Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Recording streaming video has both legal and technical difficulties. We'll take a look at how to do it and the ramifications around both issues.

How do I record a streaming video from an online website like YouTube?

In this excerpt from Answercast #74, I look at both the technical and legal ramifications of downloading or recording streaming video from internet locations.

Recording streaming video

So this answer actually gets a little bit complicated in two ways. One is technology and the other is legality, of all things.

Let's start with the technology.

With respect to YouTube specifically, go out and Google the phrase "YouTube downloader." There are many pieces of software available out there that will let you directly download a YouTube video. You don't have do any recording at all.

All you really need to do is download the video file from YouTube directly and you'll have what you're looking for: an offline copy of the video.

Record your screen

Now, for other sources? Many of them are using "true streaming" where there literally is no file to download. The only solution I'm aware of (and I've actually done this a couple of times) is to use a screen recording application.

I happen to use Camtasia, which is kind-of a higher end utility. There are a couple of other alternatives out there (one of which may even be free, but the name escapes me - perhaps someone will actually comment on this article and give a suggestion on that.)

The bottom line is that you end up using a "screen recording" utility. You have to make sure that it's also recording the audio output that plays with the video (Camtasia happens to.)

What that allows you to do is exactly as you describe: record what's happening on your screen. Then, you can save it to a video file in any number of different formats; whatever you would like it to be.

So those are two ways of doing it. If you can, find a direct downloader specifically for YouTube. Otherwise, you end up having to use screen recording software; screen capturing software, much like (if not exactly) Camtasia.

Legalities of downloading

Now. Let's talk about the legalities for a minute.

The problem is that what you're doing is you're making a copy of this video. Many times (in fact, I would claim, in most cases) even when there's a YouTube download available, it's not formally supported. It may be illegal or at least against the Terms of Service of the site.

In other words, you're not supposed to do what you're trying to do in most cases.

It's unfortunate; it really is. In my case specifically, the reason I actually want this (for things like YouTube) is that there are videos out there that are available in High Definition. They look great! The problem is my internet connection is slow enough that I can't actually stream the High Definition version. I would want to download it first and then play it.

A YouTube downloader would let me get the High Definition version and then play it while offline without relying on my internet connection.

Nonetheless, I do believe that's against YouTube's term of service. Technically, it could be considered illegal.

So be very careful when you're doing this. Pay attention to what the law says or at least what the Terms of Service is. Most of these sites will tell you. It's something worth looking into it.

Obviously, I personally believe that there are perfectly ethical reasons to do this; my scenario being one of them. But nonetheless, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's legal.

Now, I do have to end this by saying I am not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice. But I do, at least, want to make you aware of the potential legal ramifications of doing what it is you're asking to do.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6079 - November 28, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Richard Tapp
November 28, 2012 3:48 PM

I have had good success with www.savevid.com
There is no need to download any software, it offers a range of output file formats and resolutions and supports a range of source sites, not just Youtube. And it is free.
I don't think that addresses the "pure streaming" issue but I prefer savevid to actually installing third party software.

johnpro2
November 30, 2012 12:05 PM

Be advised, savevid.com has 'adult content'
Jp

Ronald Hirsch
November 30, 2012 1:45 PM

There are two ways that I can record a streaming video on the Internet. And since I do not use this for anything except my personal viewing, the legal ramifications are minimal, as I still am obeying the essence of the law.

WAY 1
I discovered sometime back, that many/most streaming videos that I watch end up as a temporary Internet file. And since these videos are usually the largest such files in that folder, which Windows creates and uses, I locate them by sorting the files there by size. The name of the file may be a bit of gibberish, but it is always very easy to locate. If I want to watch the file, I move it to another folder, and rename it.

It is best to go the Temporary Internet Folder ASAP, when you want to save the file, especially if you have your machine set to delete temp files when exiting the Internet.

WAY 2
I use a screen capture utility called FastStone capture. I have found it to be the best such utility out there. At $19.95, it is one of the best shareware products out there. It does everything, including video screen capture, and includes the audio. Once you have used it, it is extremely simple to use whenever it's needed again.

It's also great when creating a video lesson/presentation. It will capture the screen display, and record the audio from the computer's mike input.

The program must be used to appreciate its capabilities, options, and features.

TomA
November 30, 2012 4:04 PM

Another good/great screen capture program is Audials Moviebox-also has many other great functions

Amar N. Singh
November 30, 2012 7:28 PM

Cam Studio is free and records steaming videos in AVI & FLV formats.

Steven Booker
December 1, 2012 2:01 AM

There is a free open source alternative to camstasia it's camstudio.org.

Kevin
December 1, 2012 2:22 AM

Trying to record video is the most frustrating thing I have tried to do. This because the Freebies never seem to work as well as I would like. Trying to find right codec's etc is a little over my head. Like earlier comments I also found that Cam Studio was the best I have tried so far. Still, although I have downloaded their Lossless codec I have a feeling that this is not 100% suitable for video as such and is only suitable for static screens.
Perhaps Leo you could shed some light on this matter.

Kevin
December 1, 2012 2:40 AM

Watch the videos!

I would download Jawor's Xvid or Lagarith Lossless if you are doing any motion recording. CamStudio Lossless is only for tutorials with static screens.

Found the above in Cam Studio support forum !!

CSS
December 1, 2012 7:36 AM

I've been using PlayLater (http://www.playlater.tv/) to record and then playback while on the treadmill. It doesn't record HD, however, so if that's a criterion then it may not work for you. Recordings fail occasionally (most often from CBS), so I've found that I cannot just queue them up and leave.

Roger (UK)
December 1, 2012 9:54 AM

Try this freebie and use 'Format Factory' to edit and convert.
http://download.cnet.com/Free-Screen-To-Video/3000-13633_4-10967219.html
http://download.cnet.com/FormatFactory/3000-2194_4-10968547.html

Graham
December 10, 2012 10:28 AM

I use a cheap piece of hardware bought off eBay. It connects between the VGA port on the PC and the VGA input of the monitor. Powered from a USB port, it produces composite video (PAL, NTSC) that can then feed into my conventional TV-type DVD recorder. Job done!

Barry
December 17, 2012 8:43 AM

Realplayer free version. Records and plays most things.

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