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.
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Now, onto the task at hand…
- Safari 4+ WITHOUT Flash Player installed (how to temporarily remove Flash Player from Safari)
- Firefox or any other browser
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.