How to extract YouTube video clips

There is a lot of interesting material on YouTube these days, since it has moved on from being the home of dodgy student home videos to being the near-universal place for all sorts of video material. (See St John’s theology stream here.)

But how can I use these clips in a church or teaching context? If you have reliable internet access where you want to use it, the simplest thing is probably to play the clip from YouTube direct. But what if this is not possible? Or you want to keep the video clip for the longer term?

Well, it is quite straightforward, and doesn’t take much time. (There used to be an application called GetTube which did it all for you, but this does not appear to work any more.)

You need:

  • QuickTime video player. If you are running a Mac on 10.6 (Snow Leopard), it is built in. If you are on an earlier Mac OS or a PC, you can download it here.
  • Perian plug-in for QuickTime. Download it here and install. It is very quick, and on a Mac creates its own panel within your System Preferences panes.

Then do the following:

  1. In Safari, go to the YouTube page with your clip.
  2. Open the activity window either through the menu Window/Activity or Alt-Command-A.
  3. In the browser window, click on the YouTube clip to play. As the video loads, you will see in the activity window the video file growing in size. You might need to look quite carefully, as the window lists all the elements that have been downloaded for the page. The file will have extension .flv
  4. Once you have identified the video file, Alt-click on it to download it separately. (You control where downloads go through Safari preferences. The default option on a Mac is User/[your name]/Downloads, which is visible from the dock.)
  5. Go to the file in the finder and rename it. (It will have some generic name on YouTube, and you need to identify it by the subject.)
  6. Double click to open it. The extension .flv tells you it is a flash video file, not QuickTime, but Perian allows you to open flash video in a QuickTime player.
  7. In QuickTime, save it as either a .mov or .mpg file, which should enable it to be played across all platforms.

You might then want to embed it in a PowerPoint display, but note that usually PowerPoint only adds a marker, not the whole video file. So if you are transferring onto another computer, you will need to copy over the QuickTime/MPEG video file with the PowerPoint presentation. It is usually safer to use your own laptop, if you have one, and plug this into the projection system.

Et viola! Find, play, download, rename, open, save. It’s as simple as that!

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12 thoughts on “How to extract YouTube video clips”

  1. Nice one. I’ll give it a go. What about embedding in ppt/keynote? I give my ppt for a preach to the digital operator in church and they would expect the whole thing – slides, clips etc – all wrapped up together, preferably with a bow. Is there a how-to for putting it together?

  2. to put it in PowerPoint, you just click one of the ways of ‘insert media’. On a Mac there are about three routes. As I understand it, you need to keep the video file and the PowerPoint presentation in the same place in the file directory. So put them both in a folder, and transfer the folder to the other machine, and you should be fine.

    BUT the golden rule with anything like this is…check it works beforehand!

  3. Mark Meynell comments on MacTubes: You can either copy and paste the url or you can use the search dialogue box in MacTubes.

    Then once you find the clip you want, right clip over that clip, and you’ll see a download option – which in turn will give you various options for what you want to download (ie mp4 or HD – i always go for the HD option if there is one – sometimes you click the HD and it sends an error msg – all that means is that there isn’t an HD version, in which case settle for the mp4)

    It’s pretty straightforward.

  4. I am using tooble. It downloads to itunes and I can insert movies into powerpoint from itunes- easy peasy! Tooble even does the searching of youtube for me – love it!

  5. I use a program called Jaksta which has recently become mac-compatible (I’m a PC person myself). See The free demo version will download all of a YouTube video and save it as an FLV file. I’ve found it works very well.


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