser's address line and pasted it into FLV.
   Then came the hard part. I didn't want to save Flash videos as Flash videos. I wanted to convert them to something that was easy to play. My choice: iPod videos, which can be played on an iPod and on any Windows or Mac computer that has Apple's free iTunes installed, and DVD, which can be played on any computer or TV (as long as you have a DVD player -- and who doesn't these days?).
   (In fact, I had to make a DVD from the Flash video my friend wanted. DVD, of course, is the universal video medium. Everybody can play it.)
   The quest for conversion software left me exhausted. The problem lay not in Windows itself but in the difficulty I had finding legitimate, high-quality software. Most of the video-conversion programs I found came from overseas grab-your-money-and-run Web sites. In nearly every case, the software itself was poorly written, and the information screens sometimes showed no familiarity with English as a spoken language.
   But two programs stood out.
   I preferred Ipod Video Converter For Free, from www.koyotesoft.com/indexEn.html. I liked the interface, modeled after an iPod, and everything worked as advertised. The software is actually free, too; there's no pitch for a paid version.
   I also liked Magic Video Converter, from www.magic-video-software.com. It's only $20 -- a genuine bargain. It handles a dozen video formats, is easy to use and very fast. Converting to and from Flash was simple.
   An explanatory note: Downloading "non-downloadable" Flash videos isn't against the law and it isn't sneaky. Web sites like to show "non-downloadable" videos to keep your eyes on their advertising. You're free to grab those videos for your own collection.