Grabbing Video (back) from YouTube

Image Credit: Neuroventilator / Flickr
Image Credit: Neuroventilator / Flickr

Usual Disclaimers Apply: This guide should not be used to subvert copyright restrictions. Responsibility falls to the user to ensure they are not breaking the laws of the country in which they reside or breaching any restrictions placed on content published in, or on infrastructure where other jurisdictions and/or terms of service may apply. Ignorance is no defense*, if you don’t like the regulations as they stand, exercise your democratic rights and propose a solution for change.

TL,DR; Skip to the GUIDE already!
A while ago, I created a video which I uploaded for sharing I have since lost/deleted/archived the original raw footage and I wanted to have a bit of a play with some post production tools using the footage I no longer had.

Cue: The Internet, a sprawling mass of helpful, not so helpful, and comically irrelevant content on many, many topics.

It was to the internet I turned, for a solution to the problem of grabbing back my video from its publishing point so I would, once again have a local file to work with. It turns out that this is a really, really simple problem to solve, as content delivery models change however, perhaps this method will break in which case, I suggest – The Internet!

The Guide


We will need several things for this exercise;

  1. A video on YouTube (that you have the right to use – ref: usual disclaimer)
  2. The VLC video player [Download from here] (and install it before you continue.. like duh!)
  3. An Internet browser

The How

  1. Open your browser and bring up the video you are going to make a local copy of.
  2. Copy the URL from the address bar (Click the text in the Address Bar, <Ctrl>+<A> to select all, <Ctrl>+<C> to copy. [Ref: Fig 1](Mac users, you will have some magical rounded corner perfection way of copying text using a keyboard shortcut – you’re on your own!)
  3. Open up VLC (you did remember to install it after downloading, right?!)
  4. On the menubar, click “Media” and choose “Open Network Stream” [Ref: Fig 2]
  5. Paste the URL you copied into the ‘Please enter a network URL:’ box [Ref: Fig 3]
  6. Click “Play”, Your video file should now start playing inside of the VLC player window [Ref: Fig 4]
  7. While the video is playing, on the menubar, click “Tools” and “Codec Information” [Ref: Fig 5]
  8. A new windows will appear, from this window you will need to click into the ‘Location’ box, select all of the text (right-click, select-all or <Ctrl>+<A>), and then copy it (right-click, copy OR <Ctrl>+<C>) [Ref: Fig 6]
  9. You now have the file location of the video, switch back to your browser, paste it (right-click, paste OR <Ctrl>+<V>) into the address bar, and hit <Enter>. Your video file should now start playing out directly from the server, as a file [Ref: Fig 7]
  10. Now, simply right click on the video, and choose ‘Save-as’ from the drop-down menu. [Ref: Fig 8]
  11. Give the file somewhere to be saved TO (on your machine) and a sensible name (so you know what it actually is) [Ref: Fig 9]

Congratulations, you now have a local copy of the video file, now go grab a neat post production tool and have some editing fun!

Gallery of Screenshots

*I am not a lawyer. I am however, ignorant on a great number of topics so it’s probably best to do your own research, seek legal counsel or, even more simply, only work with video streams which a clearly published in the public domain under a structure such as creative commons.



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2 responses to “Grabbing Video (back) from YouTube”

  1. Mark Harris Avatar
    Mark Harris

    If you have Firefox (and I do, pretty much just for this and the DownThemAll extension), install the Video Download Helper extension ( and click on the ickle icon.

    1. Rob the Geek Avatar

      Yep – Firefox seems to be the last bastion for such extensions, Chrome has (predictably) stopped add-ins from doing this via their terms of service for the Chrome App Store.
      +1 for DownThemAll it’s one of my favorite time-saving plugins too!