Collecting videos is a key part of 9/11 research for some people, and if you're visiting a 9/11-specific site then it's usually not that difficult: right-click on a link, select "Save Target as" and you're done. But what if there is no download link, or perhaps the site creator has gone to strenuous efforts to ensure you can't download the video at all? Then you need to start getting a little more creative. And we have one or two techniques that just might help.
1. Get equipped
There are several useful programs you can use to help with your downloads. We'd recommend Net Transport ( www.xi-soft.com ), for instance, which is a file manager with support for regular web downloads (http, https), FTP, BitTorrent, and several streaming video protocols (MMS, RTSP, PNM). It's a shareware package, but you can use the trial version without it timing out.
Get hold of a copy of SDP, too ( http://sdp.ppona.com ). This is over four years old, but still good at handling Microsoft's MMS streaming protocol, and occasionally gets files that Net Transport cannot. It's also open source, so there's nothing to pay, no ads or spyware involved.
2. Identify the player
You've visited a page, and found a video you'd like for yourself. Obviously the first approach is to look for a download link, either text or perhaps graphical, in a frame from the video. If you find that, right-click it and select "Save link as" or "Save target as", depending on your browser.
When there is no download link, we’d recommend you start by identifying the video player used on this particular page. One simple approach is to right-click the video while it's playing, then look at the context menu: typically you'll see "About Macromedia Flash Player" for a Flash applet, "About QuickTime Plug In" if it's a QuickTime video, or usually just "About" for Windows Media Player (choose the About option to find out more).
If the page has annoyingly disabled the right-click option, then try restoring it by pasting the following line into the address bar, and pressing [Enter]:
Once you’ve figured out which player is being used, jump to the appropriate section for QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or Flash movies.
3. Saving QuickTime movies
Once a QuickTime .mov file has been fully downloaded by the player, it might be possible to save a copy to a folder of your own choice. Wait for the video to play through, then right-click the player, and look for the option "Save as QuickTime Movie". If it's not greyed out, then select it, and you should be able to save a copy to the folder of your choice.
Except, well, sometimes you can't. Depending on how the remote site is set up, you may occasionally find that QuickTime saves a tiny file, just a few bytes, instead of the whole video. This usually means the file contains the URL of the video, rather than the video itself, so drag and drop it into Notepad to see for yourself. If you find the true URL pointing to the .MOV QuickTime file here, then paste it into Net Transport (or the download manager of your choice) to grab a copy.
Of course if "Save as QuickTime Movie" was greyed out initially then you'll never get that far. In this case you have to try and find its URL for yourself: try viewing the page source (click View > Source in Internet Explorer) and searching for .MOV for clues. Again, if you locate the URL then paste it into Net Transport to grab a copy.
Even this doesn't work? Try playing the video right through until the end, and take a look in your browser cache folder (click Tools > Internet Options > General > Settings in Internet Explorer, then check the "Current Location" to see where this is).
Browse to this folder, typically C:\Documents and Settings\[UserName]\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files, then click the Last Modified column header so the latest files float to the top (or sort by Size, to view the largest files first). If the video has been cached then it should appear, and you can drag and drop it to your folder of choice.
4. Saving Microsoft Streaming video
Right-click on the Windows Media Player console, then click Properties to see where the video is located. Try pasting it into Net Transport to see if you can download the file separately. If that doesn't work, and the URL uses a streaming protocol (it begins with mms:// instead of http://, for instance), then try SDP instead.
If you're in luck, then that'll be it. No more work to do. But unfortunately life is often a little more awkward. You might find the right-click option doesn't work, for instance. As we suggested before, try pasting this into the browser address bar, then pressing [Enter]
Other sites disguise the player by appearing to place an image file in front of it. Visit http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5485376 and click Launch, for instance, then right-click the video and select Properties.
You'll see the Address entry is given as " http://img.video.msn.com/s/us/i/vlbg_msnbc.gif ", which is clearly a GIF image, and not the video at all.
So what to do now? You could try right-clicking an empty part of the window and selecting "View source", on the grounds that the video URL has to be there somewhere. But we wouldn't recommend it: the code isn't exactly easy to read, even if you're an expert.
There's a better idea. First close the video window, then clear your Internet cache (Tools > Internet Options > Delete Files). Now relaunch the video, click Pause once it's started to play, and navigate to your browser cache folder (click Tools > Internet Options > General > Settings in Internet Explorer, then check the "Current Location" to see where this is).
Once in the Temporary Internet Files folder, click the Last Accessed column header so the latest files are displayed at the top. (There is no "Last Accessed" column? Right-click the Name column heading and select "Last Accessed".)
Now look down the Type column, until you see "Windows Media Audio/Video Playlist". This is the file created by that web page, which holds the video URL. Drag and drop that file into a copy of Notepad and you'll see the following section, making the video available in several different protocols.
Whether the playlist looks like this, or something simpler, the principle is exactly the same: locate the video URL (Net Transport should handle the first and last of these), paste it into your download tool, and let the program grab a copy for you.
5. Saving Flash video
Video embedded in a Flash applet is tricky to extract, and so we’ll ignore that for now. Fortunately the most useful sites (YouTube, Google Video) play movies in Flash Video (.FLV) format, and that’s much easier to handle.
Let’s assume you came across the WTC collapse footage at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hun-UzHNxO0 and wanted to save a copy, for instance. You should head off immediately to the Video Downloader at http://javimoya.com/blog/youtube_en.php, paste the youtube URL into the address box, then click Download. After a pause, the site displays a Download Link button. Right-click this, select Save Target As (or Save Link As), and save it to your hard drive. Finally, rename the file to have an FLV extension, if it doesn’t have one already.
You’ve now got your movie file, but FLV isn’t well supported on the desktop, so it’s probably not much use. One way around this is to install an FLV player (see www.martijndevisser.com/blog/article/flv-player-updated), so at least you can double-click the file and see what it contains, but this isn’t much use if you want to share it with others.
A more flexible solution, then, is to convert it to a more common format like AVI. Install a freeware conversion tool like Super (www.erightsoft.net/SUPERsnap1.html), which looks something like this:
Select an “Output container”, top-left -- that is, an output format (pick AVI if you’re unsure what to choose). Accept the remaining default options for now, unless you’ve good reason to do otherwise, then drag and drop the FLV file onto the “Drop a valid multimedia file here” prompt. Finally, click Encode, and let the program go to work, eventually leaving a converted file in the same folder as the source (movie.flv will become movie.flv.avi, say).
Although this generally works well, any video encoding always results in some loss of quality. If the converted file is unacceptably poor, when compared to the FLV version, try increasing the Bitrate, or choosing an alternative codec. Also make sure that “Hi quality” is checked, turn Video Scale Size off (select “No Change”), and you should get the best conversion possible.