How to: Download and convert Flash video on the Mac

February 10, 2009

From basic to full featured, here are three applications designed to get .flv formatted videos off the Web and onto your Mac. Also, if you are just looking to extract audio, we have got that angle covered, too.

VideoBox 2.7.4 ($15, 6.6MB) from TastyApps is the tool I use to download and convert flash video from the Web. You use it on an ad hoc basis or configure it so that every time Safari detects .flv, VideoBox will launch itself and queue up videos automatically in an editable list.

VideoBox includes an integrated browser, so you can search for and view videos YouTube or any other Web site with embedded .flv files with the application. This is a handy feature for locating, downloading and converting multiple files in one go from a single interface (ie segmented feature length films, documentaries and TV shows).

Further, this application offers a wide range of conversion options, including seven formats, as well as user definable conversion and two-pass (ie high quality) conversion. Also, you can use VideoBox to convert videos from one file type to another, a convenient feature for folks downloading TV shows and movies via the torrents.

Flash Fetch 0.3.4b (free, 3.46MB) is an incredibly basic .flv downloader that only does that””downloads. It doesn’t automatically detect video””you have to copy and past the URL into the queue. The good news is that Flash Fetch is free.

Equally free and actually somewhat easier to use is the TechCrunch Video Download Tool (free, Web-based).

For viewing Flash video files, VLC Player is perhaps your best choice as it can also be used for viewing streamed .flv content.

Only the audio, please

iExtractMP3, (free, 870K) is a utility that converts .flv movie audio into an .mp3 file. You will need to download the flash video file to your Mac, which is somewhat irritating, but this app otherwise performs the stated functionality well.

In terms of functionality, TubeTV 1.0 (free, 1.1MB) which requires Perian, a QuickTime component, falls somewhere between VideoBox and FlashFletch in that there is a user interface to interact with and .flv can be converted to other formats, though downloading is still somewhat a manual affair. Also, conversion preferences are limited to three rather low (iPod, iPhone) quality presets.

Like Videobox, TubeTV includes an integrated search, browsing and viewing functionality, making this application a 90 percent solution that will be good enough for most users.

Still, on the rare occasion that VideoBox doesn’t recognized or load an .flv from a Web site””ie content that might not be appropriate for the kiddies””TubeTV can be relied upon to pull in, pull down and convert videos that might be blocked or otherwise unavailable.

Is this something that happens frequently? No, but this makes TubeTV a handy tool to keep around and, besides, it is free, so the opportunity cost is essentially zero.


Different applications for different jobs, eh? True, but for the majority of you out there, VideoBox is going to be the best solution. Although it isn’t free ($15), TastyApps search, browsing, viewing, download and conversion application does a lot. Obviously, I think it is worth that because I have already purchased it.

As I mentioned above, TubeTV is free and offers 90 percent of the functionality.

Got a favorite Flash video tool, application or utility? Share your thoughts below…

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