How to watch podcasts December 27, 2006
I recently discovered that a lot of visitors find this site searching for information about how to watch podcasts. Obviously, that’s because the name of my podcast is Tech Watch.
However, I can provide the answer to that question. Most video podcasts have a website where you can watch the episodes online in your web browser. If you want to subscribe, though, you’ll need both a podcast aggregator and a video player. This is where it can get tricky.
Unlike audio, which is almost always in mp3 format, video on the web comes in many different formats. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of video formats, check out the wikipedia article (warning: it’s not for the faint of heart). Because of all the possible formats, you need a video player that will handle the different types of video your podcasts are delivering.
Since iTunes is both a podcast aggregator and a video player, a lot of video podcasts are built to play in iTunes. This means they’ll also play using Quicktime player, and many will play on a video-enabled iPod. But those players won’t necessarily play everything you find on the web.
To be sure, I’d recommend VLC. It’s an open source media player for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and others, and it plays just about everything. I’d argue that if you’ve found a video on the internet that won’t play in VLC, its creators don’t actually want anyone to watch it.
In order to subscribe to a video podcast and have the episodes automatically downloaded to your computer, you’ll need a podcast aggregator. iTunes is probably the most popular one, and it’s available for Windows and Mac.
However, I have to recommend Democracy (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux), which is specifically built for web video. It is both an aggregator and a player, and the player is built from the VLC code, so it plays just about everything. Democracy also is a bittorrent (wik) client and will save files from YouTube and Google video.
Regardless of which aggregator you choose, you can subscribe to a video podcast by clicking a link in the software’s directory or copying the feed URL from the podcast’s website into the aggregator. Whenever new episodes are released, the aggregator will automatically download the episodes to your computer. You do need to have the aggregator running in order for the downloads to happen.
If you already know what you want to watch, great! But if you are looking for new video podcasts, there are a few ways to find them. iTunes and Democracy each have directories where you can search for podcasts, and both offer recommendations.
You can also use a service like AmigoFish, where you rate shows and get recommendations based on your ratings. You can also check out popcurrent, which is like digg for podcasts, and - oh yeah - there’s now digg for podcasts.
If you’re really stuck, or just want to know what I watch, here are my personal picks: