Download Flash Video from Any Website

flv-logoDo you want to download a flash video? Are you having trouble finding a good program or plugin to rip flash videos? Do you want to know how to download flash video from any website? You’ve come to the right place.

Update: Be sure to check out my new article on how to download video from YouTube with Google Chrome.

There are lots of programs and browser plugins that help you to download flash videos from websites. The problem is that they all seem to only allow you to do it from select sites. I found a relatively simple way to do it with Firefox and Firebug.

Firebug is a great Firefox plugin for website development and debugging. I don’t know how I would ever get along without it. Don’t bother looking for the “flash video download” feature in Firebug, because it does not exist. You’ll have to do a little bit of manual work to do it, but using Firebug to download flash video from any website is relatively easy.

If you don’t have Firefox, download it. Then download Firebug. Next, open up Firefox and browse to the page with the flash video you want to download. Click on the little Firebug icon in the browser status bar at the bottom of the Firefox window.

Firebug Icon in Status Bar

Click on the Net tab in Firebug and then select Enabled.

Enable Net Tab in Firebug

If the video fully loaded into the page when you last opened it, it is likely the entire movie is in your browser’s cache.  That means that when we monitor the net connection, we won’t see it load the video.  You will need to go and clear you’re browser’s cache.  If you’re using Firefox 3.5 on Windows, click Tools > Clear Recent History.  Click the Details button and make sure the Cache checkbox is selected.  Then press Clear Now.

Cache Clearing Options

Now you’re ready to find the location of the flash file.  Click the refresh button in Firefox and allow the page to reload.  The Firebug Net panel will display all of the HTTP requests being made along with statistics for each request as the page loads.  There are a few things you can look for to identify the video file:

  • .FLV file extension on the file being loaded
  • Very large file size
  • Very long gray bar on the load time

Here is an example of what the Net panel looks like for a video page on The Onion:

Ways to Find the FLV File

Once you’ve identified which one of the requests is for the video file, right-click on it and then left click on Open in New Tab.

Saving the Flash Video

There’s another nifty trick you can you can use if the video has not fully loaded in the player. First, click the clear button in the Firebug panel to remove all the requests. Then click on the player video navigation bar (if there is one) to fast forward to somewhere else within the video.

This will generate a new request for the video file, which in turn adds just a single line for the video file in the Firebug panel. This makes it very easy to find the video file. You’ll then want to click back at the start of the video file, to make sure you get the link to download the entire file. Select the last file request, otherwise, you will end up downloading it from the point to which you fast forwarded.

When the new tab opens, Firefox will ask you what to do with it. Just save the file somewhere where you will remember you put it.  That’s all there is to downloading flash video with Firefox and Firebug!

Of course this begs the question, “What do I do with the movie now that I’ve downloaded it?” Well, if you want to watch it, you’ll need a player that can read it. I suggest you download the VLC player. VLC is a great open-source multi-platform video player (available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux).

I really like it because it includes all the codecs you will probably ever need for playing videos, so there’s no having to constantly add codecs to it all the time. You can even use it to convert videos for your iPod, although I tried this some time ago with limited success (it may work better with the latest version).

About GeekLad

Geeklad is a technology enthusiast and programming hobbyist. Occasionally he will put together useful little bits of code (be it JavaScript or PHP) and share them with the world. He also enjoys creating and sharing howtos, describing how to do the things people want to do with their computers.
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  • nat stone

    this worked like a charm…thank you!!!

  • NewFaceKilla

    Brief, thorough, and clean.