Comprehensive Guide to Saving Streaming Video

Have you ever come across a wonderful video that you wanted to download, but couldn�t find a way to do so? If the answer is yes, read on.

Majority of the video content available on the web can be grouped into four categories: Windows Media Video, Apple QuickTime Video, Real Video and Flash Video. In this article I shall deal with each one of them. But before getting started you need to download few sofware.
All the utilities mentioned below are Freeware.

i) K-Lite Mega Codec Pack so that you can view the media files. Make sure you install Real Alternative, QuickTime Alternative and Mov downloader.
ii) Orbit Downloader to download files.
iii) GetASFStream to download ASF and ASX files.
iv) Naviscope
v) Any FLV viewer to view FLV files.
Now, let�s get started.

Figuring out the URL

The first and most important step is to find the actual location (url) of the video.

Arrow From the Source : You can attempt to extract the url from the source code of the webpage. Right Click on an empty spot on the page and click on “Source” (it is “View Page Source” in Firefox) option in the context menu. Now use the “Find” option provided by your browser to locate the video. Depending upon the type of video content try using the following keywords:

General – stream, vid, video and media
Windows Media Video – wmv, asf, asx, mms, avi
QuickTime Video : mov, mpeg, avi, 3gp
Real Video : rtsp, ram, rm

Arrow Naviscope : However the above method is not recommended. Because it is cumbersome and won�’t always work. Often the url is hidden using scripts (JavaScript, ActiveX etc). There is a simpler method. For this you would need to download a freeware called Naviscope. There are a couple of things you have to keep in mind while using Naviscope – i) You must launch Naviscope before opening your browser and ii) You must change you browser’s proxy settings to 127.0.0.1 : 81.
Once Naviscope is running properly, simply load the webpage containing the video in your browser. The Naviscope floating bar displays all active connections. Hovering your cursor over the listed connections would reveal more detail. All you have to do is figure out which of the listed connections represents the video file. This shouldn�t be difficult. Generally video files are much larger than everything else (over 1mb). The screenshot below should give you an idea.

Naviscope

Now right click on the progress bar and select “Copy URL to Clipboard” option. All this is very simple. This will become clearer if you watch the demonstration video provided at the end.

Using Naviscope is better since it works with any kind of streaming content – video or audio. Also it gives you link to the actual file instead of metadata files (like ASX and RAM).

Arrow Safari : Safari has a built in tool called Activity Analyser. You can launch it by pressing Ctrl+Alt+A or from Windows–>Activity. The Activity window lists all active connections. All you need to do it locate the url of the streaming video and double click on it to start the download. Once again this shouldn’t be too difficult if you pay attention to the file sizes, since video files are significantly larger than other files.

You can also give URL Snooper from Donation Coders a try.

Downloading the Video

Obviously the next step is downloading the video. This is very straight forward in most cases. I would recommend Orbit Downloader for downloading as it works with a large amount of streaming content.

If you use Naviscope you would always get the url of the actual content. However, if you use other methods (like searching through the source code) you may end up with the url for the metadata file (asx or ram). I have provided file-specific download instructions below.

Arrow Windows Media Files (wmv, asf and asx) : Wmv files can be simply downloaded using a download manager. However, to download ASF and ASX files you need a software called GetASFSteam. You can download it from here. Launch GETASFStream, enter the url and select “DL is started” from File menu to start downloading. Check the video included for quick demonstration.

GetASFStream

Arrow Real Media Files (ram, smil and rm) : RAM (Real Audio Metadata) files are metadata files that contain the url to the actual video file (rm). Once you have the url for RAM file, download it and open with Notepad. This file would contain a link to either ram or rm file. Sometimes these files contain multiple links. If it’s a ram file repeat the step. Once you get the link to rm file download it with Orbit Downloader.

Another type of metadata file that is sometimes used is SMIL. Again you need to open the concerned file with Notepad to obtain the url for the actual video files. SMIL files can be used to pack both QuickTime as well as Real Media files.

Arrow QuickTime Video Files (mpeg and mov) : QuickTime Pro generally allows you to download QuickTime videos. Mov downloader (included in K-lite codec pack) can also be used to download MOV files. For embedded content use Naviscope to get the url and Orbit Downloader to download. For demonstration check the video included. I have used Move Trailer’s available at Apple.com in the demonstration video.

Arrow Flash Media (swf and flv) : This is again really simple. Use Naviscope to find out the url and then download the file. I have demonstrated this method in the video included below. There are simpler ways to download flv files from popular video sharing websites. You can use Keepvid.com to generate the download links. Opera users can use this userjs (by xEarth) or button (by fanel). Firefox users can try Ook? Video Ook! extension. You can also use Orbit Downloader to download flv videos from all popular video sharing websites. Here is how to do it :
Arrow Launch Orbit Downloader. Launch Grab++ from Tools menu.
Arrow Open the webpage in Firefox or Internet Explorer and play the video.
Arrow Grab++ will automatically figure out the video url and display it. Now simply select the video you wish to download and click the Download button.

Orbit Downloader

A more detailed tutorial is available here. This technique works on almost all websites including Bebo, Break, Comedy Central, Dailymotion, eSnips, Flickr, Google, Hi5, Hulu, iFilm, iJigg, IMEEM, Metacafe, MOG, MojoFlix, Multiply, Myspace Music, Myspace Video, Pandora, PerfSpot, Raaga, Radioblogclub, Repubblica, Stream Media, Tumblr, Veoh, Vox, Xanga, Yahoo Music, Yahoo Video, YourFileHost and Youtube.

Fail-Safe Methods

Above methods should work for almost all content available on the net. However, under rare circumstances they may fail. In such cases there are two things you can try :
Arrow Check your browser’s cache. There is a good chance that you would find the full video file there. This is sometimes necessary for mpeg videos.
Arrow Play the file and use a screen-recorder to record it. Make sure that hardware acceleration is not being used while playing the file. You can use AutoScreen Recorder or Camtasia Studio. ACA Capture Pro works even with hardware acceleration enabled.

Demonstration Video

Did you find this tutorial useful? Did it work for you? Do let me know.

*Last Updated 12th October 2008

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