How to download and convert iPlayer files

Welcome to this tutorial on how to download videos and programmes from BBC iPlayer and convert them into DRM free files which don't expire and which you can watch on other devices, such as iPod, iPhone, PSP, PS3, Xbox 360, mobile phones, or save as a DVD.

Video size:
You need Flash player 9+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.
(Tip: After pressing play, click the 360p button and choose 720p to see a clearer hi-res version)



Step 1: Downloading the file

  1. The first step is to make sure you have the iPlayer Download Manager installed. If you have it installed you should have a shortcut on your desktop, and an icon in your system tray.
  2. If you don't have it installed, you can get it from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/install
  3. Once you have it installed, go to the iPlayer website and choose the programme you want to download. We are going to use 'Pingu' for this example, as it is a small file.
  4. Once you have chosen a programme to download, hover your mouse over the download link.
  5. It will give you two options, choose 'To computer' as it will give you a better quality file to convert
  6. Click the link and the programme will begin downloading in the Download Manager. Once the programme has finished downloading, it is ready to watch.
  7. To make things easier, we'll change the iPlayer settings to allow us to watch it in Media Player.
    1. Click the 'Settings' link at the top of the Download Manager.
    2. Scroll down to the 'Viewing' section, and choose the option for 'my default media player'.
    3. Click the OK button to close the Settings window.
  8. Now you can click the 'Watch now' link to preview your downloaded program.
  9. Check that you can watch it okay, then you're ready to start conversion.

Step 2: Converting the file

  1. The application we will use to convert the files is called Media Converter Pro.
  2. You can download a free trial version from: http://convertiplayer.com/try or buy it directly from http://convertiplayer.com/buy.
    Important note: Make sure you restart after installing Media Converter Pro, to prevent issues with the audio in converted files.
  3. Once you've opened Media Convertor Pro, you'll be prompted to add files. To do that, we first need to know where iPlayer downloaded it to.
  4. To find that out, we go back to the Download Manager, and click on the 'Settings' link again.
  5. Uncheck the box that says: 'Allow Download Manager to manage where programmes are stored'.
  6. You can then see where iPlayer has downloaded the files.
  7. You can see the files by opening up an Explorer window and navigating to path shown in the Download Manager.
  8. You'll see a lot of '.wmv' files in the directory. Ignore all the smaller files beginning with 'BBC', those are the logos which show at the start of each programme.
    Hint: To see the size of the files, change the folder view to 'Details'.
  9. The file you downloaded should start off with two sets of numbers, and be the largest file in the folder.
  10. Double click it to open it in Media Player and check that it is the correct file.
  11. Close Media Player, then you can add the file to Media Converter Pro. It's as easy as dragging and dropping the file from Explorer into Media Convertor Pro.
  12. Once you've added it, Media Converter Pro should give the correct duration for the file.
  13. You can then click the Play button in Media Converter Pro to check that it can understand the file. If the file previews okay, you are ready to convert it.
  14. Next you need to choose the type of file you want to convert into
  15. If you click the drop down arrow under the 'Convert video to:' section, you'll be shown a list of Presets. Media Converter Pro contains a huge amount of presets for common formats and devices such as:
    • Quicktime MOV format, MP4 format
    • Windows Media WMV
    • Xvid AVI
    • iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Video, iPod Nano
    • Apple TV
    • PSP, PS3, Xbox 360
    • Mobile Phones, Windows Mobile
    • Creative Zen, iRiver, Archos, Zune
    • Youtube
    • DVD
  16. We are going to use the Xvid AVI format for this example, so select that from the 'Common Video' presets.

Step 3: Choosing export settings

  1. Click the 'Settings...' button to bring up the Settings dialog
  2. The three settings we are interested in are: Resolution, Frame Rate, and Bit Rate. We can find out which settings to use for these from our original video.
  3. Switch back to the Download Manager and click Watch Now to play the file, then pause it.
  4. To view the menu bar if you can't see it, click the down arrow at the top right of the window, and choose Show Menu Bar.
  5. Then view the properties for the file by choose 'File > Properties'.
  6. Under Video Size we can see the two values to use for Resolution: 672*544.
  7. Switch back to Media Converter Pro and add those into the Resolution box, separated by an asterisk ( * ).
  8. Switch back to Media Player and check the value of the Bit rate, in this case 612 Kbps.
  9. Choose a value close to this in Media Converter Pro from the Bit Rate drop down. We've chosen 640 kbps.
  10. Back in Media Player, close the Properties window, and choose 'View > Statistics'.
  11. On the 'Advanced' tab you can see the Frame rate: 25 fps.
  12. Close Media Player, and back in Media Converter Pro choose 25 fps from the Frame Rate drop down.
  13. To save having to do this each time in the future, you can save these settings as your own preset.
  14. To do this, click the 'Save as...' button, then type in a name for you new preset. Your new preset will be saved under the 'User Defined' menu option.
  15. All that's left to do now is start the conversion!
  16. Click the 'Start' button in the bottom right of the Media Converter Pro window. The file will start to be converted.
  17. Conversion time will vary based on the speed of your computer and the length of the programme.
  18. Once the conversion is completed, you can view the result. Click the 'Browse...' button under 'Output Path:' to open the output folder in Explorer.
  19. You can rename the converted file to something more descriptive, then play the file to check the conversion was successful.

Question: Why do we need to convert the files?

As you just saw, you could open the file you just downloaded in Media Player and it plays just fine. So, why would you need to bother converting it?

If you view the properties of the file in Media Player and look at the 'Licence' tab, you'll see that there is a time limit on how long you can play the file for (just 6 days).

Furthermore, if you try to play the file in another application, it will look like a garbled mess. This is because the file is protected with DRM (Digital Rights Management).

So, we need to convert the file with an application which will remove this DRM. Media Converter Pro is the easiest program to do this.