There are lots of tools out there claiming they can stream Youtube video and audio to file. I’ve tried to use many different ones but most seem to fail either at the downloading stage or the playback stage, i.e. they produce unreadable output files. Even worse is when you end up with an FLV file which only seems playable in VLC. I think I’ve found the perfect solution which can stream Youtube to an AVI file (properly, using a standard algorithm and producing a fully legitimate file) which can subsequently be converted into any format at all, be it audio, video or whatever.
The best solution in my opinion is VDownloader. It provides a no-nonsense interface with settings for the use of a proxy, AVI codec, and download directory. It’s freeware of course, with a small encouragement at the bottom of the window to donate. To use it, simply paste the Youtube URL into the URL box and hit download. It first downloads it as a file without extension before converting it to AVI.
A potential alternative is Orbit Downloader with Grab++ which can grab streamed flash off any website. While it will work without fail, you end up with a FLV file which for some reason only VLC media player seems to be able to play and recognise as any sort of legitimate video file, preventing the next step from working. I thus never managed to get VLC to stream anything to a file. Perhaps it uses an outdated / incorrect .flv format.
If you feel the need to convert it from AVI to, say, an audio format like MP3 (some very rare classical recordings only exist on Youtube for some reason, but I’m not sure about the legality of downloading them to local storage), by far the best all-purpose media converter I’ve come across is SUPER. Frankly I find the interface revolting but the functionality is truly wonderful and more than makes up for looks – just take a look at their site to see what features are on offer (the site is also not very pretty…). Again, it’s all free.
To use it, first install then run the program. You’ll be confronted with a hideous UI. Select the top-left drop down menu and select the target format (e.g. mp3). If necessary change the codec (top right drop-down). In the blue ‘Audio’ rounded rectangle set your preferences for the output stream. Drag and drop the AVI you downloaded with VDownloader into the grey file list box near the bottom. Tick the file you want converted and press ‘Encode’. It might take a while (and the window sometimes freezes) but chances are it’ll complete and you’ll have an mp3 waiting in the output folder. The default is C:\Program Files\SUPER\OutPut\
So there you have it – that’s the best way I’ve found to download youtube content and convert it into any format desired. I’ll leave the legality of this for you to decide / work out / research – if you download music from Youtube and it turns out to be illegal, don’t blame me!
Good hunting ;)