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YouTube Downloads
September 29, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone found a good way to download high-quality HD video from YouTube?

This seems like such an easy thing, but googling it results in a mess of semi-sketchy download sites, spy ware, god knows what. I tried a few programs/sites but no matter what they advertised, the quality was poor.

I'm uploading 1080p videos of the baby, and my dad is trying to get something close to source-file quality from his downloads in Germany so he can edit them -- but even when sites advertise "HD" it's usually highly compressed to a fraction of the original quality. There has to be a better way.... He's on Windows 7. Thanks.
posted by muckster to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you looking for a way to send the original file or a way to download the version that's on YouTube? Because once YouTube gets your video and compresses it to be shown, that's all the data that's there. There isn't a way to get access to the original quality video because it's no longer on their servers. Why not use a file sharing program to send the original file to him?
posted by sharkfu at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2010


YouTube is not designed for file transfer, it's designed for web-based streaming. If you want to send him the original videos, you should be using a file upload service.
posted by beerbajay at 7:55 AM on September 29, 2010


More specifically, you want something like RapidShare or MegaUpload. These are free up to certain file/transfer limits.
posted by beerbajay at 7:57 AM on September 29, 2010


Here are several file sharing sites which allow you to send a file directly between each other (rather than waiting for you to upload to a server before they can download):

Pipebytes
iSender
FileAI
FilesOverMiles
posted by sharkfu at 7:57 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right -- MegaUpload etc would work but I'd like to have the videos available for watching online as well. We used to use Vimeo, which does offer source file download, but their weekly cap made it unusable even with a pro account (these T2i files are gigantic.)

I was hoping there'd be a way to get files from YouTube that would look sufficiently good for burning on DVDs etc, but so far everything I've seen looks lousy.

One more possibility: my webhost offers unlimited space. Could I upload them there, let Dad download, and also stream them to a website?
posted by muckster at 8:06 AM on September 29, 2010


Hmm. A couple of things:

First off, you need to understand that videos aren't displayed on Youtube at the same quality you took them. Youtube automatically compresses uploaded videos – even videos uploaded at 1080p HD – so that it can save bandwidth. It's obviously not going to be possible to download the video from Youtube at actual, original 1080p HD, no matter what you do, because Youtube isn't actually going to display it at that.

Second, if that doesn't matter to you that much, I can tell you that the most convenient and versatile way of downloading Youtube videos I know of is via Firefox + FlashGot + DownThemAll. It's not too complicated; just download and install Firefox, and then install the two addons. When you are on Youtube (or almost any other Flash video site) play the video for a moment, and then right-click the little film icon at the right end of the status bar at the bottom of the browser to select which file you want to download. I can explain this in more detail if you want.

Finally: if you're just looking to share video files across the internet, sharkfu and beerbajay are right; Youtube isn't great for file transfer. If you just want a service that allows you to transfer source-quality files to your dad, the best bet that springs to mind immediately is Drop.io. In about fifteen seconds at Drop.io, you can upload a bunch of files and get a download link to send to your dad so he can download them himself; it's even pretty easy to make this private and set a password for the download link if you want to. There's a 2 gigabyte limit per set or "drop" (although you can do as many drops as you want) but if you were uploading these videos to Youtube I imagine each file is probably smaller than 2 gigabytes anyway. And it's free – doesn't cost a penny – and doesn't have lots of sleazy malware or advertising like some other file-sharing sites.
posted by koeselitz at 8:12 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


muckster: “Right -- MegaUpload etc would work but I'd like to have the videos available for watching online as well. We used to use Vimeo, which does offer source file download, but their weekly cap made it unusable even with a pro account (these T2i files are gigantic.)”

Well, first of all, I wouldn't touch Megaupload/Rapidshare/Mediafire/Hotfile etc. Those sites are for porn and stolen music; they're jam-packed with adware, malware, and other sleazy stuff, and they're not really necessary if what you want is to transfer files. Like I said, Drop.io offers 2gb, and it's billions of times easier to use anyway, so there's no need to waste time with crappy spamsites.

Drop.io also gives you previews of most files – they'll show you the image files, give you a display of all the pages of text files so you can read them online, lets you play audio files, etc. The preview doesn't seem to work with many video formats, however, though it's worth trying (since it's pretty easy to test and doesn't cost anything).

Another option is to use DropBox and give your dad a download link for the files. It would be pretty convenient for you if you're doing this often; DropBox just sets up a sharing folder on your computer, and you put files you want to share in that folder and it automatically syncs them and puts them online. It's limited to 2GB per account, but you can pay for a larger one.

“I was hoping there'd be a way to get files from YouTube that would look sufficiently good for burning on DVDs etc, but so far everything I've seen looks lousy. One more possibility: my webhost offers unlimited space. Could I upload them there, let Dad download, and also stream them to a website?”

Um. Why not do both? That's pretty much the standard way to do this, I think, and it'll work best for you, it sounds like. Upload the (admittedly not awesome) compressed copy to Youtube, so people can watch it online; and upload the files to your webhost, so your dad and other people can access the nice, full source files. It's silly to do a bunch of work to try to find a single way of doing this when the dual method is working fine right now. Or is there a reason why this isn't practical for you?
posted by koeselitz at 8:27 AM on September 29, 2010


– I'm pretty sure you can do this with Dropbox, though. That is: when you upload something to your Dropbox account as "public share," I'm pretty sure a person can go to the link for it and watch it right there in their browser. So maybe Dropbox is what you're looking for.
posted by koeselitz at 8:39 AM on September 29, 2010


Hey, thanks again. I understand YouTube compresses my original files and doesn't store them. But here's what I'm talking about: say, I have a source file for a two minute video. It's 760 MB. (Yeah, like I said, they're gigantic.) When I download that through FlashGot, it turns into a 60 MB file -- that's a significant loss. FlashGot actually looks fairly good, but it still seems to me that what you see streaming on YouTube looks better.

What you call the dual method won't work because of the file sizes. I'm uploading all night already anyway, and there's not enough time in the day to upload to both YouTube and a file sharing service. What I meant to ask -- sorry if I didn't make that clear -- was whether there's a way to stream the files directly from my webhost, ie, I upload once, Dad can get source files, and everyone else can watch a streaming flash video. But I assume that doesn't work because the files are too big for straight-up streaming. Hmm. Let me play with FlashGot, maybe that'll be good enough for DVD-quality editing...
posted by muckster at 8:46 AM on September 29, 2010


What you get with Flashgot is exactly the same as what you are seeing in YouTube, barring differences introduced by the media player - Flashgot is capturing the same streamed bits, there's no additional on-the-fly compression. Have you tried 720p videos to see if the trade off between filesize and quality is acceptable to you?

Another solution may be to convert your source into a lower quality video for streaming and upload that, whilst making the uncompressed source available through FTP so that the onus of downloading is on your dad
posted by nicktf at 9:33 AM on September 29, 2010


muckster: "What you call the dual method won't work because of the file sizes."

There's an adage in computer networking: "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway."

Burn some DVDs. Mail them.
posted by beerbajay at 9:34 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could easily compress a 760MB file before uploading it to youtube. Then you'd have a high (enough) quality file to share via drop.io as well as spending much less time uploading that same file to youtube.
posted by O9scar at 9:56 AM on September 29, 2010


> I have a source file for a two minute video. It's 760 MB.

That's your problem right there. You need to do more compression at the beginning -- basically approximate what YouTube is going to do on the backend anyway -- and then the files won't be nearly so difficult to move around. It's probably just a bitrate issue, unless you're using some really bloated codec like MPEG-2.

Although what I'd probably do is just upload to YouTube for streaming and put it on DropIO for people who want an easily-downloadable copy, because trust me that's going to be easier than anything else, if you're hell-bent on only having the video in one place I'd then do it via your own webhost.

It is pretty trivial to embed a video file directly into a webpage. What you end up with isn't an embedded Flash player like YouTube, but QuickTime or Windows Media video. (This is much more straightforward than YouTube's Flash-based solution, but because it lets you download the file easily it's not used by YouTube and other services. They want to block downloading, not encourage it.) Be sure you don't use any exotic codecs; stick to MPEG-4 at some reasonable bitrate, and check the 'optimize for streaming' option if it's available.

You'd need to make an HTML page with links to the videos, which you'd of course have to upload to your web host. Here's how you do it. If you do this too often and use too much bandwidth, most "unlimited" webhosts will eventually drop you as a customer, just FYI.

You can put a download link below the embedded viewer by just linking to the file using a plain-old HREF link.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:05 AM on September 29, 2010


muckster: “When I download that through FlashGot, it turns into a 60 MB file -- that's a significant loss. FlashGot actually looks fairly good, but it still seems to me that what you see streaming on YouTube looks better.”

nicktf: “What you get with Flashgot is exactly the same as what you are seeing in YouTube, barring differences introduced by the media player - Flashgot is capturing the same streamed bits, there's no additional on-the-fly compression. Have you tried 720p videos to see if the trade off between filesize and quality is acceptable to you?”

nicktf is right – what you download through Flashgot is exactly what Youtube is showing – but there is one small point I want to note here: unless they're classed as HD video (.mp4), Youtube is converting your files to the Flash video (.flv) format. The Flash video format is notoriously unstable and variable as far as quality is concerned; different players handle it in very, very different ways, and since it's a format designed to be played through scripted web players, it's got weird options that don't always translate well. For example, many, many times when I've downloaded .flv files from Youtube I've found I've had to tweak the speed of the sound to track correctly with the video, since .flv seems to have really weird sound-tracking options. (In fact, .mp4 files can be odd, too.)

What I mean is: in this situation, your video player is probably the important thing to look at as far as the quality you'll see from a downloaded Youtube video. There are two very high-quality and capable media players that I'd recommend: VLC Player and SMPlayer. I tend to prefer VLC myself, but SMPlayer has its advantages. Usually, .flv files will look much better in one of those two players than they will anywhere else.

One thing I feel like I should mention: when converting video from format to format, your best friend is going to be ffmpeg (a command-line converter) and probably WinFF (the Windows / Linux graphical interface for ffmpeg). It makes converting videos from flv to mp4 to avi to wmv to whatever you might want, at the highest quality you can, very easy.

Also, if you're going to go the embed-it-in-a-web-page route, Kadin2048 gave a great rundown on how to do that. However, a tiny point: if you and your dad are both using Firefox or Chrome or Opera or another HTML5-compliant browser (that is, not Internet Explorer) then you can now write the code for that even more easily; just do this:

<video src="myvideo.ogv" controls>
Here is a video!
</video>


(If you do this, it's best to use WinFF to convert your video to Ogg Theora [.ogv] first, since that's the most broadly compatible format.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:05 PM on September 29, 2010


Correcting a few things about YouTube transcoding:

Youtube is converting your files to the Flash video (.flv) format

720p and 1080p videos on YouTube are h264/AAC in mp4 container.
Also there will be a 720p transcode into WebM (VP8/Ogg Vorbis in Matroska container).

Youtube automatically compresses uploaded videos

We do retranscode/remux all uploaded videos. This does not necessarily affect quality in any noticeable way, but it will depend on the bitrate of the uploaded video. If you upload Blu-Ray quality video, it will be output with a much lower bitrate. However plenty of "HD" video is at or below our target bitrate, so it's not a guarantee you'll see degradation (and even if your video is higher quality this will depend on how good you are at picking these things out). [I'd argue that the term "compressed" here is inaccurate/misleading]

(Also, if you want to use HTML5 and your video is in h264/mp4, you can just do what koeselitz said and use Chrome, IE9, or Safari and it will work. Ogg is only supported in Chrome/FF/Opera. WebM is supported in the same browsers but only newer versions).

Right now the only download option is (a) for the uploader, and (b) only allows you to get a low-bitrate 360p version in mp4 container, so not really viable.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, so I'm now re-encoding the original T2i files, which are something like 50 Mbps/second h264 to about 15 Mbps, all other settings untouched. It takes a little while, but it's enough of a step down to make the files manageable. From what I understand, YouTube then lowers the bitrate some more (maybe to around 5, looks like?), but the result is very watchable and still 1080p. I'll see if dad is ok with the files FlashGot gives him, or I'll additionally transfer my 15 Mpbs files via dropbox or drop.io. Thanks everyone!
posted by muckster at 8:03 PM on October 3, 2010


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