Download YouTube Videos as MP4 Files

Download YouTube Videos as MP4 Files.

The above is the new official way from Google/YouTube. Its in test mode now but accessible by following those instructions.

If you use Firefox, there are also many plug-ins available that can enable you to download .FLV and .MP4 video files from YouTube.

Recently, YouTube’s HD videos are downloadable as MP4 video files but only in non-HD modes suitable for use on an iPod. If you want the HD versions, you need to download the .FLV file and then probably convert to MP4.

To download the FLV files, use Download Helper. A type YouTube video will show several alternative downloads for the currently playing video.

One blogger, Rishabh Singla, attempted to determine what the different types mean and came up with the following table:

  1. Basic / Normal: FLV; 718 KB; 1x; Low
  2. HQ18: MP4; 1.4 MB; 2x; Medium
  3. HQ22: MP4; 4.5 MB; 6.4x; Very high
  4. HQ35: FLV; 2.7 MB; 3.9x; High
  5. HQ37: Container?; Size?; Factor?; Super

However, since the new Download feature has been added to YouTube, I do not believe that HQ44 is consistently an HD “very high” quality video, as shown. Some times it is, but sometimes, the FLV file option is much better.

When the FLV file is better, I download the FLV and either play it with VLC – or, I convert it to MP4. If you are using Windows, look for the free FLV to Zune file converter. If you play with the various options, you can do a very nice conversion to 1280×720 MP4 format. (I need to update this post later – I can not seem to find which FLV to Zune converter I have and where I got it from. Meanwhile, here is a different free converter – I have not tested.)

The “Lip Dub” video phenomena about to sweep YouTube

Back in July of 2008, students at Hochschule Furtwangen University created a video they called “University LipDub #1“. Go watch it – its fun! Created as a single long moving camera shot, the video features numerous students collectively lip synching to a piece of music.

They created a web site, to encourage other campuses to create similar videos – they even included some tips on how to make your own. And they encouraged other universities to create their own. (They were not the first with this idea – for example, a group of Microsoft employees made their own lip dub back in December 2007. The founder of Vimeo first suggested the idea and coined the term “lip dub”.)

The idea for these may have originated, in part, from the incredible Russian Ark – the only feature film produced with a single take. Over 2,000 actors and 3 live orchestras – 300 years of Russian history come to life in this spectacular motion pictured filmed in a single day in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. (I was mesmerized by the spectacle of this amazing movie. This is a six star movie.)

It took until the 2nd half of 2009 for the lip dub phenomena to begin to take off. We are in only the earliest stage of this – these videos are likely to sweep the online world within the next few months.

YouTube now provides automatic subtitles, captions

Video News » Blog Archive » YouTube Adds Automatic Subtitles.

The new feature can automatically generate on-screen captions, which is very useful and valuable to those who are hearing impaired. The system can even translate to other languages.

As the narrator in the linked video notes,  “sometimes the automatic captions are pretty good” 🙂

Seriously – this is a fantastic new feature. Good job, YouTube!

Why would I want to use 24p mode on my camera?

Today, many video cameras provide a “24p” mode for recording video at 24 frames per second.

The default or normal mode of most video cameras is “60i” which is 60 half frames per second. Many cameras also now feature a “30p” mode or 30 frames per second.

Why all these choices?

See below – 60i is an old technology that we still use for historical reasons.

If you are making your video for online distribution, you definitely want to choose 30p or 24p mode. These record in “progressive” (like a digital still camera rather than the funky interlaced 60i mode) which is also compatible with computer displays.

Consequently, if you want to output to the web or to a computer, you will want to use 30p or 24p “progressive” modes to avoid the “interlace jagged edges” of 60i. (It is possible to de-interlace video too – but that is for another day.)

So why 24p?

Some people like that it looks like 24 fps film. I like it for a much different reason: better low light performance and better compressibility for the online world.

When you shoot at 60i, you’ll typically use a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second. When you shoot at 30p, you’ll likely use either 1/60th or 1/30th of a second.

At 24p, you’ll likely use either 1/48th or 1/24th of a second.

1/24th of a second lets in 20% more light than 1/30th of a second and more than twice as much light as 1/60th of a second.

Consequently, 24p has some what better low light performance – that is, the camera will add less video amplification, which adds a bit of noise or graininess to the images. Shooting in 24p means cleaner, less grainy images – compared to higher shutter speeds.

Another advantage is editing and compressing for the web.  A video clip recorded at 24p has 20% fewer frames than one recorded at 30p – so it takes less time. And there are situations where I’ve recorded a live event that I turn around and post online as fast as possible.

Another issue is compression. For a given video streaming data rate, say 1 Mbps, 24 fps will will compress a bit better than 30 fps. But do realize it is not a straight forward “definitely better” as MPEG4 compression depends heavily on the nature of the content of the frame.

Editing 24p

Unfortunately, this may require an advanced or professional editing package. I can’t help you there very much, but I did write some info about doing this on a Mac. (I also do some editing on Windows but have not tried this there.) Some additional information is also here.

Recording direct to disk from a Firewire equipped camcorder

There are mini-disk products that you can connect directly to your Firewire equipped camcorder to record direct to disk. But then tend to range in price from about $600 to $1800 depending on used vs new, capacity and vendor.

An alternative is to record direct to your notebook computer.

If you have a Macbook or Macbook Pro, a very easy way to record direct to disk is to connect the Firewire output of your camcorder to the notebook computer and then run iMovie and import from the camera.

The camera should be in its “camera” mode but does not need to be recording to tape. Whatever the camera sees will be recorded direct to disk.

This works with my Canon HV30 in HD mode and I’ve done it using both iMovie 8 and the older iMovie HD (version 6) connected to a Macbook.

On Windows, there are several software utilities available that will enable you to do the same thing. While I am typing this on a Windows desktop, I do not have a Windows notebook on which to test this out!

The main advantage to doing this is to overcome the occasional tape dropout problem that tends to plague HDV format.By recording direct to your notebook computer disk, who cares about tape dropouts! (Caution – you may want to use a longer Firewire cable to keep the notebook away from your camera mic, especially if the fan kicks on to keep the CPU cool. Not all cameras have sufficient drive signal to use a longer cable, though. So be sure to test out your configuration first!)

On SD recordings, a video dropout typically lost a single 1/30th of a second frame. If you even noticed, you could always copy an adjacent frame and no one would notice.

With HDV you can lose up to 1/2 second per dropout – and I guarantee, everyone will notice!

Two other steps to avoiding dropouts are to clean your video heads in the camera every 5 to 10 hours of recording – I use a Canon cleaning tape for about 10 seconds but I’m told most any cleaning tape is fine. The other important step is tape quality – I used to use TDK tape all the time on my SD camera with excellent results – but the SD tapes always had dropouts when recording HDV on standard TDK tape.

I switched to Panasonic AMQ (HDVM63AMQ) tapes and have now recorded probably 75 hours with excellent results on that tape. I buy mine from They have consistently quick order fulfillment and decent prices. If you are used to buying standard miniDV tapes at the local discount store  you’ll find that high quality tapes for HDV are more expensive – currently $5.25 in a minimum order of 10 units.

There are other brands that cost both more or less than these but I’m sticking with what has worked well for me. Hopefully this note provides some idea for you to try if you are plagued by video dropouts!