I want to use my Mac as a sort of digital video recorder (DVR) by capturing movies from Hulu and other streaming services, then saving them for later viewing while on plane flights. Is that doable? If so, what’s the easiest solution?
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s quite doable and with one of my favorite applications, SnapZ Pro X, surprisingly easy to accomplish. The bad news? The version of SnapZ Pro X that lets you capture video smoothly costs $20 more than the base $69 price for the application. That’s $89 to capture videos. Ouch.
On the other hand, I have to say that I am a huge, huge fan of SnapZ Pro X (even if it has a bit of a goofy name), and it’s the utility I use to take just about every screen capture you see on Ask Dave Taylor. It’s a tremendous tool and surprisingly useful for even the least tech savvy users. Imagine being able to just capture a screenshot and email it to your geek cousin for help, or show designers the specific elements of a page you like, etc.
Anyway, that’s an aside. Yes, you can capture the video stream and save it as a .mov or .avi. If it’s on your screen, you can capture it. However, is it legal? That’s going to vary from streaming video site to site. Some of them appear to be more or less public domain, while others explicitly state that it’s verboten to capture video or audio streams from the site for separate consumption. And I can just about guarantee that any streaming site is going to have a hard time if you capture video then burn and sell a DVD or CDR or similar. Not good.
Specifically regarding Hulu, the Terms of Service say “Hulu is pleased to grant you a limited license to access and make personal, non-commercial use of the Hulu Services.” Sounds like we’re in the clear if you just want to capture it and watch it later. (if not, I’ll hear from their lawyers about this blog entry and we’ll both learn what’s what)
So let’s see how this works!
Before we get started, download and install Snapz Pro X. You can just use the demo version, though it’ll have a watermark (text overlay) on the resultant video. It’ll show you how the process works, nonetheless. You launch Snapz Pro X by pressing Cmd-Shift-3, all at the same time.
I’m just going to bring up a Web page with a movie or other show from the Hulu archive. I’ll pick… um…. hmmm…. the painfully idiotic The Nude Bomb, starring Get Smart’s Don Adams as “Agent 86”. On the screen, it looks like this:
Since there’s a “watch hi-res” option, I’ll click on that to get a higher quality video stream (you need a good connection to do that).
Now, press the Cmd-Shift-3 sequence and you’ll see:
The first three buttons refer to screen captures, but the fourth, “Movie”, is what you want. Click on it and you’ll see the “Movie Settings” options:
If those look good, your next step is to tweak and fit the resize window to exactly cover the Hulu movie window, which looks like this:
Once you’re ready and have it sized properly, press Return and you’ll see:
Give it a good name, click “Save” and it’s running. You don’t see much of anything happening, but trust that something’s happening because it is. Give the movie a few minutes to capture enough to be interesting, then press the Cmd-Shift-3 sequence again.
Now you get a completely different window:
Click on “Movie Info” to see a bit about your capture:
Ready? Click “Save” and it’ll start pulling all the audio and video data together:
Notice in the screenshot above the watermark that the program added because I hadn’t paid for the movie capture upgrade.
Nonetheless, after a few moments, I have a new .mov video file on my desktop, “the-nude-bomb-capture.mov” and if I double click on it, it starts right up in Quicktime Player and I can watch the movie offline.
There are other apps that can help too, if SnapZ Pro X looks too complex. Check out Mplayer, iShowU and, for a different spin on things, Media Converter.org too.
I will emphasize again the importance of not doing anything with your captured video stream hat is against the terms of service of Hulu or any other streaming video service (e.g, Netflix, Amazon, IMDb, YouTube). It would not only get you in hot water, but could mess things up for everyone who currently enjoys the wealth of video material now available online.