For those who remember using audio cassette tapes, VHS and Betamax video recorders and similar wizardry, recording content from various sources to keep for a while was the sole purpose of the technology.
Whether those recordings were songs from the radio, ‘backup’ copies of friends’ legitimately purchased movies (or, more likely, tapes hired for the night from a rental store), recording media onto tapes was a way of life for millions spanning decades. Then digital happened and everything changed.
Media Collections Aren’t What They Used To Be – At Least Legally
These days, people are more likely to stream music and movies from Spotify and Netflix but what neither of these platforms offers is a way to become a collector. Many people still like to have permanent copies of content on their own devices, rather than having to continually connect to the Internet or maintain a subscription. This presents problems.
Essentially, those looking to maintain a collection today either need to spend small fortunes on physical media, rely on downloads from streaming platforms, or head off down the piracy route. At least in terms of music and TV shows (legalities aside), the latter is by far the easiest option but what if there was a way to download content from legal streaming services to keep forever, just as people did with tapes decades ago?
Downloading from Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon
Over the past few years, several apps have appeared on the market claiming to allow users to do just that. Flixgrab, for example, claims to allow users to download from Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and more, with the software itself freely downloadable either directly from the maker’s site or from the Microsoft Store.
“FlixGrab is a new powerful application for downloading videos from the most popular online video websites. You can download and watch videos from anywhere: Netflix, Amazon Prime, HULU, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and many others with only one FlixGrab app. This freeware absolutely contains no adware, no spyware, no registration or other unwanted software,” the marketing reads.
While all of that sounds attractive enough, there are also caveats that are so significant that they are likely to put people off acquiring a collection using these kinds of tools.
These Apps Do Not Download – They Record
When using a tool such as youtube-dl, for example, the user downloads a digital file that’s an exact replica of the one they were listening to on YouTube. However, with apps such as the one mentioned above, that’s simply not the case. While they are billed as ‘downloaders’, they are essentially a type of screen recorder that take the original source material from the service in question, convert it on the user’s machine, and spit out a transcoded video file.
While this may sound attractive to some, there are serious quality issues. While subscribers to Netflix or Disney+ consume content in 4K or even the relatively lower 1080p, when files are ‘recorded’ through these apps the end result is a million miles away.
The files that are produced may claim to be 1080p (‘pseudo’ 4K isn’t available – yet), their filesizes give away the quality on offer and a few hundred megabytes for a 1080p movie just doesn’t cut it. Essentially, if people think they are going to get a quality copy for keeps, they’re going to be disappointed.
Plenty of Positive Reviews Online But Caution is Advised
Those looking to research these kinds of apps online will quickly discover lots and lots of positive reviews claiming they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, people should be aware that it’s possible to get free keys to access premium versions of these tools in exchange for writing nice things about them.
So, if you’re watching a great review on YouTube, reading a five-star Trust Pilot recommendation, or even posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that read like an advert, those reviews stand a good chance of being connected to a free key. Some may be genuine of course, but proceeding with caution shouldn’t be dismissed.
Ultimately, tools that actually download high-quality video from services such as Netflix and Disney+ aren’t available to the masses and even when ‘professional’ pirates ‘screen record’ to produce so-called ‘web-rips’, they certainly don’t use these commercially available tools – the results would be way too disappointing for the discerning pirate.