Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Making a local copy of a YouTube video

I've had a few people ask me this so it is worth putting down in a blog post.

Video on the web has really exploded over the last year thanks to sites like YouTube and MySpace. Many of these sites stream videos in FLV format. FLV has the advantage of playing on any browser and platform that runs Flash - which is most - and you don't have the hassle of having to install lots of different codecs to get the thing to work in Windows Media Player.

So why would you want to make a local copy of an FLV video instead of viewing the video online in your browser?
  • You cannot view the video if you are not connected to the internet
  • If you don't have enough bandwidth the video can be jerky while continually buffering
  • The "full screen" button on most of the sites doesn't work, forcing you to squint at the tiny little video box
So how can you download an FLV video to your PC? A few sites like YouTubia offer services where you can type in a YouTube URL and get back a download link (see this article for an extensive list of downloading service sites), allowing you to save the video locally with a ".flv" file extension. To view a local FLV file you can use a free FLV player like BitComet FLV Player.

If your computer is more than a couple years old, however, I haven't found a standalone FLV player that smoothly plays full screen. The next step, then, is converting an FLV file to another video format that other players can handle efficiently. Again some people have been kind enough to offer free conversion services such as convert.viloader.net and vixy.net.

So what video format works smoothly and keeps the audio and video tracks in sync? wmv is reasonably smooth on newer computers, but the format that works best on all types of hardware that I've tried is avi using the DivX codecs - download the free player codec from here.

After all that effort you can enjoy watching uncopyrighted videos like Steve Ballmer - Developers, Instructions For Clustering or the Chad Vader - Day Shift Manager series in full-screen glory.



cressida said...

Hi - i followed your instructions and i still cant download videos from youtube. Youtubia doesn't seem to work. Maybe i am doing something wrong? thanks for the uncopyrighted vids - do you know of any more? Any music ones?
Great blog. Thanks.

Robert Maldon said...

Hi cressida,

The list of sites helping you to download youtube videos has changed a lot since I wrote this post over a year ago. Try googling for "youtube download" or "youtube video download". Some sites that work for me:


Uncopyrighted music on youtube? I'm sure there are some vids there but none that I know of from recent experience.

Good luck!