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Websites often make video hard to download. Luckily, there are simple tools to circumvent this.

Command-line tools

  • yt-dlp can download from most video hosting services (even the most obscure ones): you only need to provide the normal URL you'd visit the video at. See the YouTube article for the recommended settings for archival quality.
  • get-flash-videos focuses on the nasty flash videos
  • RTMPDump allows dumping streams which use the rtmp:// protocol. However the exact URL and settings to use are often difficult to discover, see RTMPExploreX below.
  • mplayer -dumpstream allows dumping older Windows Media or RealPlayer streams. (Do these exist anymore?)

GUI tools

  • JDownloader 2 supports a large number of sites and is pretty easy to use but is Java-based and somewhat heavyweight.

Browser-based methods

  • Firefox (Tools->Web Developer->Web Console) and Chrome (Tools->Developer Tools) have web developer consoles with a "network" pane which allow all file downloads made through the browser to be seen. If you turn these on prior to loading a video page you can usually spot the video file and open it in a new tab to download.
  • FlashGot for Firefox is essentially an automated version of the above, it allows most flash-based videos to be downloaded by clicking a toolbar button after the page with the video has loaded.
  • NicoFox for Firefox allows downloading from Nico Nico Douga, with support for site-specific features such as downloading user annotations and queuing a download for later if the server is under heavy load and only serving low-quality "economy mode" videos. An account on the site is required.
  • RTMPExploreX is an Internet Explorer-based GUI allowing easy dumping of RTMP streams (used for live streams on e.g. Nico Nico and for some static video sites that try to prevent downloads). Usually if the video is not visible in FlashGot or the browser network pane this is what you will need. Windows only.

Gotchas/difficult cases

  • stream recordings are downloadable via the above methods but note that the video rolls over to a different file every half hour, so you may have to use a browser-based method and seek ahead a few times to ensure you have gotten all the URLs.
  • On some sites as an anti-download protection you will get a whole set of files with sequential names ending in _Frag1, _Frag2, etc. These can be merged back into a proper video file using the command-line AdobeHDS tool at [1]. However it requires PHP to be installed and is not very easy to use.