Select Page
(Last Updated On: March 30, 2015)

Our last tech tip taught you how to get your computer to take a snapshot of your display screen. This week, I’ll be offering you a two-part tech tip on how to rip video clips into files that you can store on your computer’s hard drive and/or drop into a slideshow presentation. Tomorrow, I’ll shed some light on the process of ripping a clip from a DVD. Today, I’ll focus on ripping clips from video-hosting sites like YouTube or Vimeo.


Why Download Video Clips? 

Video-hosting services are web-based platforms which allow users to upload, distribute, and watch video content. YouTube is currently the largest and perhaps most iconic video-hosting site. However, there are others out there with each serving their own “niche” of content and user. I’ve listed a few other sites at the bottom of this post.

You might have already discovered that these video-hosting sites can serve as a wonderful academic reseource. Whether you’re teaching a language or science course, at least some of you must have encountered a clip online that you wanted to use as a conversation starter among your students or as a way to demonstrate an argument from an assigned reading or lecture point. Many of you probably pre-loaded the clip and then played it in class directly from the site. If you were using YouTube, your students likely sat through a bunch of pre-roll advertisements. Or, perhaps at some point you wanted to use a clip for a conference presentation. Again, you might have loaded the page before you walked into your panel and just hoped to high heaven that the conference hotel’s spotty Wi-Fi signal didn’t crap out on you at the wrong moment.

This is why I recommend downloading and saving your clips to your computer. You don’t have to be dependent upon an Internet connection to access your content, and your audience doesn’t have to sit through annoying ads. Plus, you never know when a clip will get taken down because of copyright infringement (if it was not the user’s original work) or for some other reason. You can almost think of yourselves as creating your own archive or curated set of research/teaching materials.

I’m going to provide you with a free and easy way to download clips from a video-hosting site which should work interchangeably for Mac (OS X) and PC (Windows)


Ripping Online Video Clips Using a Web-Based Application

There are many web-based applications out there that will allow you to rip clips from YouTube. These days, KeepVid and ClipConverter seem to be the favorites (though this changes every couple of years). Both work in similar ways. However, ClipConverter has a much cleaner interface and will also allow you to download just a selected portion of a video clip. So I would recommend going with this option. Also, just for some peace of mind, I made sure that ClipConverter has not been associated with any malware or viruses, and Google has approved it for safe browsing. However, I WOULD NOT use the downloadable desktop version as it has been known to sneak adware onto your computer. Stick to the web-hosted application. Here are step-by-step instructions for how to use ClipConverter:

1. First, go to When you arrive on ClipConverter’s home page, you will see a blank field that says, “Enter the link of the video you want to download…” I circled it in red:

Clip Converter Home Page

2. Next, you’ll want to do exactly what it says: paste the web address of the video you’d like to download into that field. Then, click “continue.”

3. You will then be directed to a page that asks you to choose the resolution and file format of your video. It is just asking you how you’d like your video to be packaged and delivered to you. What image quality do you want? How do you want your video to be compressed? First, you’ll need to select your resolution:

Clip Converter 2

You’ll notice that have several options: 720p, 480p, 360p, etc. I recommend going with the highest possible resolution offered. Remember, the higher the number behind the “p,” the higher the resolution. So, in this case, you would select 720p. FYI, if you see either 720p or 1080p as options, it means your video is available in high definition quality. I would grab a video in HD any chance you get. There are many reasons for why, but ultimately why not have the best looking version of your video? Plus, it will really make a difference when you play a clip for your class in “full screen mode.” You really start to notice more pixelation as you go down in resolution. Do also note the difference in file size between 720p and 480p. For instance, the sample video I use for these instruction is 21MB at 720p versus 6MB at 480p. As you collect more video clips, they will take up more space on your computer. I like to keep all of mine saved on an external hard drive where I keep all of my PDFs scans of pics and articles as well as images that I refer to often in class.

4. Next, you’ll need to select your file format. On the same webpage, you’ll notice two sets of options (circled in red above) for file formats. On the left side, you’ll see a few audio format options. You should only select one of these if you intend to download just the audio tracks from a selected video clip. This might be helpful if, say, you want an MP3 of a song and you can only find the music video on YouTube. You can rip the audio track and then play it in iTunes or other media player.  

Most likely, you’re going to want your video clip with its original audio, so you should direct your attention to the video format options on the right side. There, you can choose between MP4, 3GP, AVI, and MOV. I don’t have time to go into the differences between all of these. For now, I would suggest going with MP4 as it has become the preferred format for a lot of different platforms. Simply click on “MP4.”

4. Finally, you’ll want to select your start/end times. After you’ve clicked on the video format you want (i.e. MP4), a new set of options will appear:

Clip Converter 3

If you want the entire clip, simply leave “Start of Video” to the “End of Video” checked (these are the default options). If you un-check either of these options, a new box with time code will appear. You can then manually enter your start and end times for the section of the video clip you want:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.15.41 AM

Once you’ve got your resolution, format, and start/end points set, you can go ahead and click “Start!”

4. Name & Save Your Video. The final step of the process will be to name, save, and select the destination of your video. Go ahead and rename the video to something that will help keep your files organized. You may want to refer back to Ryan Brubacher’s great Tech Tip on file naming from several weeks back. And, don’t forget to save your video in a place that you’ll remember.

And that’s about it! That wasn’t so bad, right?

* Note: You may occasionally run into an issue downloading a clip. There could be any number of reasons for why this might happen. In these instances, you can try downloading it using different applications, but sometimes you might just be out of luck. Therefore, it’s important to try downloading your video as soon as you know you want it so that you can make alternate plans if you run into tech issues.


Beyond YouTube

Like I mentioned earlier, YouTube isn’t the only video-hosting site even if it might be the most recognizable. For instance, Vimeo tends to be the preferred platform for amateur and professional videographers and artists, and thus might be the place to go if you’re searching for independent projects or, say, a beautiful piece of stock footage. Internet Archive, on the other hand, serves as a digital library and hosts a breadth of archival materials, including audio and video recordings. Its moving image archive contains content uploaded by users ranging from full-length films to news recordings. It is truly a great resource and I would highly recommend letting yourself get lost in its collection some time.

There are also sites housed within academic institutions like CriticalCommons, which was designed specifically by and for educators of media literacy. Any user can upload content, but then must “transform” it by adding commentary before other users can see it. The project was launched by professors and designers in the Division of Media Arts and Practice at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts as a way to make commercially owned media available to educators without infringing upon copyright policies. All clips hosted on CriticalCommons are protected under Fair Use laws. CriticalMediaProject, another projected based out of USC, hosts clips that specifically engage with media and identity politics. It’s still in its development phase, but definitely worth checking out.


That’s all for today. I hope you found this tech tip useful. I’ll return tomorrow with an easy guide for how to rip clips from a DVD. Have a great day!