The way people consume media has been constantly evolving, especially over the past five years. In 2005, it would be practically unthinkable for any consistent TV viewers to cancel their cable subscriptions and watch only online video. Now, many more people are depending on the Internet for their video content, made abundantly clear by the fact that advertising on sites like Hulu sometimes go for higher rates than that on network television.
In such an atmosphere, it's more important than ever for digital media players and converters to stay in front of the curve. More than two years ago, Real Networks took its media player, which was mostly popular as an embedded app for online audio and video playback, and added a one-step video-downloading feature. Today, the company is updating RealPlayer SP for Mac with the addition of a built-in video converter that also offers one-click transcoding for portable devices. The program lets Mac users download practically any unprotected streaming and then transfer it directly to an iPhone, iPod, BlackBerry, or other device. RealPlayer SP handles the transcoding in the background, which makes the front-end experience very simple.
Compared side by side with RealPlayer SP for Windows, I have to say that the Mac version isn't as seamless. In Windows, when you hover over a supported video, a download "button" pops up over the actual video. On the Mac, you actually have to start playback for the video and then a separate RealPlayer app will start up and present the various options. It may not be quite as quick, but the layout is still very straightforward so that even someone who is not at all savvy in the ways of digital video formatting will be able to use the tool.
I did experience some technical difficulties while trying to transfer a video to my iPod Touch, but hopefully Real will work out the kinks during this beta release. In any case, I give the company credit for providing a free and easy program that addresses the overly convoluted area of video transcoding.