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.

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Now, onto the task at hand…

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.


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.