How to rip anything: copying YouTube videos

In our how to rip anything series Jenneth Orantia and Mike Le Voi show you how to (legally) copy rip or download virtually any form of media so you can enjoy it permanently.

Content on YouTube isn’t just the silly stuff and a lot of it you might well want to make a copy of: from virtually every music video ever made and instructional videos on how to do pretty much anything to channels of great content by independent video producers like Funny Or Die and CollegeHumor and citizen journalism of world events.
Besides being able to stockpile YouTube clips and play them whenever you want and on whatever device you want (regardless of whether you have an internet connection) the other benefit of downloading videos from YouTube is that you can get around any buffer lags if you’ve got a dodgy internet connection.

Most of the free apps that are available for copying YouTube videos only download the files in the Flash FLV format which is fine if you’re sitting in front of the computer and can play them through your web browser but otherwise it’s not a widely supported format on other video playback devices like smartphones tablets and games consoles.
Rather than install a separate program for copying YouTube clips the easiest way to do it is by installing a browser plug-in. Video DownloadHelper is one such plug-in for Firefox that does just that. Most clips on YouTube are available in FLV and MP4 format – otherwise Video DownloadHelper has a built-in tool that lets you convert the file from FLV to MP4.

Once you’ve installed and enabled the Video DownloadHelper plug-in in Firefox click the arrow button next to the animated Video DownloadHelper icon (next to the URL bar) to see the formats you can download the clip in. There will usually be different quality options like 240p 360p and 480p. Many of the newer clips are available in high definition qualities of 720p and 1080p with the commensurate increase in file size – a typical 1080p music video will be 80-120MB.