How to Download Brightcove Video

Disclaimer: don’t download any video that isn’t yours. Stealing is bogus. Don’t be a goon.

Download Brightcove videos with this step-by-step tutorial. Downloading videos from Brightcove is actually very easy, if you have the right tools. I’ll explain the materials needed and walk through each step of the process.

Tools required

Downloading Brightcove videos

I have only tried this on Mac OS X. It should work the same way on Windows, but the steps to remove Flash Player will be different.

Locate a webpage with a Brightcove video embedded

Load that page in your Flash Player-less Safari 4+. Click to load the video, if required.

How to download a Brightcove video: Step 1.

At this point, you should see something like this.

If you don’t see this Flash Player error message, it means Flash Player is still installed in Safari. Go back to Gruber’s instructions to make sure you properly removed Flash Player.

How to download a Brightcove video: Step 2.

Enable Safari’s “Develop” menu

If you don’t already have Safari’s “Develop” menu enabled, you’ll need that. Go to Safari > Preferences > Advanced.

A screenshot of Safari's Preferences pane, enabling Safari's Develop menu.

Trick the Brightcove video into HTML5 mode

Safari 4+ comes with the ability to render webpages as multiple other browsers, including Mobile Safari for iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. In the Develop menu, find User Agent and choose iPhone.

A screenshot showing how to enable Safari User Agent spoofing.

Rendering the webpage in Mobile Safari for iPhone (or iPad/iPod) tells Brightcove that you’re using an iOS mobile device which, by definition, won’t support Flash. So, since Brightcove doesn’t want to exclude Apple fans from their video platform, they serve an HTML5 version. [Update: not all Brightcove videos have this HTML5 version. More about that issue later.]

Open Safari’s Activity Window

Safari’s Activity Window shows a list of every asset being downloaded by the browser: every image, CSS file, Javascript file, and yes, video file. Access it in the top menu, Window > Activity.

A screenshot showing how to open Safari's Activity Window.

Find & open the video file

Locate the file you want. It will probably have a .mp4 extension. Double-click the filename to open the file.

A screenshot of Safari's Activity Console.

One last hiccup: Saving.

For whatever reason, Safari won’t let you save the file you’ve just double-clicked and opened. This is where Firefox or any other browser comes in. Simple copy the URL of the .mp4 video file and open it in Firefox.

A screenshot of downloading a Brightcove video in Firefox.

Limitations (updated)

I failed to mention one limitation when I first published this post. For this technique to work, the Brightcove video in question must have a non-Flash fallback.

In my experience, most Brightcove videos are H.264-encoded by default and are served through a Flash player—the same method YouTube and Vimeo use. And like YouTube and Vimeo, without the presence of Flash Player, Brightcove can serve up the H.264 file using HTML5’s <video> element. However, not all Brightcove videos have that <video> fallback. Unfortunately, my technique is useless without it.

Happy downloading

I hope this helps others reclaim a few Brighcove videos. Again I’ll point out that this How-to is not intended to be used for stealing videos. No one likes a thief. But in the event that you have legitimate use for this technique, I hope you find it helpful.


Did you find this post helpful? Do you know of another way to download otherwise-protected videos? Did I miss something or get it wrong? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me.