Ripping BBC iPlayer streamed video

Watching the Glastonbury Festival coverage on the BBC over the last few days reminded me that last year, I managed to find a nifty little tool to rip all the ‘watch again’ video they put up online for seven days after the festival finishes. I ended up with everything screened on the beeb over the three days – that was when things were easy, and the video was streamed in Real Media! I like to keep an archive of an event like this, purely for my own personal amusement so I can watch it again in the future.

I found a great little stream recorder from a company called Applian Technologies, which is perfect for ripping iPlayer (radio) shows you may want to download and keep. Works a treat with the BBC Radio ‘Listen Again’ iPlayer streams – I use it for ripping the Pete Tong show each week, and the Essential Mix!

Progress waits for no man though, and the BBC have switched their video streaming this year to a rather more, ahem, borrow proof flv format, housed in the iPlayer, (which in itself is a very high picture-quality offering). You can download (at least in the UK) most shows, but they are rights crippled and will die after 30 days.

After a quick try, the WM Recorder I used for ripping audio and video no longer works. In fact, nothing else I could think of worked. After a bit of searching, I found the WM Capture software, again by Applian. This works as a screen recorder, so you set it up to record the area of the screen occupied by the video. After a bit of playing about with audio settings, I was able to record anything I watched through the iPlayer interface. In fact, it works like a charm, even circumventing the DRM issues outlined earlier!

The only downside is that as a screen recorder, you have to keep your mouse out of the area you’re recording, and obviously you can’t use the PC for anything else while you’re recording. It’s a little more clunky than previous stream ripping methods I’ve used, but currently, the only way I have found of preserving the iPlayer streamed content for longer than the BBC intended! In fact, WM Capture can be used to record literally any streamed content in the same way – there is nothing that can escape its clutches!

As an aside, you’ll need a BIG hard disk – file sizes are colossal for iPlayer video/audio due to its high quality, but there are various config settings you can alter to improve file size.

Have a look at the software – you can also download a trial copy for free to see if it does what you need it to first, which is helpful. Recording time is limited on the trial, but as soon as you register this is removed. All in all very easy to use, I was recording iPlayer within 5 minutes of downloading and installing the trial! If you want to rip online content, I can happily recommend WM Capture!

Update: I got the whole WM Recorder and WM Capture bundle, and there is literally nothing online now that i can’t grab or record, one way or other. Music, video files, streaming TV – it’s all easy too grab. Check the bundle out here: WM Capture/Recorder Bundle.

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  1. Hi – I’ve tried using the WM Capture software – and I agree the quality of video & ease of use make it a tidy little app. However I’m having some real issues with sound – its really jerky and fragmented – any advice on how to resolve this? (Its the same no matter what I’m trying to capture – iplayer or 40d, etc…)


  2. I found the sound to record a little crackly the first couple of times I used the software, but after just playing about with the sound settings it seemed to improve and has been fine since. If you can’t seem to get anywhere, I would try the Applian forums, someone there may know the answer.

  3. Gah, found your post after searching about how to use my trusty WM Recorder with the new iPlayer on Listen Again. Looks like capturing live radio still works but not archived stuff. I haven’t tried the WM Capture yet but at least BBC7 is still in Realplayer format…

  4. Yes , you can still capture the Radio 7 RealAudio streams without a problem, but it has taken me ages to ‘solve’ the Radio 4 problem (wanting to record the last I’m Sorry i haven’t A Clue episode).

    What you can do is get iPlayer to use a RealAudio stream by going to the relevant listen again page in iPlayer and then clicking on the ‘ Dial-up modem version: OFF ‘ near the bottom middle of the screen. This turns the Dial-up modem version on which streams the program to you in RealAudio mode!


  5. I use software called streamboxVCR to grab offerings from radio 4, for download to my mp3.

    I copy to the same folder as my podcast reader and build a playlist on my samsung yp3 via real player

    Its great for the daily commute, lunchtime / evening strolls etc.

    I try to keep up on a weekly basis but if I fall behisn its nice to have the copy.

  6. I had a quick look at streambox when looking for a solution, but it looked as if it will only cope with realmedia streams – problem is now the BBC (video) iPlayer is an flv based player. Should still work on radio streams though…thanks for the tip – I’ll have a closer look!

  7. Mfish thanks for the tip. Perfect for me. I use Hidownload to get the rm files and play them on my iPaq. So finding that the rm files are still visibly linked is a relief.

    Thanks again

  8. For iplayer video, investigate Freeme2 on the doom9 forums… Screen capture loses quality but this can do lossless drm removal from any wmv or wma.

    If you post on that forum can I suggest you pretend your motives are pure… You only want to remove the drm to play it on your creative zen and you fully intend to respect copyright etc…

  9. for radio just download the .ram files from iplayer page source, even when the flash player is in use this .ram should appear within the page source, open in a text editor and then ask mplayer to -streamdump the rtsp url contained within (use -bandwidth 9999999 to download faster). You can then either play those realmedia files with realplayer or mplayer or ask mplayer to dump its contents to a wav called audiodump.wav by invoking mplayer -ao pcm stream.dump

  10. If you use linux, the utility ‘get_iplayer’ works well. An simple example of use is:

    get_iplayer –get ‘blue peter’

    To get all available episodes of Blue Peter. I’m sure there’s a front end to this if you need one. Take a look at the website.

  11. I’ve been using TotalRecorder for capturing BBC Radio for 3 years, and I’ve found it simple and successful.

    I’ve just noticed they now offer a Video Add-on.

    Has anyone tried it?

  12. I don’t like the reduced quality/bitrate of the iplayer/listen again.

    I record the digital broadcasts bit for bit. e.g. for radio on any standard (i.e. not Sky) digital satellite recorder. I have 10s of gigabytes of radio recordings on my ipod.

    For the glastonbury festival I recorded all bbci video streams simultaneously using a program called “tsreader” (I think) and a digital satellite card in a PC. Then use VideoRedo (video editor that can handle multiple stream files) to make 3 3DVDs of individual artists sets …

  13. As a few previous commenters said, the key to doing this with the current iPlayer setup is to get at the RealAudio stream. For me, I found this easily enough in the page’s HTML source.

    Both StreamboxVCR and MPlayer can then download this. StreamboxVCR will authomatically extract the rtsp URL from the RAM file, whereas with MPlayer you have to do it manually (just open it up with a text editor).

    However, the big advantage of MPlayer (for me) is that it can then convert the stream into PCM format, which can then easily be encoded to MP3 or whatever you choose.

    I’m sticking with the MPlayer approach for now, as its command-line nature will allow me to script the entire process fairly easily.

    Thanks to commenter ‘MPlaying’ for pointing me in the right direction on this.

  14. I just tried to download some radio today using streambox, and they have changed the iplayer. You can no longer find the .ram file, and even the old trick of swithching off your internet connection and copying and pasting the rstp from the error message doesn’t work…
    I can’t see a solution, but I’m by no means an expert. Can anyone else help?

  15. yes, use FLVRECORDER to download FLV file, FLV extract to extract AAC file from FLV
    then u can convert it to m4a to play on itunes/ipod/iphone using dbpoweramp

    • The only downside is that this is radio only :/ If it was able to do video as well it would be perfect. For now I’ll stick to WM Recorder for iplayer video.

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