By Yvonne Ng
Although activists have been live streaming from mobile devices for at least five years, more of them than ever, around the world, are turning to live video broadcasts to expose and prevent human rights abuses in real-time. Facebook Live and Periscope are among two of the more popular services being used. As an archivist, I often get asked about the best way to download and save these live broadcasts. Here are four basic ways to save Facebook Live and Periscope videos, each with their own advantages and drawbacks:
1. If you’re the broadcaster, save on your broadcasting device.
Facebook and Periscope enable broadcasters to save their broadcasts locally on the recording device. Periscope, for example, has a setting to “Auto Save to Camera Roll,” and an option to “Save to Camera Roll” after each broadcast ends. Facebook also allows users to save their live videos to the phone’s camera roll after a broadcast.
If you have the space on your device, it’s a good idea to save your original videos to your camera roll or gallery. The sizes of your files will vary, but they will likely be higher quality than the videos you’ve broadcasted and uploaded. Just be aware that with this method you are only saving the video, and not any of the descriptions or comments that are posted with it (try option #4 below for that).
But what if you don’t want to save to your device for safety reasons, or if you are not the broadcaster? The next three options are relevant to both broadcasters and viewers.
2. Rely on Facebook or Periscope to save the video on their platform.
This method requires the least amount of effort — you simply rely on Facebook or Periscope to save the video. When a Facebook Live broadcast ends, the video is automatically published to the broadcaster’s Page or profile. Similarly, as of May 2016, Periscope also saves broadcasts by default to the broadcaster’s account.
— Periscope (@PeriscopeCo) May 25, 2016
The advantage of this method is that it is automatic and does not require anyone to do anything. Having the recording available after the broadcast is over also gives you (or your allies) more time to capture/ download the video (see the next two methods below).
The downsides are that the published video is usually lower quality than the original, and the broadcaster and/or the service provider can remove the video at any time, without notice, so you never know when the video will disappear indeterminately or forever. If you want to ensure you have the video, it is best to download your own copy for safe keeping.
3. Use Video Vault or Youtube-dl to download the video.
You can use services and tools to download Facebook and Periscope videos after they have been broadcast so that you have a copy in case the broadcaster or service provider removes the video later on.
Video Vault is a free service created by Enrique Piraces and RightsLab to make it easier for human rights advocates to download online video, including Facebook and Periscope videos. Simply enter your email address, the URL for the video you want to download, and Video Vault sends you a link to a downloadable package. The interface also gives you easy ways to preview the video and grab thumbnails.
For those who need more flexibility or do not want to use a service, Youtube-dl is powerful free and open-source tool for downloading online video. It provides the user with a lot of options, but requires the user to use a command-line interface, which not everyone may be comfortable with.
One downside of both these download methods is that you have to wait until the video is published, and hope that the broadcaster or service provider doesn’t delete the video before you’ve downloaded it. The downloadable videos are also fairly low quality, and there does not appear to be a way to download the descriptions and comments from Facebook and Periscope using Video Vault or youtube-dl (please comment below if I’m mistaken!).
4. Use WebRecorder.io to create a web archive (WARC) file.
Webrecorder (still in beta) is an open-source web archiving platform and service developed by the non-profit organization Rhizome, designed to capture dynamically generated content on the web. Webrecorder captures the content of a site while a user is interacting with it, and saves the content to a downloadable WARC file (WARC is the international standard format for web archives).
Webrecorder can be used to capture live or saved broadcasts, and like Video Vault, the interface for the service is easy for anyone to use. By capturing the URL dynamically, the user can capture the look and interactivity of the broadcast, including the social media context that unfolded around it. Again, however, the quality of the video captured is fairly low.
No matter what method you use, remember that saving and downloading your live video is just the first step to preserving it! For more on what to do next, check out our Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video.