When you need to download a local copy of an online video then there are plenty of tools around which will try to help. Freemake Video Downloader, for instance, makes it easy to grab movies from YouTube, Facebook, Google, Vimeo and many other big-name sites.
Other sites make it more difficult to capture their content, of course, but if the regular downloaders can’t help then you can always turn to Any Video Recorder. This is a screen recorder which just captures video as it’s played back, so if you can watch it on your system, then Any Video Recorder should be able to record a copy for you.
Installation was easier than we expected, as the program thankfully doesn’t try to equip your PC with pointless toolbars, or any other kind of unwanted adware. It needs to install a couple of drivers to capture the video, but this caused no problems or issues.
And on first launch Any Video Recorder presented a much simpler interface then we were expecting. A basic console allows you to choose your output folder, video file name, target video frame and bit rate, but that’s about it. The default settings are reasonable, too, so we left everything as it was and moved on to our first recording.
The idea is that you’ll browse to and find the video you’d like to play, then switch back to Any Video Recorder and click “Record”. It’ll ask you to start the video, so you’ll Alt+Tab back to your browser and click Play. And Any Video Recorder then attempts to automatically detect the video player area, drawing a red rectangle around it after a few seconds.
In our tests the automatic detection was generally poor, never getting it completely right. But fortunately the red rectangle can be quickly resized and repositioned with your mouse to match the actual area you’d like to record.
And with that done you’ll need to pause your video, return it to the beginning, click “Rec” on the Any Video Recorder console, before clicking “Play” on the video player. This is a little fiddly, but it’s not difficult, and only takes a few seconds. And when playback has finished, all you have to do is click the Any Video Recorder “Stop” button, at which point the program will save the captured clip to an MP4 file (there are no other format options), before opening an Explorer window at the output folder so you can check the results.
Does this work? On a powerful PC, we found the finished videos were generally very good. Video quality was acceptable, and audio seemed a little quieter than the original, but not enough to be a problem. And we had one or two audio sync issues, but never figured out why – it could have been a problem related to the source material.
You do need to be realistic, though. If you’ve a very basic PC which barely has the power to play HD video, for instance, you’re not going to be able to capture it as well without running into some major playback and image quality issues.
And it’s important to keep in mind that screen recording is far less convenient than other video download methods. A tool like Freemake Video Downloader might grab a 10 minute clip in seconds, while you do other things. But Any Video Recorder will require that you actually wait the full 10 minutes for that clip to be played. And you can’t minimise your player window, or move another window in front of the player, or you’ll disrupt the recording: essentially you should just leave your system alone until the recording has finished.
Any Video Recorder is definitely a tool of last resort, then – you wouldn’t want to use this if a more conventional video downloader is available. But if you have exhausted all other options then the program works well, being adware-free, easy to use, and usually producing a good quality capture of your source material.