updated November 8, 2017, 6:20am
There may be times when you want to download and use videos you find online. Online videos, such as those found on YouTube, are, however, often in file formats not compatible with video applications that come pre-installed on computers. As a result, if you want to download and use the movie on your computer, if must first be converted into a format compatible with the software you are using and then downloaded. There are several ways to get videos from the web to your computer in a format you’ll be able to us.
You should make sure you have the following installed with the most recent version on your computer:
Mac Users: Important! (Update: 10/23/12)
If you are experiencing problems downloading and converting, I recommend downloading and installing 3ivx MPEG-4, which is a video compression system and decoder. I’m not exactly sure why having on your computer helps, but for some reason it does.
PC Users: Important!
Make sure you have the latest version of the FFDShow MPEG-4 Video Decoder. (You can choose from any of the list of links as long as they have the most recent date.)
Browser-based (cross platform)
Clip Converter “is a free online media conversion application, which allows you to reocord, convert and download nearly any audio or video URL to common formats. Currently supported services: YouTube (720p, 1080p, 4K), Vimeo and many more.” It works very well, though I was asked to install some software upon trying to convert the first time. I did not install the software, but was still able to download upon later attempts with no issues.
Download Helper Firefox Plugin
Download Helper is a Firefox Plugin that allows users to download video and other media from just about any site. It can be tricky to get the converter to work (re: sometimes impossible) but when that fails you can use it on combination with other sites, such as Zamzar. See the below screencast to learn how to use the Download Helper Plugin (note that new downloads of Download Helper come with a converter option).
Zamzar (h/t @briancroxall who told me about it) is free and converts dozens of files types (including files that are not movies), though due to a Cease and Desist letter sent by YouTube, Youtube videos are no longer able to be converted. There are two ways that it works: 1. you can upload a video; 2. you enter a URL for a video. Once the video is added and/or uploaded, Zamzar will send you an email with a link to where you can download the video. Zamzar will convert from these and more video sites:
See the below screencast to learn how to use Zamzar.
Movies in the Internet Archive
Movies in the Internet Archive don’t need to be converted. Rather, there are multiple file format options directly under the movie. All you do is right click on the format that is compatible with your software and save the movie. See the below video to learn how to download Internet Archive movies to your computer.
Video Downloader Professional is a Chrome extension, which allows you to download videos from most web sites.
YTD Downloader is an excellent free stand-along downloader for the Mac. It allows you to download and convert videos to a variety of formats. It is ridiculously easy to use: just copy the URL in the address bar and paste it in to the form field. Choose your download location and click Download. You can also convert videos already downloaded to other formats.
FLV Crunch is free application will convert previously downloaded .flv and other video formats into multiple file formats.
The folks who make YTD Downloader for the Mac also make this PC-version, YouTube Downloader, which also allows you to extract the audio from YouTube videos. Very easy to use: copy the URL, paste it in, select download location, and away you go.
YouTube Downloader by nutkenz
The folks who make VideoDownloader (see above) also make a PC-only desktop version that is more robust, which is called VDownloader, which allows you to download and convert to a variety of formats.
Format Factory is a “multifunctional media converter” that allows for the conversion of previously downloaded videos (including .flv).
MP4camtoAVI converts MP4 and MOV files to AVI so they can be played and read by Windows software. Easy to use, but here’s a tutorial from a former student:
Know of others for Mac or PC?
If you know of any other downloading and conversion applications that I should be aware of, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.