Downloading youtube videos - how to in 2020
July 27, 2020 7:13 PM   Subscribe

I used to download a lot of audio and video off the 'tube but now it seems someone will write a plugin and then it gets disabled, but seeing as I'm listening/watching the data must be able to be drawn down in other ways. Right now I'm listing to D E E P D U B and it'd be awesome to physically have it, along with several gigs of other fine sounds. I normally use chrome but happy to use another browser or tool for this task. I'm on win10 64 Home Edition and have pretty fast net - at the moment.
posted by unearthed to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Check out YouTube-dl and see if it looks like something you can handle. It's amaaaaaazing when you start working with it.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:15 PM on July 27, 2020 [10 favorites] seems to work
posted by 2N2222 at 7:17 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

+1 for Youtube-DL, it's the backbone for most other tools that do this these days.

Bonus, if you want you can strip the video if all you care about is the audio. youtube-dl -x --audio-format "mp3" --audio-quality 0 {URL}
(If you're at all savvy with Powershell, this is a nice alias, but if that makes your head spin, don't worry about it):

function mp3dl {
youtube-dl -x --audio-format "mp3" --audio-quality 0 -o "%(title)s.%(ext)s" @args

posted by CrystalDave at 7:39 PM on July 27, 2020 [7 favorites]

3rding youtube-dl. It works on many sites besides youtube, too. And is updated regularly and very easy to use, if you don't mind opening a terminal for the command line.
posted by bertran at 7:42 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you really want a GUI, there's a pretty decent GUI frontend to youtube-dl that makes it even easier to use (and the command-line interface for youtube-dl is pretty easy to use as it is).
posted by Aleyn at 8:25 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

One warning about Youtube-DL if you go that route: sites like Youtube often change in subtle ways that can interfere with the download script. Just like the other tools you’ve found sometimes it doesn’t work and requires an update. For me it’s stopped working every couple of months, and a quick update from the website has always fixed it immediately. The creators are very diligent about keeping it up to date.

It’s a remarkable piece of software that works for more than just Youtube. I have downloaded audio and video from Mixcloud, Vimeo, and other sites with it.
posted by migurski at 10:35 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

I use an extension on firefox that does the job just fine.
posted by Thella at 12:09 AM on July 28, 2020

Another vote for youtube-dl.
It allows you to select the best video AND audio quality. This is not the case necessarily with most automatic video downloaders. Each youtube video actually has different audio and video quality tracks embedded in it.
posted by vacapinta at 3:10 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Another for youtube-dl. It's been working well and continuously updated for years. Just running it straightforwardly, without any options, will download a video or playlist. And if you do play around with the options you can configure it to do pretty much anything.

If you're running it from the command line, updating is as easy as typing "youtube-dl --update" (or whatever the syntax is on windows).

And as mentioned above, it works on more than just YouTube. Here's a list of supported sites (surprisingly, it works on some unsupported sites as well).
posted by trig at 3:52 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Does this work on the Mac if the user account is not the administrator? I certainly can’t install it that way, as only my separate admin account has sudo privileges.
posted by macdara at 4:21 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

if you want you can strip the video if all you care about is the audio. youtube-dl -x --audio-format "mp3" --audio-quality 0 {URL}

Don't do this for YouTube because in my experience MP3 is never available as source format, doing this will transcode from the lossy YT source (AAC or Opus in the OP's URL) to MP3, degrading quality (probably with no audible consequences, but still...), bloating the file size, and being much slower because yt-dl is fetching the combined video+audio file (170 MB in this example) instead of the much smaller audio only portion (50 MiB), then transcoding it to MP3.

A better command line would be:

youtube-dl -x -f 140/m4a/bestaudio URL

This will fetch the typical YT high-quality AAC audio format, or another AAC format if 140 isn't available, or the best audio available if all else fails.

If you want to embed the YT video description as a comment tag in the audio file, and the YT thumbnail as album art, add the following options:

youtube-dl -x -f 140/m4a/bestaudio --add-metadata --embed-thumbnail URL
posted by Bangaioh at 4:25 AM on July 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Macdara, I use the "brew" package manager and install youtube-dl as well as other software as a local user, not administrator. Copy and paste this line into Terminal:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"


brew install youtube-dl
posted by blob at 5:18 AM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

You can occasionally do it with VLC. It seems to get disabled often, but is currently working for me.

You can look up the steps online, but they are pretty easy.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:42 AM on July 28, 2020

I use the MediaHuman converter found here, although as of last night it wasn't working. I'm sure they'll get out an update pretty quickly fixing that, though.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2020

youtube-dl is awesome!! I'm perfectly happy with cmd for now. Thank you to everyone as I now know tons more useful things about these file types.

Using Stormzy's Shut Up as a test:

default - just gave me a 33Mb webp

youtube-dl -f mp4
gives me a 16Mb mp4 , which I'm perfectly happy with; I'm hardly an audiofile!

but yes, it looks like youtube-dl will help you do almost anything to a audio/video file.
posted by unearthed at 3:45 PM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

youtube-dl -F will list all of the formats available. Like this:

format code extension resolution note
249 webm audio only tiny 57k , opus @ 50k (48000Hz), 1.07MiB
250 webm audio only tiny 73k , opus @ 70k (48000Hz), 1.39MiB
140 m4a audio only tiny 130k , m4a_dash container, mp4a.40.2@128k (44100Hz), 2.55MiB
251 webm audio only tiny 143k , opus @160k (48000Hz), 2.68MiB
278 webm 190x144 144p 73k , webm container, vp9, 30fps, video only, 1.36MiB
160 mp4 190x144 144p 78k , avc1.4d400c, 30fps, video only, 1.12MiB
133 mp4 316x240 240p 137k , avc1.4d400d, 30fps, video only, 1.83MiB
242 webm 316x240 240p 167k , vp9, 30fps, video only, 2.65MiB
243 webm 474x360 360p 299k , vp9, 30fps, video only, 4.61MiB
134 mp4 474x360 360p 320k , avc1.4d401e, 30fps, video only, 4.36MiB
244 webm 632x480 480p 524k , vp9, 30fps, video only, 7.57MiB
135 mp4 632x480 480p 599k , avc1.4d401e, 30fps, video only, 8.46MiB
18 mp4 474x360 360p 430k , avc1.42001E, 30fps, mp4a.40.2@ 96k (44100Hz), 8.49MiB (best)

Then simply choose which one you want and do this: youtube-dl -f
posted by jasondigitized at 7:32 PM on July 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

thank you jasondigitized, it really is a remarkable piece of software.

Now I can save John Selker's water equations series (worth it for the matrix-like squeaky pen on glass alone) and all the other good things.
posted by unearthed at 9:18 PM on July 28, 2020

... and it looks like I can also use youtube-dl to get the transcript where available, great for lectures.
posted by unearthed at 9:25 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

youtube-dl is what I mostly use as well because most of my downloading is done on a headless server, but for occasional use on a GUI box, the Video DownloadHelper browser extension works well and also supports many more sites than just YouTube.
posted by flabdablet at 7:01 AM on January 16

Much of what Video DownloadHelper does has relied on a companion app since the older NPAPI-based versions were retired. The app is open source and, as far as I can tell, non-nefarious.
posted by flabdablet at 7:08 AM on January 16

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