There is a lot of good stuff on YouTube. There’s a lot of stupid, immature, dumb stuff on YouTube as well, but there is good stuff. And sometimes it would be nice to have a copy of it on your hard drive, so you don’t have to be connected to the Internet to watch your favorite video. Other times it would be nice, especially for live concerts that make their way to YouTube, to have MP3 copies of the audio of YouTube videos. Of course, YouTube doesn’t exactly make it easy to download its videos. But a fantastic new program for Linux called Flashrip does!
Flashrip has a very simple goal: to allow you to download videos from YouTube and convert them to MP3 or an AVI file. Because while it’s simple to watch a video in your web browser (assuming you have the Flash plugin), if you do manage to download the video, you’ll typically find it’s in the FLV container, and not every video player knows what to do with that. So Flashrip serves two purposes, really: letting you play just the audio (converting to MP3), and letting you easily play the video on pretty much all your devices or players (converting to AVI).
Using Flashrip couldn’t really be any easier. Just go to YouTube, or grab a link someone sent you in an email, and paste the address into Flashrip. You’ll also want to set the Destination, as well as any parameters. Flashrip only mentioned MP3 in their blurb, but it is also capable of converting YouTube audio to the OGG container (Ogg is a completely free codec unencumbered by patents and licensing fees). With MP3, you have your choice of constant, average or variable bitrate, while Ogg (which is always variable bitrate), gives you the opportunity to set a target bitrate.
While converting to AVI, you can choose from four popular codecs: MPEG4, H264, FLV (YouTube’s standard format), and WMV. But like Ogg audio, you can also use Ogg Video to export your videos. If you’re downloading a video and plan on keeping it in video format, Flashrip also allows you to set your preferred resolution (640×480 is standard).
Once you’ve set your preferences and pasted in the URL, all you do is hit the Start Rip button and Flashrip does the rest. First it downloads the video (it provides a progress bar which includes file size and download speeds so you can see how far along the process is), and then when finished downloading, the progress bar starts all over so you can watch the encoding process. When it’s finished, there you’ll have a new audio or video file, just waiting to be played.
Flashrip is a really simple program, executed very well. There are a lot of ways to download videos from YouTube, and even some websites that will do it for you. Similarly, you probably already have software on your computer that could do the converting for you. But Flashrip takes those two common tasks, puts them together in one simple interface, and effectively turns the two jobs into one. It’s easy to use, fast and above all does a good job. If you are a Linux user who wants to download and convert YouTube videos, Flashrip is a good place to start.