How can I disable audio and video merging in youtube-dl? In other words, how do I force youtube-dl to download a single incrementally playable video?

The problem with separate audio and video files is that you don't have any video to watch until both video and audio are fully downloaded and merged. Without merging, one can start watching a video even if it was put for downloading only seconds ago.

  • This is also important for keeping the audio separate from the video files for audio players that don't play video. Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 21:47

2 Answers 2


A way to keep the separately downloaded audio and video files (which will be received by default since April 2015 and version 2015.04.26) is provided through the -k, --keep-video option, like

youtube-dl -k https://...your_url

However, this will still merge the files in the end leaving you with 3 files.

If you want to avoid the merging and only want to obtain the audio and video file you can use

youtube-dl -f bestvideo,bestaudio -o '%(title)s-%(format_id)s.%(ext)s' https://...your_url

as described in Download audio and video without merging / muxing.


Merging is a result of chosen format of a video download. Format options are explained on the official README.

In order to avoid merging one should use the "best" format. For example like this:

youtube-dl -f best https://...your_url

Or, if you want to set maximum width/height along the way:

youtube-dl -f 'best[width<=1920,height<=1080]' https://...your_url
  • In my tests , using -f best downloads both best video and best audio and merging is performed. If you use -f 134 where 134 is a specific video only format i can download only video. To see all available formats for a particular video use youtube-dl -F url and select the "video only" format that you prefer. Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 23:25

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