A fairly simple guide to playing YouTube movie content on your Atari Falcon 030.
Well here’s another potential revolution in human affairs coming up from behind, threatening to hit you smartly on the back of the head, laugh at your prostrate unconscious form and steal your shoes. Yes, you will rue the day that you wore those smart brown loafers in these cold mean streets!
“YouTube on the Falcon“, that’s a big statement making some bold claims in the teeth of doubt right there pal. So how’s it done then? You skeptically ask.
First the gentle letting down process starts. This paragraph will tell you how it is not done. There are no clever networking gizmo’s to connect in a high speed fashion to the intertubes without fuss or faff, no stunning new browser concepts allowing Flash video playback in its latest versions, and definitely no superhuman coding feats to bring a super-optimised Flash player to the Falcon in the first place.
So we’re talking about movie conversion again, are we not?
Well yes, but here’s where the building up hope again part of the article starts off. It is a fairly simple process involving a tool-chain with just three components. I’m sure you’ve already worked this one out for yourselves, but just in case you haven’t, it’s nice to share.
This handy screenshot of a typical open YouTube page shows our starting point. The subject matter is short and personally appealing. I think you’ll like it as well, featuring a better than average mid-eighties commercial for my favourite lost home computer before the Falcon 030 came along.
The direct link is here.
Step 1. Getting the Youtube content down from its gilded cage..
As we all know, Youtube does not feature any direct download access by itself. Fortunately there are a number of methods to get around this. There are download websites such as www.kissyoutube.com or www.downloadhelper.net where you can copy and paste the Youtube URL to download the video stream as an .FLV file.
Alternatively, you can use something like the ‘UnPlug’ Firefox extension. For Mac fans, there is a backdoor method in Safari. When the YouTube browser window is opened, find and double click on the video replay file in the activity window. This file is typically several megabytes and still growing. This then opens a new blank browser window and the download manager appears and shows a file called something like ‘videoreplay’ downloading to the desktop. Once there, it just remains for you to rename it with a filename of your choice with an .flv extension.
For Mac fans, you will still have to transfer the collected Flash video files to a Windows system for steps 2. and 3. unfortunately. Unless you have one of those dual booting Macs that gives house-room to a Windows option of course.
Step 2. Preparing for Step 3.
Right now, we have an .FLV file. This can play back nicely on current versions of the Videolan VLC player, and if that is all you want to do, then you can stop reading right here. For the rest of you who wish to see this content playing back decently on an Atari TOS system, read on.
The problem with .FLV files is that they are definitely not supported by Aniplayer for one thing. Another issue is that the other software at the end of the tool-chain, VirtualDub, is not .FLV friendly by itself. There are plugin’s available to help VirtualDub load these in, but this involves a whole world of extra libraries and poking around in old support sites and obscure parts of Microsoft itself. Yes I tried that, and gave up! This is not recommended for the headache factor alone. Also VirtualDub is quite an old program itself and I’m not sure how well installing ancient libraries would sit with a more modern Windows machine?
So clearly we need an intermediate step, the The crucial ‘bit in the middle’. As it happens I found an application that does the job nicely. In this case I’m using the Pazera FLV to AVI converter. It is a free download and it works.
The current version of the FLV to AVI/MPEG converter is 1.2. It is a Windows pc application. It offers to convert to .avi or .mpg from .flv. Both of these file types are read in by VirtualDub. I seemed to get on better with converting to MPEG. The user interface is intuitive and easy to follow and all of the options are visible and usable upfront. You can play around with the various video and audio settings, a degree of customization from here is possible, but most of the time you should leave them on their default auto settings. I’d personally wait until you’ve got to VirtualDub before making any big changes to your movie.
You may want to customize the video resolution if you encounter an odd screen format, say a very widescreen movie trailer or similar. The audio settings should be left as they are. You will need to change them back afterwards as Pazera tends to ‘remember’ the amended settings, even after quitting.
(Update:- Generally I find it best to set up and stick with the horizontal resolution best suited to your Falcy’s abilities. From there, the vertical resolution, regardless of how widescreen it is, should tuck in nicely under the horizontal rez that you asked for in the first place.
So to use a specific example from when I’ve been playing, a 640 x 480 VGA-sized movie slims down to something like 240 x 180 pixels, but I’ve encountered at least one movie trailer which went down to 240 x 80 to keep the aspect ratio looking decent. Other examples have been less extreme, say 240 x 120 pixels or similar.
As well as avoiding fugliness, it also means you should be pushing a bit less video data through Aniplayer when playing back the end result, which is helpful with a slower machine.)
The end result should be an .avi or .mpg file which is ready for the third and final stage. The site URL for the Pazera converters is here: www.pazera-software.com
Step 3. Final conversion to an Aniplayer friendly format.
This third and final step is simple, for me to write down at least. Go to Beetle’s tuition article from the last issue of Low Res Mag and proceed from there to get to an Aniplayer friendly .avi movie file. If you are taking a close interest in this article, you probably already have VirtualDub set up and are comfortable with how to use this application. If you need a reminder, here’s the link for you.
And just to show that there was a satisfactory end result, here’s a screengrab of the converted movie playing in Aniplayer.
So now you can add YouTube content to your soon to be vast libraries of Atari-friendly media material. Happy days!
CiH for Low Res Mag, Dec 2010.