Ripping Video and Resizing It, From A to B

By Staff Published on .

When it comes to manipulating Web video, the simplest tasks are the most insurmountable … at first.

For instance: What if you want to embed a piece of video from YouTube on your Web site, but the dimensions of your player are so small the YouTube clip gets cropped badly when you paste it into your site? The problem stymied me for the first few weeks I edited

See, YouTube embed codes are sized to 425x355 pixels. For WebVideoReport, we size videos to 270x255. Pulling the YouTube videos into WebVideoReport tended to put them off center, making the YouTube watermark illegible and putting the video’s center of focus out of whack.

Example: YouTube Video Embedded at 425x355 Pixels

Here's a YouTube video embedded at the standard 425x355 pixel dimension.

Example: YouTube Video Embedded at 270x255 Pixels

Here's a YouTube video embedded at the modified size of 270x255 pixel dimension.

Example: YouTube Video Ripped and Resized on Brightcove

Here's a video that's been resized to the 270x255 pixel dimension.

The solution turned out to be relatively simple. For Web video jocks, it’s trifling. For novices, near impossible. Had it not been for a colleague in the office showing me the way, I would have been stuck with badly cropped videos junking up the site.

This how-to article represents just one way of solving the problem. The advantage? It’s free. If you do a Google search on “resizing YouTube videos,” you’ll get plenty of other ideas.

There is commercial software out there that offers another method of accomplishing what appears to be the same result. Specifically, ZillaTube worked when I tested it out, and it seems to provide additional ways of manipulating video to suit your needs. Drop me a line or comment below if you’d like to add other solutions to this article.

But putting together WebVideoReport each day sometimes puts one value, expediency, at a premium. So I tapped the Web savvy of Chad Rooney, the design guru at WebVideoReport's sister publication, TelevisionWeek. Chad pointed out that Mozilla’s Firefox offers a free utility that lets users rip video off sites that stream clips. So I tried that today and it worked on the first go-round.

Don’t use anyone’s video without permission. The best way to encourage the artistic and commercial boom in Web video is to bolster the business. That means paying for content, or exposing yourself to whatever commercial pitch comes along with the content. Sorry, I’m just square that way. Or that's how you roll at 40.

I can only attest to this method working on the setup I’m using. I’m sure it would work on others, but I haven’t tested them out. WebVideoReport is a Brightcove client, which means we use their service to format, upload, display and syndicate our video. There are lots of Brightcove competitors out there that provide similar services. The system I’m laying out here worked on both a Mac and a PC, which kind of goes without saying, but remedial users like myself don’t mind the reassurance.

Step 1: Find the Software
Open up Mozilla’s Firefox browser and go to Google. Type in “video downloader.” Choose the following URL (or cut out the middle man and just go to this site):

Step 2: Download the software
Click the download button and the process will begin. You’ll have to restart Firefox, and you’ll know you’ve been successful when you inspect your navigation bar at the top of the application and you see a little icon representing three circles stacked around each other.

Step 3: Use the Utility
It’s unnervingly simple. Whenever you are on a page that has video that Firefox can download, the little circles icon will light up in color and rotate. So for instance, on YouTube, if you click into a video that the utility can access and copy, the icon will signal you. Just click on it, and the files available for duplication will appear in a drop-down menu. Click on one that ends in “.flv”. This indicates a Flash file exists that is subject to manipulation. You’ll be prompted to save the file to your computer. Putting it on your desktop is fine.

Step 4: Loading the Video
Now you want to load that video into your video service provider’s system. Follow whatever steps are indicated for importing clips. On Brightcove, we use the Publish Pod function.

Step 5: Resizing the Video
Resize the video using whatever function your video service provider uses. As noted above, in the case of WebVideoReport, we squeeze our video clips into the relatively small area of 270x255 pixels.

Step 6: Posting the Video
Post the clip to your site and you’re done. At WebVideoReport, we need lots of workarounds to secure video from our partners and get it up on the site. This one turned out to work like a charm.

-Greg Baumann is editor of WebVideoReport and TelevisionWeek.

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