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The Only Tool You Need to Preserve Video from Virtually Any Online Source

Tutorial on how to install and use Youtube-dl to download audiovisual content from Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and thousands of other supported sites

Tools needed: Windows or MacOS, package manager software (Homebrew or chocolatey/choco), youtube-dl (software), ffmpeg (software)

Skill Level: Intermediate 

Despite the immense value of open source content for documenting human rights abuses, this content is increasingly threatened with erasure. Under pressure to remove “extremist” and other sensitive content, third-party platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter sometimes delete video evidence. For this reason, it is essential that open source researchers preserve the materials that they collect during their investigations by downloading it from the digital platform where it was originally published and storing it in a secure archive.

youtube-dl is an all-purpose tool to download nearly any piece of audiovisual content that you come across online, not just YouTube as the name seems to denote. Being a command-line program, it can seem intimidating, but with a small time investment, anyone can learn how to use it. This guide will show you how to install and use this powerful tool, ensuring that your investigative work and existing documentation will not be undone by content removal.

Install and use youtube-dl for Mac OS (Windows instructions are below)

Step 1: Install Homebrew –  a package manager which will simplify installing software like youtube-dl 

  • Find and open the Terminal app (Finder > Go > Utilities > Terminal)
  • Go to the Homebrew site and copy the command under ‘Install Homebrew’.
  • Paste the command into Terminal and press ‘Return’
  • The installer will download Homebrew and install it for you

Step 2: Use Homebrew to install youtube-dl

  • In Terminal, enter the following command line and press ‘Return’

brew install youtube-dl

Step 3: Install ffmpeg – for some operations youtube-dl needs another software called ffmpeg which can also be installed using Homebrew

  • In Terminal, enter the following command line and press ‘Return’

brew install youtube-dl ffmpeg

Step 4: Use youtube-dl to download videos you want to preserve

  • Copy the URL to the video that you intend to download 

Tip: when copying video links from Twitter, right-click on the video and select ‘Copy Video Address’ instead of copying the URL from the address bar. In Terminal, type youtube-dl {Space} into the command-line followed by the link (see example below)

  • If you have multiple videos that you would like to download, you can enter them into the same command-line using the format youtube-dl <url1> <url2>
  • Youtube-dl downloads the best available quality video and audio by default, however, it is possible to select a specific quality or format within the command-line. Refer to example 6 of this guide.
  • The downloaded file will be stored in your home folder (Finder > Go > Home)

Install and Use youtube-dl for Windows

Step 1: Install chocolatey/choco – a package manager which will simplify installing software like youtube-dl

  • Click Start and type “powershell
  • Right-click Windows Powershell and choose “Run as Administrator
  • Paste the following command into Powershell and press enter.

Set-ExecutionPolicy Bypass -Scope Process -Force; ` iex ((New-Object System.Net.WebClient).DownloadString(‘https://chocolatey.org/install.ps1‘))

  • Answer ‘Yes’ when prompted
  • Close and reopen a PowerShell window to start using choco

Step 2: Install youtube-dl and ffmpeg

  • Open Powershell as an administrator and run the following command

C:\> choco install -y youtube-dl ffmpeg

See demo below:

Via jcutrer.com

Step 3: Use youtube-dl to download videos you want to preserve

  • Copy the URL to the video that you intend to download

Tip: when copying video links from Twitter, right-click on the video and select ‘Copy Video Address’ instead of copying the URL from the address bar

  • Open Powershell and type youtube-dl {Space} into the command-line followed by the link to the video (see example below)
  • If you have multiple videos that you would like to download, you can enter them into the same command-line using the format youtube-dl <url1> <url2>
  • Youtube-dl downloads the best available quality video and audio by default, however, it is possible to select a specific quality or format within the command-line. Refer to example 6 of this guide.
  • The downloaded file(s) will be stored in your home directory

Supported Sites

You can use youtube-dl to download videos from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, Twitch, DailyMotion and many more.

References

Installation Guide: https://jcutrer.com/howto/how-to-install-youtube-dl-the-easy-way 

Tutorial (w/ advance commands to use with youtube-dl): https://www.ostechnix.com/youtube-dl-tutorial-with-examples-for-beginners/ 

Youtube-dl Homepage: https://ytdl-org.github.io/youtube-dl/ 

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