RealPlayer Goes Social, Gets Editing Features

RealNetworks (s RNWK) is officially releasing a new version of its RealPlayer SP for Windows today that comes with some basic video editing features aimed at making the sharing of video clips more meaningful. Users are now able to trim a video and save only a selected part on their hard drive. Video clips can also be shared via services like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and various conversion options make it easier to save clips on a number of mobile devices.

I had a chance to play with the new version a little bit yesterday, and I did like some of the new features, but found others less than exciting. The social aspects could be extended, and some of the legacy content of the player is simply confusing and distracting.

RealPlayer SP was launched in beta last summer and has been downloaded more than 70 million times ever since, according to RealNetworks. For now, the new version is only available for Windows, but a Mac update scheduled for later this year.

The player gives users the option to download clips from various web sites, including YouTube, where it grabs the Flash video file (as opposed to Miro, which makes it possible to save MP4 videos from YouTube). These saved videos and other clips in a user’s library can now be trimmed with what is essentially a very basic version of a video editor. It allows users to select start and end points and save these clips on their hard drives. There’s no option to combine multiple snippets into a new clip, which is a little disappointing, especially in light of the fact that even online services now offer more advanced editing features.

The RealPlayer Trimmer, as the editor is officially called, does have a few neat tricks that could prove useful: Users can save single frames as JPEGs, and it allows you to edit the video clip by looking at its audio form. Combine that with the RealPlayer’s ability to convert any video into an MP3 file, and you essentially got yourself an easy way to extract choice quotes from your favorite web shows, or to make MP3s out of music videos. Free ringtones, anyone?

The other major new feature is the ability to share content through social networks. RealPlayer SP allows its users to share videos via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. I had a hard time getting the Facebook functionality to work at all; logging in with Facebook Connect resulted in numerous error messages before the player finally posted a link to my profile page. Posting links to Twitter seemed to work a little better. However, it’s not possible to share local content through Twitter. One has to wonder why Real didn’t go the extra step to plug into a hosting service like Twitvid. Uploading to Facebook as well as YouTube works seamless once all authentication issues are resolved.

Of course, sharing links to content via Twitter and Facebook is nice, but hardly original. Ideally, this should be two-way street. Wouldn’t it be great if a media client like RealPlayer automatically aggregated all the videos mentioned in your Twitter feed?

So what’s my final verdict? RealPlayer SP does have some nice features, and it’s definitely a big improvement over the mess of a client that the company released a few years back and has givenRealPlayer a bad name ever since. However, there are still traces of those misgivings in the new client. RealPlayer SP features an integrated content repository called Real Guide, and it’s very cluttered and oftentimes confusing.

A link to the best web video gets me to a photo gallery on Entering a search opens a separate browser window, only to return an error, and the guide features Google Ads trying to convince me to install RealPlayer while browsing it with RealPlayer. The Real Guide is simply frustrating, and it makes you remember why you stopped using RealPlayer in the first place. I wish Real would get rid of it and instead focus on finishing with what they started with this client.

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