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How to Download Brightcove Video

Downloading Brightcove Videos

In this post, I’ll explain the materials and steps needed to downloading Brightcove videos. This tutorial is not for illicit use. Please don’t steal other people’s work.  There are plenty of legitimate reasons to download a video. If you’ve got a good reason to download a video, I hope this tutorial helps you.

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.

Tools required

How to download a Brightcove video: Step 1.
Screenshot of Brightcove’s video playform documentation, featuring an embedded Brightcove video and video player. This page has been redesigned since this post was published, but the idea is the same and this example still works.

Locate a webpage with a Brightcove video embedded

Load that page in your Flash Player-less Safari 4+. This page will be our starting point. We have to do a few things to the page before we can access the video, but if you’re seeing a page with a Brightcove video embedded, you’re on the right track.

Click to load the video, if required. In some cases, the video is not loaded by default. Users must click/tap a play button or some other call-to-action in order to load the embedded video. If that’s the case with your page, please click to play. We need to see the video embed in action before moving on. In the next step we’ll see what happens when we disable Adobe Flash.

How to download a Brightcove video: Step 2.

At this point, you should see something like this.

This “We’re sorry!” message is good. It means that Flash Player is disabled in the browser. It looks bad, but it means that Brighcove can’t serve up a Flash-based video. We’re ready to move on to the next step.

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. This is crucial. The rest of the tutorial will not work if you don’t get this right.

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

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 and check the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” option as shown above.

This post was published in 2011. In more recent releases of Safari, this option may have changed a bit. If you’re having trouble with this step, I recommend you Google “safari enable develop menu.”

A screenshot showing how to enable Safari User Agent spoofing.

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.

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.

A screenshot showing how to open Safari's Page Resources panel.
Apple deep-sixed the Activity Window. Instead, here’s a screenshot showing how to open Safari’s Page Resources panel. The Brighcove video file will be listed in the Resources, probably under “Other.”

Open Safari’s Activity Window Page Resources panel

This post originally called for Safari’s Activity Window. In more recent versions of Safari, the Activity Window was discontinued. Instead, this information can now be found in Safari’s Page Resources panel. Enable the panel in Develop > Show Page Resources or by typing Option + Command + A.

The Page Resources panel shows a list of every asset being downloaded by the browser: every image, CSS file, Javascript file, and yes, video file. Video files are most often listed under “Other.” If your video file is accessible directly from the Page Resources panel (some videos are, but some may not be), you can double click on the video file and voila, you’re done.

A screenshot showing the "Other" folder in Safari's Page Resources panel.
A screenshot showing the “Other” folder in Safari’s Page Resources panel. Assets displayed by the Page Resources panel are grouped into folders. Video files are most often found in the “Other” folder.

Find & open the video file

Locate the Brightcove video file you want. It will probably have a .mp4 extension, although any web-friendly video format is possible. Double-click the filename to open the file.

If you don’t see your .mp4 (or .mov, etc.) file in the list, expand some of the folders. Video files are usually listed under “Other.”

A screenshot of downloading a Brightcove video in Firefox.

One last hiccup: Saving.

For whatever reason, (sometimes) Safari won’t let you save the file you’ve just double-clicked and opened. When the video opens, try sitting Command + S to save the video file. If it works, you’re done!

If it won’t save, this is where Firefox or any other browser comes in. Simple copy the URL of the .mp4 video file and open it 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.

Feedback

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.

66 thoughts on “How to Download Brightcove Video

  1. W

    I have tried it, but seems won’t work for me… Can’t find the name of video on the Windows > Activity. It only works with the site you mentioned.

  2. TJ Kelly

    Thanks for the comment, W. The video you mentioned in your tweet doesn’t have a non-Flash fallback. That’s one limitation I forgot to mention in this post.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll update my post accordingly. I’m sorry my how-to couldn’t help you!

  3. EJ

    Brilliant solution. Thank you. A question:

    Seems like the Brightcove platform supports dynamic streaming at various resolutions. I’ve noticed that sometimes, while watching a video with flash, it will kick into high-rez then sometimes kick back down to low rez.

    It seems this method identifies the URL of the low-rez version, but if there’s a high-rez non-flash version, I’m not immediately finding it.

    I wonder if the non-flash fallback is typically available in a high-rez version too and how to find the URL for the high-rez version.

    EJ

  4. TJ Kelly

    Dave & EJ, thanks for your comments.

    I hadn’t considered the quality of the video. It makes sense that Brightcove would provide a lower-quality version as a non-Flash fallback, since it’s designed to play on mobile devices.

    I haven’t looked around enough to determine if the non-Flash video has multiple versions and, if so, how to find it.

    Great points, though. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.

  5. TJ Kelly

    Subs, thanks for your comment. Yes, they are Brightcove videos. If you follow the steps outlined above, you should be able to download them. But there are 2 things to keep in mind.

    1) Stealing is illegal.

    2) These videos must have a non-Flash fallback option for my technique to work. I can’t guarantee that these math videos will have such an option. You’ll have to try the steps and see for yourself.

  6. Markeerb

    My tremendous thanks for putting up this work around. Yes, the video quality is lower, but to highlight your comment against piracy, I should mention some news sites are using Brightcove but news stories can be legally referenced for fair use by the subjects of those stories. I work for a small not-for-profit that wished to make up a clip of coverage we’ve received and until I found this walkthrough I was frustrated in doing so effectively. You’ve done very nice work here, thank you once again.

  7. TJ Kelly

    Markeerb, thanks for your comment. That’s very useful information regarding fair-use. Thank you for posting and I’m glad my how-to was helpful for you!

  8. Linda

    Thanks for this tutorial. It works for Safari 5.0.3 for Windows, but unfortunately, there was no HTML5 fallback file for the video I wanted. Oh well.

  9. Norris

    Worked like a charm. Thank you for saving me from insanity! It’s people like you who make the web a wonderful place. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Andy

    Thanks for the info! I was able to get the html5 version to display but didn’t see an .mp4 in the activity window. So, I right clicked on the video and did a “view frame source” and was able to see an escaped version of the URL. When the source came up I just searched for .mp4

    http:\/\/brightcove.vo.llnwd.net\/pd15\/media\/823412108\/823412108_955867789001_B202-Open-Distribution-vs-Premium-SME-2011.mp4

    Take out the “\” characters resulting in:

    http://brightcove.vo.llnwd.net/pd15/media/823412108\/823412108_955867789001_B202-Open-Distribution-vs-Premium-SME-2011.mp4

    and paste the URL in Chrome or FF to Save As…

  11. TJ Kelly

    Andy, thanks for your responses. Are you suggesting that Brightcove changed their display techniques? Or might yours have been an isolated incident? (I haven’t done any testing on the matter recently.)

  12. Dacs

    Hi, just to say many thanks for this trick, it worked just fine on Windows 7. :)

    Btw, the fastest way to disable Flash in Windows is simply to unistall it and reinstall it later, as it only takes seconds. (Unistall the “Adobe Flash Player 10 Plugin” to disable it in Firefox & Safari).

  13. Scott

    You can save it directly from within Safari. Just click the desired mp4 in the Activity window as described above. Copy that location and paste it into a new Safari window. Then hold the Option (Alt) button down when pushing enter and the file will be downloaded.

  14. gary

    1) open up you favorite screen recording software.
    2) press “Play” on video.. go to full screen.
    3) Press “record” on your screen recorder.
    4) Save video
    5) All done…

  15. Trevor

    Hi TJ… nearly there, I am stumbling somewhere… have got the mp4 but now Firefox just spins and spins and won’t replay. Any ideas how to capture this file that I’ve managed to isolate with your great tutorial ?

    http://brightcove04.brightcove.com/3/791607097001/791607097001_933126033001_Seminar-Series—Regional-Infrastructure-Development-for-Asia-s-Connectivity—Current-Progress-Challenges-and-Ways-Ahead.mp4

    Thanks again for your posting, time and effort.

  16. Trevor

    Don’t mind me… brain freeze….just saw Scott’s comment above which has solved all issues. Thanks.

  17. Pete Roser

    Sometimes a video file (mp4, flv, etc) does not show up in the Activity window.

    After following originals steps, do this:

    Hold down CONTROL button and mouse click the middle of the player, near but not on the play triangle. Choose “View Frame Source”.

    Look through the resulting window of code and find the url (which likely ends in .mp4). The url will have unnecessary slashes in it. Remove those so you have a clean workable url (no spaces, no reverse slashes) and copy paste into Downloads window.

    Thanks for the original tip, TJ. Very helpful.

  18. Henrik

    TJ – thank you SO MUCH for this tutorial!

    Pete Roser – your tip was critical for me as it seems Brightcove has changed how they embed. TJ should consider adding your tip to this tutorial.

  19. Tommy

    Many, many thanks. Using your tutorial combined with Pete’s comment has worked like a charm for me.

  20. Kevin Bacon

    You don’t have to completely uninstall Flash. By simply disabling plugins you disable Flash. To do this in Safari open Safari preferences, click the Security pane, and uncheck Enable Plugins. I’ve successfully downloaded 3 Brightcove videos this way.

  21. Kevin Bacon

    Sorry, I forgot to mention one more little tip. When you find the video in the activity window, simply hold down option and double click on it and Safari will download the file for you instead of opening it. Also it may be hard to find in the activity window because the the name will usually be too long and be truncated in the window. Just look for an item in the list that doesn’t have a size listed for it. It’ll probably be the video and there won’t be a size listed because it’s currently loading.

  22. Tom Callahan

    For Windows at least, even easier than uninstalling/reinstalling Flash you can just go into Safari’s Preferences, under Security, and uncheck “Enable Plugins”. This trick works fine, then you can just re-enable plugins. I’d assume it works on Mac too.

    Thanks for the post, saved me a major headache.

  23. TJ Kelly

    Tommy, Kevin, and Tom: thank you so much for your comments. I will (someday) update the how-to based on the latest feedback. Glad it’s still proving useful!

  24. SF

    My problem is as follows:

    I am running Safari on Windows XP. I have disabled flash but I do not see the MP4 in the Activity window.

    I know that this Brightcove video has an HTML5 fallback because it plays on my iPad and iPhone.

    Thoughts?

  25. TJ Kelly

    DG: It looks like that video isn’t using Brightcove’s player. I haven’t tested any other player, sorry!

    Joe: Have you tried viewing the video on a mobile device?

    SF: I haven’t tried this on Windows. Some commenters above may have some advice for you.

    To all: Brightcove has updated their methods since I wrote this 18 months ago. Most of what I wrote still applies, but slightly modified. I’ll do my best to stay current on the matter.

  26. TheAdamJanes

    I disabled Flash in Safari on my W7 machine. I get the “We’re sorry…” from Flash when the page loads with the video I want.

    Then I switch Safari’s User-Agent to iPhone (also tried iPad and iPod). This gives me the HTML5 page of which I copy the URL and place into FF… Page loads, but I cannot download the video with FF add-on “DownloadHelper”….any thoughts?

  27. Cj

    Hey, I know this is a couple months old, but I tried using this method to download a video and it seems the Activity window is gone from Safari! Is there another way to do it?

  28. TJ Kelly

    Hi KC, thanks for your comment. No, I don’t know of any other way to download that (or other) video without a fall-back. I’m sure there must be a way, but I haven’t looked around very hard for it. Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  29. Emmett

    A much easier way is to use one of the Safari extensions mentioned in the page by Gruber linked to in the article. The extension (not the plugin) is called ClickToPlugin and basically replaces all flash content with a placeholder, which you can then click on to play normally or use HTML5 instead if there is that option. Here’s the link to the extension. http://hoyois.github.com/safariextensions/clicktoplugin/. What makes it so easy is the “download video” option in the shortcut menu you get when playing a brightcove video (or any other video for that matter. Just right click on the placeholder and click ‘download video’. No need to mess around with browsers or anything!

  30. Geoff Chatham

    I figured out a faster way to disable flash. Go into Safari. Open up ‘Preferences’ -> ‘Security’ and untick “Enable Plugins”. Done. Flash is now disabled.

  31. Giant Robot

    None of the Brightcove tricks (I’ve tried them all) has worked for me on the morning and afternoon video updates on autonews.com.

    On daily news summaries like this, where I’d like to save and review the videos for subsequent study, I don’t understand why all the secret hoopla. If you can give me an idea of how to defeat this needless Fort Knox-ing of innocuous content like this, I’d be appreciative.

    I’m on Mac 10.7.5 using FF 19.0.

    Here’s a typical link to a video: http://www.autonews.com/article/20130305/VIDEO/303059870/first-shift-corvette-convertible-debuts&cciid=email-autonews-firstshift#axzz2MgK8VWMC

  32. Ally

    Great tip. Does brightcove or the video account holder get alerted that you’re downloading a video with the above technique? Just Curious.

  33. steve88

    I found this code in the Brightcove player script on one site which showed that “android” user agent would allow mp4 playback.

    return{majorVersion:majorVersion,majorRevision:majorRevision,minorRevision:minorRevision};};brightcove.checkHtmlSupport=function(){var v=brightcove.createElement(‘video’);var videoSupport=true;if(!brightcove.userAgent.match(new RegExp(“android”,”i”))){videoSupport=!!(v.canPlayType&&v.canPlayType(‘video/mp4; codecs=”avc1.42E01E, mp4a.40.2″‘).replace(/no/,”));}

    It worked.

  34. bYron

    If you have a Brightcove account and like me you just wanted to link to your mp4 on Brightcove here’s how:
    Login in to Brightcove Video Cloud.
    Goto Media (top nav)
    Select a video and click Edit in the bottom nav under the video filenames
    In Edit Video popup select Video Files in the popup’s nav.
    Choose the MP4 in the renditions list and on the right you’ll see Rendition URL with a ‘Copy Link’ link.

    What a pain it was to find this. Ugh.

  35. Ronen Gil

    Thank you for this post. On Safari 7.0 on OS X 10,9 , disabling Flash player, any other way then removing the files didn’t help me, but the last part was unnecessary since one loaded with an iOS user agent, safari can download the .mp4 video from the context menu of the Brightcove frame. Just FYI…

  36. Chris Smithson

    Do you know if this would for for this website? I know you can get the link to individually embedded videos, but I am not sure how to use this method to make it work. It seems to be the Brightcove player, but I’m not seeing any “mp4″ in the Activity.

    http://dci.thefannetwork.org/

  37. TJ Kelly

    As a huge DCI fan and Fan Network subscriber myself, I’m curious about how this worked out for you, using Click2Plugin. Fill us in?

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