Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Viewing video from the BBC News website and other websites that use Real Player

I have to confess, I only discovered this yesterday. For nearly a year, I was searching for a way to watch videos from the BBC News website in Linux, and I'd given up, then I hear about this and I managed to get it working! So I thought I'd pass it on...

The BBC News website was set up before Adobe's Flash Video became the de facto web standard for video play it is today. As a result, the videos are available in two formats: Windows Media Player and Real Player. Now, Windows Media Player isn't available for Linux, but Real Player is, so we have to use that. However, it doesn't seem to include a proper plugin for Firefox so it won't display in the browser, and when you try opening it in the standalone player, it plays without sound, which is extremely annoying!

But, with a little bit of work, you can get it working. First of all, you need to install Real Player 10. If you've added Medibuntu as shown in my previous post, it can be installed from there. I actually installed it using Linspire's CNR service (I promise I'll show you how to set that up sometime soon!), but it doesn't matter where you get it form. To install it from Medibuntu, open a terminal and enter the following:
sudo apt-get install realplay

As usual, apt-get will download and install Real Player 10.

Now, you need to add the Firefox extension MediaPlayerConnectivity (unfortunately you need to be using Firefox to be able to get this working, although it's possible Flock might work as some extensions work with it). Grab this from the link and wait for Firefox to install it, then restart. You'll go through a very quick wizard - just make sure it detects Real Player and sets it as the default application for RealMedia, Windows Media, QuickTime etc.
Once that's done, head to the BBC News website (or whatever other website you wish to view the video content on). Once you find a video you want to watch, DON'T left-click on it as usual. Right-click, and select either Open in New Window or Open in New Tab. The reason is that you need this to open in a full window to work properly.

It should now look something like this:

Look for the "+" sign in the top-right hand corner of the player's frame and click on it to open the MediaPlayerConnectivity toolbar (or go to View>Sidebar>MediaPlayerConnectivity in Firefox). This sidebar will give details of all media links on the page. Just click on the one you want, and it should now open in Real Player, with sound and everything! You may need to refresh the page to find it, but I have found it generally works pretty well.

I know, it's a bit fiddly, but it's good to finally be able to watch news articles on my favourite OS!


MattBD said...

As an interesting aside, you can't use the Windows Media Player format to watch this in Ubuntu. However, you CAN watch it in Windows Media Player on an Asus Eee PC - I tried it today and it worked. I guess this is because the default OS on that is based on Xandros, one of the distros that have signed on with Microsoft's patent agreements, and so they have access to codecs and plugins that 'free' distros like Ubuntu do not.

MattBD said...

A correction: I've recently discovered that VLC will play Windows Meda Player format! Just use Media Player Connectivity again and set VLC as the player for Windows Media Player. Make sure you set Windows Media Player is the preferred player to view it in under Preferences when you open the window from the BBC News website.

JonRob said...

Or you can use mplayerplug-in. It will play perfectly, with no fiddling. There's also a plugin for vlc but I can't remember it's name.

mplayerplug-in may have another name in the *buntu world...