Downloading iPlayer video

There are two main ways of downloading DRM-free video.

iPlayer Downloader
The first one to be released was iPlayer Downloader by Paul Battley. This uses the fact that the video streams for the iPhone are DRM-free (which I find fairly comical – it’s as if the BBC are saying “we’re not allowed to deliver DRM-free video… but we want to appear cool, so we’ll ignore that rule for the iPhone”). Anyway, however silly it is, it means that the iPlayer Downloader just pretends to be an iPhone, and saves the video stream as an MP4 .mov file.

The disadvantage of this is that the video quality isn’t the highest (usually 484×272). It’s certainly good enough for playing on your portable video player/phone/etc. And I’ve found it tolerable on a 32″ TV. There are Windows, Mac and Linux versions, and several people have built graphical front-end for it – more details on Paul’s site.
For reasons described in the next paragraph, I won’t explain the installation or usage of iPlayer Downloader here.

I am eternally grateful for iPlayer Downloader, because it served me very well. So I feel a little disloyal to say that it has been well and truly superceded by get_iplayer by Phil Lewis.
As well as pretending-to-be-an-iPhone approach, get_iplayer can also save the Flash video stream that a PC would see. BBC have recently improved the resolution of these streams, so the results of using this method are of a much higher quality than the iPhone version. The high definition content is now streamed at 1280×720 resolution at 3.2Mb/s. To stream content at this bitrate from the BBC iPlayer site, you need a very good broadband connection, but get_iplayer will let you download it however fast your connection, so you may actually end up with higher quality video that using the iPlayer site directly.

Next: installing get_iplayer

…if you want full quality, DRM-free video… just record it with a DVB card in your computer when it’s broadcast. 90% of what I record is done in that way, and I just use get_iplayer. for things I forgot to record. I use EyeTV running on a Mac Mini sat under my TV with two USB DVB cards attached. It’s a very reliable setup.

Next: installing get_iplayer