Monday, November 20, 2006

Ripping video from YouTube, Mac OS X style

Sturgeon's Law might appear too generous when applied to the web wonder, YouTube. Still, the online video resource does have its moments. Among them, physics and critical-thinking "teachable moments."

Having grown up in the Mac OS, I've become accustomed to easily acquiring anything in my browser window with a click (or at worst a modified click) of the mouse. But the videos on YouTube (and some other sources) exist in Flash Video format. You can't just click a QuickTime pop-up menu and download the clip to your hard drive.

If the video clips stayed at YouTube forever and I had universal, uninterrupted access to the Internet, there would be no problem. But, you know; reality...

So here's what you need to do, fellow OS X users hoping to acquire elusive video content. I admit I'm a complete neophyte at this, so easier/better ways may exist. Enlighten me in the comments.

1. Watch the YouTube (or other enlightening Flash Video) clip on Safari.
2. From Safari's Window menu, select Activity.
3. In the tangle of addresses, find the one URL that's big (MB's instead of KB's) and ends in ".flv."
4. Double-click it right there in the Activity window. This will download the file into your designated download destination.
5. Get iSquint. Open iSquint, and use it to transform the .flv file into a .mp4. You have some options; I don't recommend H.264 unless you've got lots of time to kill and hard drive space to spare.
6. If you want to completely transform the file to QuickTime format, you'll need QuickTime Pro. Open the .mp4 in QuickTime Pro and Save As a ".mov" file. And give it a more descriptive name than what it downloaded with!

Again, this post is for Mac folks only; PC-types can tell me how much easier their process is in the comments. If there is an easier way for OS X, don't keep me in the dark.


Anonymous said...

I tried iSquint, but have since discovered the Perian plug in for QuickTime. Install this and you can play those flv files directly in QuickTime without the conversion step.

Doug said...

Cool, Thanks.

Lethal said...

Theres another way for Firefox users on the Following OSs :

Windows Vista
Windows XP
Windows 98 or SE
Mac OSs
Linux * Any Kernal; Except CD Boot *

Go the Extensions option under Tools;
and click Get More Extensions. Now find the Video Downloader extension under the libary of ext. then Download it. Restart Firefox, then at the bottom there will be a downloader button * can't discribe what it looks like * no click on it and follow the instructions. The video is downloaded in .flv * Flash Video format * so you must have an .flv player. Cheers.

Dean Baird said...

Thanks Mike, the Perian plug-in seems to works seemlessly. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Apparently that iSquint thing can convert to .mov... and if it doesn't, iMovie can do it using the export function for those of you who don't have Quicktime Pro, but have the iLife pack. :)

Anonymous said...

It's me again, the one who posted that last comment. For some reason, isquint didn't work for me, but Visual hub does. Visual hub has to be registered, but it will convert to .mov format. (iMovie will only convert m4a's to .mov... and it can't read .flv files.)

Anonymous said... today announces YouTube Robot 2.0, a tool that enables you to download video from onto your PC, convert it to various formats to watch it when you are on the road on mobile devices like mobile phone, iPod, iPhone, Pocket PC, PSP, or Zune.

YouTube Robot allows you to search for videos using keywords or browse video by category, author, channel, language, tags, etc. When you find something noteworthy, you can preview the video right in YouTube Robot and then download it onto the hard disk drive. The speed, at which you will be downloading, is very high: up to 5 times faster than other software when you download a single file and up to 4 times faster when you download multiple files at a time.

Manual download is not the only option with YouTube Robot. You may as well schedule the download and conversion tasks to be executed automatically, even when you are not around. Downloading is followed by conversion to the format of your choice and uploading videos to a mobile device (if needed). For example, you can plug in iPod, select the video, go to bed, and when you wake up next morning, your iPod will be ready to play new YouTube videos.

Product page:
Direct download link:
Company web-site:

Dean Baird said...

Sadly, YouTubeRobot is a PC-only solution. Nice to see that they focus on how to get video from YouTube onto your, uhm, Apple iPod. Just gotta get it through that pesky non-Apple PC.

Can it be that PC freeware is so poor at doing this that someone can charge for the service? Ingteresting...

Molly said...

That helped me soooo much! Not for Youtube but for a client who didn't have his files for his website, he wanted to have the files posted and was out of town and everything you said worked perfectly, you are a lifesaver, thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Wow. thanks. Thought it would be painful. But you made it supersimple. Vive le Mac!

OMGaNewbie said...

Quote by you: select Activity.
3. In the tangle of addresses, find the one URL that's big (MB's instead of KB's) and ends in ".flv."
4. Double-click it right there in the Activity window. This will download the file into your designated download destination.
There is no URL in the Activity window. Only the name of the video I am watching. And double clicking on it does nothing.

I own a Mac OS X Version 10.5.2 Leopard

All I would like to do is copy the flash video (without the web page I am watching it on) and send the video via email to friends.
I receive emails with just the video in it. Copied from ie: youtube. How do I do that?

I am such a Newbie with the computer.

Your instructions have me stopped at the activity window. Help Please!

Dean Baird said...

Try TubeTV or Google something like "YouTube Mac OS" for the latest video ripping shareware utility.

Sonic said...

wow, so simple!!

its not even ripping, more like locating the flv file!

Actually there are only two steps:

* locate the largest file in Safari Activity (somethile like

* play the file with Mplayer (must get one if you dont have it! i've installed my with mac ports,, by "port install mplayer")

That's it!

as for me i dont encourage piracy - please dont if you can! just want to have more controls and the way i want to play the movie, that's all!
So kids dont pirate the movies!

Anonymous said...


Dean Baird said...

It's been a long time since the original post. I assume the mechanisms for downloading YouTube videos will keep changing as the years roll by.

Anonymous said...

Between us speaking, I advise to you to try to look in

Unknown said...

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