Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the tool

while perhaps not its chief concern, deeply entwined within the roots of youtube and web video is a wonderfully idealistic and unabashed disregard for copyright in the name of reappropriation of meaning. What I mean is that ripping and remixing are very close to the heart and soul of our generation, and those concerned with web video should concern themselves with generating some user generated content themselves, given how absurdly easy it is to do so - which leads me to the web tool my 'readers' absolutely cannot live without - a youtube ripper.

I chose this tool without doing any research, relying on my faith in the internet that such a thing would exist when I finally googled it. Lo and behold, there were so many I still don't really know where to start. The difference between something like this and a nifty little widget is that this isn't one unique device created for a nifty little purpose (concrete examples fail me this close to graduation, lets say a visualizer- an especially unique and trippy visualizer) but is rather a concept, as elementary as cut and paste on the simplest word processor.

Before I get ahead of myself though, I should say that there are plenty of rippers that exist as these sort of self-inclusive widgets, mostly for PC. VDownloader and KeepV are examples of decent freeware desktop rippers for windows that can rip into several different formats, with the latter having the advent of a built-in format converter (something a reliable freeware version of can be suprisingly hard to come by). As is the fate of the software spectrum for Mac users, there is all of one reliable desktop application for OS that I have found - GetTube. Whatever. At any rate, I am going to ignore these partisan desktop apps in pursuit of a reliable, unbiased web app - not only because the assignment was to find a web tool, but because it reveals (for me anyway) the beautiful simplicities of digital information that underly all the crazy confusing tangled code that I'll never understand and the possibilities it provides for piracy and mischief.

These various web apps were the easiest to find, yet the hardest to sift through in terms of tangible differences between each one. The one aspect of their simplicity which struck me is that to use all of these rippers, you simply paste the url into a box on the website which then downloads the video to your desktop. videodownloadx.com is probably the simplest to use of them all, but along with KeepVid, the downloaded files have strange extension names that must be changed manually to flv (the extension for flash videos). To sidestep this and the whole flv thing if you want (most editing software doesn't support flv yet), I reccomend Zamzar, an online ripper/converter in one that supports many different video sharing sites and file extensions.

Anyway, now that we've picked one, I can continue making my point. Using something that is essentially metadata (the url) to rip an entire video fascinates me. It is merely a signpost that points to the spot where code is stored and can be copied quite easily. It had never really occurred to me until recently that when I watch a video on the internet, my computer is processing code that it has the capacity to remember, simple as that. This just flips the switch. more on this concept in the next post - lip service time. Zamzar is based out of the UK, and while you can pay for more options and larger file sizes, the best stuff is still free. Their name is inspired by a Kafka character, and on their about page they have a simple mission statement:
"To provide high quality file conversion for as many file formats as possible." Perfect.

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