Let’s say you still buy a lot of Blu-ray discs because you don’t trust buying streaming video on Amazon or Google because you don’t really own it. If you were not aware of this, you are now! You do not own videos you buy from a streaming provider and they could disappear because of a licensing disagreement. I like TV shows from the UK, Australia, Norway, and even Iceland. Some of them are impossible to find on disc and others are only available in other countries. This doesn’t apply to obscure foreign content – just try and purchase the FX comedy What We Do in the Shadows on disc (the series not the movie). You can buy it on streaming, but not on disc.
So, how do you record something from streaming? There are actually a number of programs to do this, but I’ve only tested a couple – PlayOn and Audials. These types of programs use screen capture to record the audio and video as it plays on your screen. Audials has the ability to record at up to 2X normal playback, but I got worried when using this because I noticed the frame rate dropped a lot and I was afraid the playback would not be smooth or natural. I did not test the results (at this point) and cancelled the recording. I chose normal playback, left the room, and let Audials do its thing. Were the results perfect? No. One of six episodes showed an error and I had to record it again. Audials made suggestions on how to possibly resolve the problem, but I think there was just some anomaly and the suggestions didn’t really apply to my computer.
I must say PlayOn was simpler to use and a little more polished than Audials, but it had a fatal flaw for me – it could only recorded up to 720p resolution. I can see the difference between 720p and 1080p and it bothers me. I will accept 720p if there is nothing better available, but most everything streams in 1080p so I want it! I discovered the resolution limit about one hour after purchasing PlayOn so I asked for a refund. We will see what they do. If PlayOn supported 1080p, I would not have purchased Audials and not requested a refund.
As I previously mentioned, Audials does record up to 1080p. The problem is that it has not been smooth operating for me. The batch record option says it will record the various videos you select one after another. The problem is this does not work on Netflix, as far as I can see. I have not yet tested this on anything else. The program needs you to manually press play or it will error out. This is irritating because you will need to set alarms to return and press play after each video completes recording. You can record an entire TV series as long as you have the videos on auto play. This still did not work perfectly and videos ended up requiring editing afterward. This was because Audials did not properly detect the end of one episode and the beginning of another. Most of the videos I tested had a few seconds of the ending of the previous episode at the beginning of the video. I used the free and capable Avidemux to quickly edit and save the episodes without the need to transcode.
As you can see, this is not an in-depth product review. It is just a quick review of my experience using a couple different programs to do screen capture. I also do not get into whether or not this product may be legal to use in your country. I know it is legal to record television, but I don’t know how it applies to streaming content and at the very least it could violate their terms of service. I would also you to not share anything you record and only use it for personal viewing at home. PlayOn makes this very clear by embedding your email address and other identifying information at the beginning of the video (and possibly elsewhere). I’m sure there are lawyers that would love to catch you sharing recordings so be mindful of how you use recordings!
I will update this post after I experiment further with these programs.
I heard back from PlayOn support and they refunded my money. I must give them positive feedback for the quick and positive support. When and if they get 1080p, I will be taking another serious look at PlayOn.
I have continued experimenting with Audials and discovered I cannot get 5.1 audio. I found a posting about it from five months ago and it said, “This feature will be available in the near future.” This is very disappointing since audio is very important to me.
Some of my other Audials observations is that even with a 12 core, 24 thread AMD CPU, trying to encode video at the highest quality using H.265 was problematic. I had some missed frame errors and total episode failures. I went back to H.264 using the GPU and it is much more stable.
I found Amazon difficult to record. If video playback was not maximized to full screen the video was streamed at 720p. Audials also detected playback of a television series in chunks so one episode is in several chunks that needs to be put together. This only happened when playing in full screen. If I played it maximized in the browser the episode was detected properly in one chunk, but in 720p. I fired up Avidemux, but did one into some problems where the video sizes didn’t match and I had to leave out small sections of maybe less than a minute. The beginnings of these chunks of video also start out a little pixelated, but then clear up after a few seconds. So all in all, Amazon did not work out so well.