Veoh.com & Hulu.com Video Downloading

Note: The information below is now outdated, as the web sites veoh.com and hulu.com have changed the way they play FLV files in a web browser. As such, using the Orbit Downloader software (as described below) does not work. Upon checking various forum postings, other similar downloader apps also do not work for these video web sites.

Introduction

Zune owners are always looking for that magic web site where they can conveniently download videos for their Zunes. Specifically, people are looking for TV Shows, Movies, and Music Videos for download. The problem is, there are no such sites on the Internet (at least no legitimate, legal sites). There are several sites that will allow you to view such videos in a web browser (such as youtube.com), however, you can’t easily or directly download these videos. I’ve found youtube.com does have an extensive database of various videos, but most of them are user-created and not full-length TV Shows or Movies.

Two web sites that specifically have TV Shows and Movies available for viewing are www.veoh.com and www.hulu.com. Most of the TV Shows are older episodes from the 60’s thru the 90’s, but they do have some current TV Shows available. For example, I missed an episode of New Amsterdam and found it on the veoh.com web site for viewing. Again, these web sites allow for viewing of videos, and not downloading onto your PC.

So, how can I download these videos for playback on my Zune? That’s the $100k question.

Downloading FLV Video Files

Web sites that stream videos (like youtube.com, veoh.com, hulu.com, etc), usually use FLV video files which can be played back in a web browser using common video plugins. The problem is, these web sites don’t have any provisions for downloading the FLV files. You can’t simple right-click on the video and try to download it (like you can with pictures and images on a web page). To get around this, a few resourceful people have created applications and plugins that can download a FLV file from a web server. Most of these “downloader” apps requires you to enter an http address string that specified the location of the FLV file for download, however, in some cases getting this http address string is difficult or impossible. For example, it’s nearly impossible to get such information from the veoh.com or hulu.com sites.

One such downloader application called Orbit Downloader actually examines the currently displayed web page and “sniffs” out available media data for downloading. It can identify the playing FLV video file’s location on the site’s web server and download that file to your PC. Once you figure out how to use the Orbit Downloader, you can easily and quickly download any FLV video file that is playing in the web browser.

Using The Orbit Downloader

The first step, is to download and install the Orbit Downloader program on to your Desktop PC. You can get the latest version from this web link.

After you install the Orbit Downloader, you’ll need to run the program in the background so that it can sniff out available web media data.

Next, bring up your web browser and visit www.veoh.com. On this site, search the TV Shows section for a video you want to download. In my example below, I found the video from the old TV Show called The Time Tunnel which I wanted to download. Near the top right corner of the video you’ll see a small gray down arrow icon (see figure below) which you need to double click to bring up the Orbit Downloader Grab++ application.

After clicking on the down arrow icon, you should see a Grab++ window as shown below. In this window, you’ll see all available media data that the Orbit Downloader application sniffed out from the current web page.

Next, click on the video displayed on the web page to play the video. As the video is playing, switch to the Grab++ window and watch what appears. You should see a list of media data items which are available for download. If you click the “Flash” link at the top of the window, it will only display Flash Videos in the list. You now need to select the item which appears to be the playing FLV file (it should be somewhat obvious). In the image below, you can see that I selected the first item which appears to be the playing FLV video that I want to download.

Once you’ve identified and checked the desired video file, click the Download button to start the downloading procedure. You should then see a window as shown below, which is the Orbit Downloader Queue:

In this window, you can verify that your selected FLV file is downloading. Now, once you’ve started the download procedure for a FLV file, you don’t need to continue watching it in the browser. You can search for another video file and download another video file if you wish. What I’ve done, is search for all the Time Tunnel episodes that I want and have them all downloading at the same time.

Comments Regarding FLV Files

Note, that these FLV video files are designed for streaming to a web browser for playback. As such, they will be of lower resolution and possibly lower playback frame rate. I’ve found that this isn’t a problem, since you want videos with a 320×240 resolution for your Zune device with a relatively low frame rate.

When converting any video file for playback on the Zune, it’s important to know the video frame rate of the source video file. If you have a video file with a frame rate of 24 fps and you convert it to a video file with 29 fps, you may notice that the playback audio isn’t in sync with the video displayed. You can always lower the frame rate from the original source file, but not increase it without having audio issues.

This is important to note, since some of the FLV files that I’ve downloaded from veoh.com and hulu.com are created with 24 frames per second (fps). I originally converted these files at 29 fps which produced out-of-sync WMV videos. Once I realized this, I use 24 fps for my conversions and the audio was back in sync.

So how can you tell if the FLV file you downloaded was created with 24 or 29 fps? The best way is to use the program called GSpot which will display the video and audio information for a selected video file. If I use GSpot for the Time Tunnel Video that I downloaded, I see the following:

GSpot tells me that this FLV file has the following attributes:

Resolution: 384×288, 382 kbps Video Rate, 18.55 fps, 64 kbps Audio / 44100 Khz Stereo

Now, the video rate and frames per second may not be exact values, but rather the average values for the entire video. But it should give you an indication to the rates used for this video.

I’ve also noticed that veoh.com and hulu.com seems to name their FLV files with a unique format that helps to identify this information. For example, the Time Tunnel video that I downloaded had this file name:

HuluTranscode_14519_FLASH_480k_384x288_416V_64A_4x3_23_976fps_Medium_lUk3M+-17kOW2LeVfxuzzQ.flv

From the info in the file name, I can guess the following:

Resolution: 384×288, 416 kbps Video Rate, 23.976 fps, 64 kbps Audio

Again, the most important part of this is identifying the frames per second used in the FLV video file, as we need to match it with our subsequent video conversion.

Video Conversion for Zune

Ok, we now have the desired FLV file on our Desktop PC and we need to convert it to WMV format for our Zune. There’s lots of different FLV-to-WMV converters available on the Internet, but all of them will convert to the older WMV7 or 8 video codec format. Unfortunately, the Zune device needs the videos to be in WMV9 video codec format for syncing.

The solution that I came up with was the following:

1) Convert FLV file to AVI format
2) Convert AVI file to WMV9 format

I’d prefer to do the conversion in one step, but I couldn’t find any freeware applications that would do so and generate WMV9 files (in batch mode).

For step (1), I’m using a freeware application called Pazera Free FLV to AVI Converter 1.1. This application allows the user to customize the video settings and convert several files in batch mode. The interface is very straight foward, and you can easily convert several different files at the same time (with the same video settings). Below is the setup I used for the Time Tunnel FLV file:

Here I’ve selected to convert to an AVI file, and I’ve used WMV8 video codec and WMA2 audio codec. What is most important, is setting the frame rate to 23.976 fps to match the source video file.

Once the FLV file has been converted to AVI format, I play the video on my Desktop PC to verify the quality and audio/video syncing. If all is good, I proceed to step (2) to convert the AVI file to WMV (v9) format.

I use my favorite converter program, Windows Media Encoder 9, to do the final conversion. Using the WME Batch Encoder application, I select the AVI file as shown below:

For this conversion step, I use the same video profile (.prx) file that I use for all my video conversions. The settings for this conversion are as follows:

Resolution: 320×240, 700 kbps Video Rate, 30 fps, 128 kbps Audio Rate / 44100 KHz, Stereo

Now, using 30 fps here seems to contradict what I mentioned earlier about increasing the frame rate from the original source video, but doing so with Windows Media Encoder 9 doesn’t seem to be a problem. To be technically correct I could create a different video profile .prx file that uses 23.976 fps, but out of convenience I’m using the same .prx profile that I use for all my video conversions.

Once WME9 finishes the conversion, I should have a WMV video file with the WMV9 video codec that can sync to my Zune without transcoding.

Final Comments

The two-step conversion process can be a pain, but it is the only way I could find in converting FLV files to WMV (V9) format for my Zune. I wish that the WME9 program had the ability to handle FLV files as input, but unfortunately it can’t.

FYI, the Pazera Free FLV to AVI Converter program uses the public domain FFMPEG routines to do the video conversion (which is used by lots of different video converter programs).

The veoh.com and hulu.com web sites are excellent sources for TV Shows and Movies. For the most part, the FLV files are in 24 or 29 fps format so the playback on your Zune will look acceptable. Just make sure to verify the fps rate and use that for the FLV-to-AVI conversion to maintain audio/video syncing.

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “Veoh.com & Hulu.com Video Downloading

  1. mados123 says:

    Another excellent tutorial. After tons of research, trying to find a program that converts flv to wmv9 in one step, I’ve come to the same conclusion as you have about not finding a streamlined solution. Thanks for your work!!!

  2. zunetips says:

    Thanks. If the makers of the FFMPEG program added the ability to write out WMV9 video files, we’d be all set! 🙂

    In the meantime, I’ve created a VB Script that will convert all FLV files in a folder to AVI format. What’s nice, is that this VB Script will first determine the screen resolution and frame rate of the FLV file and will use that data accordingly for the conversion. This will prevent “squishing” of the output video if it’s in letterbox format and will also keep the audio in sync with the video.

    I then use the WME Batch encoder to convert the AVI files over to WMV format for my Zune. What I could do, is write a Visual Basic (or C) program that will use both FFMPEG and WME9 to do the conversion. It may seem like one-step to the user, but under the hood it’s actually doing two conversions (basically what I’ve outlined in this posting). I’ll have to give that some thought and see if I have any time to create such an wrapper application.

  3. mados123 says:

    Innovative work on your part. I do have some questions regarding it. Doesn’t Pazera have auto settings to sense the input fps and resolution so the issues you mention shouldn’t be of concern? Although when using it on auto, I did find that the 14.963 input was rounded off to 15fps. Didn’t really notice a difference in syncing, but will your script keep 14.963? If that is the case, and you find that it is superior, mind sharing it then? Of course, if you plan on using it with software you plan on selling, then I understand your reluctance.

    Also, I downloaded and use Media Converter SA edition in place of Pazera and also like the results. Its GUI is a little more simplified for the non-programmers like myself!

    BTW, after all that time spent with work-arounds tagging the metadata, MS finally updates its software to include it! Can’t understand why they would release the Zune without software to directly support it from the start.

  4. zunetips says:

    mados123: When I used the Pazera software, I don’t think it automatically used the correct fps (I could be wrong). Same for the screen resolution. I’ll have to do a test and see if that is the case.

    The VB Script that I wrote uses FFMPEG to identify the attributes of the source video (resolution and fps) and then uses those values to convert the video from FLV to AVI format. So in this case, I don’t use the Pazera program (although I’m certain Pazera also uses the FFMPEG routines). My script will use the exact fps that is reported by the FFMPEG software.

    Yes, I can make this script available to everyone. FYI, it’s a VB Script that is executed by running a simple DOS batch file, so it doesn’t have a graphical user interface. I want to clean it up and make sure it doesn’t have any obvious bugs before posting it. I’ll also do a write up that explains why I wrote it, and how to use it.

  5. mados123 says:

    Thanks for your efforts! You should be getting a retainer check from MS! Out of curiosity, why is our email needed if we do not receive notices of replies to the comments?

  6. zunetips says:

    mados123: I wish MS would pay me something! 🙂

    I’m not sure why the WordPress software requires an email address for posters. I guess it’s a way to check for spammers who use bots to post junk on blog sites.

  7. mados123 says:

    OK. So I was playing around with WME9 and came up with a way that requires only renaming the flv extensions to mpg and then converting the mpgs into wmv files. By doing it this way, one less conversion is necessary (ie – Pazera). ***I needed to install Windows Media Format 11 SDK first and then restart***. When I tried two pass encoding, the audio was really out of sync where versus when it was unchecked, the sync was fine and the video quality was still very good. This would be helpful if you had a batch of flvs and knew their dimensions and frame rates I guess.

    Regarding the issue with the widescreen videos being squished and if using Pazera, I would keep the dimensions on auto so they are maintained and then in Explorer view in Windows, add the column “dimensions” by right clicking on one of the columns and then hit “more”. Looking at the converted AVIs from Pazera, you will now be able to see which are widescreen ratio and which are not and can change the profile accordingly for batch conversion in WME9.

    Anyways hope this helps someone.

  8. mados123 says:

    ***Forgot to say that you can batch rename files and change their extensions with the software CKRename***

  9. zunetips says:

    mados123: Good job with that find! I’ll have to try your suggestions on my system.

  10. mados123 says:

    Bigger find! “Any Video Converter Free” allows for batch encoding of FLV, MKV (ie- from Vuze software which has HD content) and other files to WMV9 in one step! Also, it will list original video size so you can adjust the wmv settings accordingly for the widescreen content. Might want to add this to your video conversion section. Enjoy!

    http://www.download.com/Any-Video-Converter/3000-2194_4-10661456.html

  11. zunetips says:

    I downloaded and tested the application called “Any Video Converter Free” which has a clean user interface, however, I did find some shortcomings. First, the program uses Mencoder (relative to the FFMPEG encoder program) to do most of the conversion work. The interface doesn’t have provisions for defining a frame rate (fps), so I can only assume it is using the fps of the source video file.

    When I tried converting a few flv files that I downloaded from Hulu.com, I noticed that some of them had the out-of-sync problem with the audio. So, the audio was delayed from what was playing in the video frames. I’m guessing this was caused by the frame rate being too high for the 24 fps of the source video. Also, the “Any Video Converter Free” seemed to take a long time to convert video files, so I’m guessing it is using Mencoder to convert to AVI or MPEG format, then using another converter to convert to WMV9 format. So, it’s probably doing the same process as I am with Pazera and WME9, but seems to have a problem with audio syncing with certain flv files.

  12. Bob Davis says:

    For$39 Cucsoft’s Zune video converter suite is well worth it. One simple step to convert all video format’s as well as DVD’s to Zune WMV9 format. It also does multiple conversion’s. All that is needed is ffdshow codect package, that is a free download. Just a few click’s and that is all it takes to use this very effective program.

  13. zunetips says:

    I’ve read a lot of forum postings where people recommend the Cucusoft product. They do have a trial version, so you can certainly test it out before spending $39 US to buy it. If you convert a lot of DVDs to WMV format, it may be worth it.

  14. mados123 says:

    Thanks for the overview of your findings re: FLV w/ Any Video Converter. It was the only streamlined solution that worked good for me with MKV files but I also did notice the audio out of sync a little w/ FLVs – after a while testing these videos, you can’t tell if your mind is playing tricks on you or if it really is out of sync! I guess I will use that program for MKV and other files and for FLVs use Pazera as suggested.

    Thanks zunetips!!!!

  15. Bill says:

    Does this still work? I’m trying it right now, but I can’t seem to get anything to actually download. It just says 0% downlaoded and downloading at 0 b/s.

  16. zunetips says:

    Bill: Yes, it should still work. I downloaded a flv file using Orbit Downloader last week and it worked fine. Make sure you start up the Orbit Downloader app first, then bring up the web page with the flv file (or, click the refresh button).

  17. Steve says:

    To follow up on Bill’s comment from July 7, there appears to be an issue with Orbit downloading only from certain sites. For the most part, I have no trouble downloading stuff from Hulu, or Veoh, unless it is a video that is somehow attached to CBS.com. Like you with the Time Tunnel, Zunetips, I have found an old show that I love, and it is available for viewing on CBS.com. The Hulu site has it, but they are receiving it from CBS. When I try to use grab it ++ or grab it pro, either through Hulu, or CBS, it will not work. But other shows on Hulu, veoh, fancast, joost, etc. are no problem. Any ideas?
    Thanks.

  18. Joe says:

    will Oribt give you viruses

  19. John says:

    Can you try this on “Legends of the Fall” on Hulu? I don’t think it will work.

  20. zunetips says:

    I’ve used Orbit on and off, and I don’t believe it contains viruses (at least I don’t get any warning messages from my anti-virus software. Also, you download the software from Cnet’s site, so that usually is secure.

    I did try downloading “Legend of the Fall” and a few other videos from Hulu using Orbit, but the downloads seemed to fail. Not sure why… either something was funny with my Internet connection (maybe Comcast is preventing it) or Hulu made some changes that prevents the downloading of videos.

  21. zunetips says:

    Ok, I did a bit of research and I discovered that Orbit Downloader cannot be used to download video files from veoh.com or hulu.com. Both web sites made some changes to prevent Orbit Downloader (and other similar downloader apps) to work properly. The only program that claims to work is one called “Media Replay Catcher” (not freeware, but a commercial product).

  22. rockstar2577 says:

    And that program DOES work. And oddly enough, it’s the only program that can do it. If you use the trial version, it will only let you get 75% of the video. I will not spend 40 dollars to get the full version…

    The reason I say “oddly enough”, i find it strange that this is the only prog that can download Hulu’s new format. The company’s disclaimer hits you in the face when you go to their website, clearly stating that they are NOT affiliated with Hulu. I dunno, I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but could Hulu/CBS be in bed with this company? Or is that silly?

  23. Cory says:

    What do you mean exactly when you say that WIndows Media Encoder can’t handle FLV videos. I have used it to convert several FLV files to WMV. If you try to open a FLV file with the encoder it won’t show up on the list until you change the Files of type to all files, but it will convert them.

    You could also use Super, a very good converter software for a single conversion from FLV to WMV. It’s also good for just about any other video conversion you can think of.

    http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html

  24. zunetips says:

    Cory: In the past, I have not been able to convert an FLV file using Windows Media Encoder. I can certainly select the FLV file, but the converter fails immediately. I’ve only had good luck converting MPEG and AVI files using WME.

    I’ve tested Super before, but it can’t create WMV files in the WMV9 Video format (which is what I need for my Zune 80 to avoid transcoding during syncing). In fact, I’ve found that WME is the only application that can truly create WMV files in WMV9 format.

  25. Cory says:

    That’s odd. All the Youtube and Myspace videos I’ve tried converted fine in Windows Media Encoder for me. I have yet to download any videos from Hulu, so there may be a problem with them.

    As for Super, the most recent build has added support to encode and render WMV9 video format. It has also added two presets for the Zune video format, where you can make it in either WMV or MP4. I don’t personally like their settings, but they might make it easier for a new Zune owner to get started converting videos.

  26. nisha says:

    I haven’t been able to download videos only from youtube.com by orbit downloader since 3days. How can I fix this error?

  27. zunetips says:

    nisha: I don’t know, as I haven’t tried to download any videos from youtube.com using Orbit Downloader. Are you using Internet Explorer or Firefox as your web browser? You might try using both to see if one works better than the other. You might also try re-booting your PC.

    If none of those suggestions work, it might be that youtube has gotten smarter about how they stream their videos to the web browser and put in some scheme to prevent downloads (just like veho.com and hulu.com did).

  28. Nisha says:

    Thanks for your suggestion but it is still not working. Can you please find out if you tube is using some scheme to prevent downloads? thanks alot for your help

  29. Sam says:

    Has youtube.com prevented video downloads from orbit downloader?

  30. zunetips says:

    Sam: I don’t know… they might have, since most providers of streaming video are including protection schemes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s