Save a YouTube video
Mac Tip #386, 27 May 2009
There are many reasons to want to have offline access to an online video. For example, as a trainer and presenter there’s no way I’d rely on having access to the Internet or YouTube while presenting my session. If I absolutely have to have that clip of a cat playing the piano I embed it in my presentation.
You don’t have to be connected to the Internet to view a YouTube video — if you record it yourself first. Here’s how to record a YouTube video while it’s playing on your Mac’s screen.
How to save a YouTube video
Update, July 2012. It seems YouTube really don’t want people saving videos. I believe they’re working on breaking the software that claims to be able to download or save YouTube videos. They’ve also recently broken up videos into smaller chunks and this Tip no longer works. I’ve left the original technique below so you can still try it though. What follows are some new instructions for recording a video (from any source) as it plays on your screen.
Locate the video you want in YouTube and get it ready to play. You may decide to select a screen size, quality, captions or other features, for example.
Start up your screen capture software. Quicktime Player 10 can record video and audio from your computer screen, for example.
I recommend Screenflow though as being a far superior app for this purpose. If you routinely want to record movies playing on your Mac then the investment in Screenflow will pay off handsomely. I use it myself for all my screencasts. If you buy through my link here I receive a small percentage.
If your Mac commonly delivers messages and notifications to you, as mine does, then you may want to turn off those alerts. For example, you may need to quit your email app.
Once you’re ready to record keep in mind you won’t be able to use the computer for anything else while recording.
Tell your screen recording app to start recording, then switch to the browser window where you have the YouTube video ready and press Play.
These Tips about QuickTime Player may help
Now walk away and let the recording happen in real time. Note how long the video is and come back once it’s had time to play through.
When it’s finished stop the recording app and save.
Then you can edit the recording, perhaps trimming out the moments before and after where you were switching apps.
Finally, you may need to export the recording in a different format for use in a Keynote presentation, for example.
This is definitely a technique for last resort. Recording the screen in this way can work your Mac quite hard. It’s also time consuming and annoying. But for those times when you just have to have the cat video or your presentation is worthless then this technique could just make your day.
The original Tip (now outdated)
Here’s how to save a YouTube video if you’re using Safari. If you use other web browsers, the process is the same, but you may have to look around in the menus to find the right items.
- View the YouTube video you wish to download and save.
- Open Safari’s Activity window (from the Window menu).
- In the Activity window click the disclosure triangle beside the correct Safari Tab or Window. A list appears showing all the activity for that Tab. In my screenshot you can see a long list of items that are part of the Queen Rania YouTube page I have open. Beside each item is a size in Kb or Mb.
- Identify the biggest item — it’s likely to be several megabytes. In my screenshot it’s a 3.4Mb item at the top of the list.
- Watch that item as the size may be constantly increasing. If it is that means the video is still loading.
- Hold down the Option key (⌥) and double click on that line. The movie file downloads to your Downloads folder. It may be named something like
Play the video in VLC
You should now be able to play that video file using the free VLC Media Player.
Update February 2012: originally my Tip said to wait till the file size in the Activity window stopped increasing. Actually you can do the Option double-click any time to start the download.
By the way, the video I loaded for my screenshots was by Queen Rania of Jordan. She is an extremely intelligent and beautiful world leader who is using YouTube, Twitter and other channels to bring about change in the world.
Her themes are around education, eradicating poverty, and encouraging understanding.
This particular video is a humorous response to an award she won.
I recommend Queen Rania’s YouTube Channel
Visit Queen Rania’s official YouTube Channel to experiment with the download technique I’ve explained here.
How this Tip came about
I became quite caught up with the last few shows on American Idol 2009. I heard Adam Lambert sing Ring of Fire and was hooked. I found him a very versatile and exceptional performer.
In fact, I enjoyed his performances so much I followed the link to buy his songs on iTunes. But there’s a huge problem with that: they aren’t available in the New Zealand iTunes Store.
So, I did the next best thing: I downloaded his performances from the American Idol website so I can listen again when I want to. And if they ever do allow me to pay for them, I will.
I used the same process to download those songs as to download a YouTube video — it’s not as obvious as it seems.