TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Easily capture video from any VGA or DVI device

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Media

Easily capture video from any VGA or DVI device

Discover how to grab raw video frames and stream them to your preferred capture utility

by Joe Froehlich

How did you do that?

At one point or another, you've most certainly used the infamous [Command] [Shift] [4] key sequence to take a screen shot of an application window or a dialog box that reports a particular error. And, if you prepare training or technical documentation on a regular basis, you've probably graduated to a more sophisticated screen capture utility like Ambrosia Software's SnapzPro X.

But, how do you capture the screen that appears when you launch the Mac OS X Startup Manager, shown in Figure 1, for example? Furthermore, what if you need to record a movie of the entire boot sequence for troubleshooting or training purposes?

Figure 1: Mac OS X Startup Manager

You can't use the tools we've just described because the operating system isn't loaded yet and there's no way to launch a capture utility. In this article, we'll show you how to capture not only static images like Startup Manager, but entire video streams from any VESA-compatible VGA or DVI source, including industrial, scientific, and forensics equipment.

Discover the magic

To acquire images and data streams like those we're discussing here, you typically need to use a frame grabber that captures the raw data generated at the output of a VGA or DVI source, regardless of whether the source is a computer or some other type of equipment. Most frame grabbers are available only as internal PCI expansion cards. Unfortunately, this limits the type of equipment you can use to capture source content. On the other hand, Epiphan Systems, Inc. provides an external USB solution, obviating the need to rely on internal expansion cards for this task and providing convenient portability at the same time.

Epiphan's product family, appropriately named VGA2USB, includes several distinct devices, including the LR, HR, and Pro models, which differ primarily in the image resolutions and frame rates they support. A DVI2USB product is also available to support DVI source equipment. A comparative summary of all product specifications is available via the Frame Grabbers link on Epiphan's website ( Figure 2 illustrates the standard version of VGA2USB; the other devices look similar but differ in the color of their respective enclosures.

Figure 2: VGA2USB frame grabber with VGA port (left) and mini-USB port (right)

Plug it in

Prior to connecting the product to your equipment, you need to install the streaming software on a system you want to use as a capture workstation; the source equipment doesn't require any software. The streaming software includes the following items, all included in a single installation package:

The USB device driver

The v2u capture and diagnostics utility (installed in /usr/bin/)

The vdig QuickTime digitizer (installed in /Library/QuickTime/QuickVGA2USB.component)

To install the software, download the latest version of the installation package from, unpack it, and run the installer. Once the installation is complete, connect the source equipment to the VGA2USB device, and the VGA2USB device to a USB 2.0 port on your capture workstation, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Connecting VGA2USB to your equipment

If desired, you can install either a passive or an active signal splitter to simultaneously display the VGA or DVI output from the source on a secondary display. Doing so helps you monitor the source image during a capture session, for example.

Next, open System Profiler and expand the USB device tree. You'll see the VGA2USB device listed, as shown in Figure 4. Before continuing, make sure the device is connected to a USB 2.0 port.

Figure 4: The VGA2USB device as it appears in System Profiler

And finally, open a Terminal session and launch /usr/bin/v2u. With no arguments, the v2u utility reports the detected signal, as shown in Figure 5; otherwise it reports no signal detected. For a complete list of arguments, enter v2u h.

Figure 5: Using the v2u diagnostic utility.

Make a movie

While you can use the v2u utility to perform diagnostics and capture individual frames, you'll probably want to use an Aqua application, such as QuickTime Pro, to capture video streams. There are several other applications that you can use as well; for example, VGA2USB is certified to work with Adobe Premiere on both Windows and Mac platforms. Other third-party applications include Vara Software's Wirecast and Videocue as well as Boinx Software's iStop Motion.

Because each capture application offers different features and capabilities, it isn't practical to discuss them all here. For the purpose of this article, we'll just give you a quick tour. In Figure 6, for example, the video output of our server machine is being streamed (via VGA2USB Pro) to Wirecast, which is running on our capture workstation. When we click the Record button on the toolbar, Wirecast records a movie of our login session. We can then use QuickTime Player to play back the movie. We could also use Wirecast to broadcast the stream if desired.

Figure 6: Capturing a video stream in Wirecast

Need a Windows solution?

If you wish, you can use a Windows platform to capture your streams as well. Epiphan provides its own Windows capture application, which is installed by default when you install the drivers on a Windows machine. Of course, there are also several third-party applications that work with it as well. Figure 7, for example, shows a PC BIOS screen captured using Epiphan's VGA2USB capture utility.

Figure 7: Capturing a PC BIOS screen

"Big deal," you say?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, "Why not just use VNC, ARD, or some other remote monitoring solution?" The answer to this question is that, depending on the screen you need to acquire, these services may only be available much later in the boot process. Furthermore, they require you to alter the source by installing the appropriate software component. You can't use these solutions to capture a screen like Startup Manager or a PC BIOS, much less the video output of a non-computer device.

While our demonstration illustrates a computer technology application, there are other environments in which a frame grabber is not only useful but is actually required, depending on the screen you need to acquire. Figure 8, for example, shows the output of sonogram. Other application environments include:

Presentations to remote audiences

Medical diagnostic imaging

Distance learning

Scientific device screen acquisition

Courtroom evidence recording

Security and surveillance

Industrial control system monitoring

Figure 8: Acquiring a screen from a medical imaging device

In short, if you have a device that generates a VGA or DVI signal and you need to capture its output without altering the source equipment (critical for computer forensics, for example), you need a frame grabber.


In this article, we presented a method for capturing static images as well as video streams from devices that are otherwise inaccessible using traditional screen capture utilities. Hopefully, you've learned something new and, if you have such needs, you'll undoubtedly want to explore solutions like this further.

Joe is a technical writer and instructional designer with extensive experience on both Windows and Mac platforms. He's a member of the Apple Consultants Network, the Microsoft Partner Program, and the IEEE Computer Society. You can reach him at


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Microsoft Office 2016 16.11 - Popular pr...
Microsoft Office 2016 - Unmistakably Office, designed for Mac. The new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote provide the best of both worlds for Mac users - the familiar Office... Read more
Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 19.1.2 - Profess...
Photoshop CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Photoshop customer). Adobe Photoshop CC 2018, the industry standard... Read more
Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2018 -...
Dreamweaver CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Dreamweaver customer). Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2018 allows you to... Read more
Adobe Flash Player - Plug-in...
Adobe Flash Player is a cross-platform, browser-based application runtime that provides uncompromised viewing of expressive applications, content, and videos across browsers and operating systems.... Read more
Drive Genius 5.2.0 - $79.00
Drive Genius features a comprehensive Malware Scan. Automate your malware protection. Protect your investment from any threat. The Malware Scan is part of the automated DrivePulse utility. DrivePulse... Read more
MegaSeg 6.0.6 - Professional DJ and radi...
MegaSeg is a complete solution for pro audio/video DJ mixing, radio automation, and music scheduling with rock-solid performance and an easy-to-use design. Mix with visual waveforms and Magic... Read more
ffWorks 1.0.7 - Convert multimedia files...
ffWorks (was iFFmpeg), focused on simplicity, brings a fresh approach to the use of FFmpeg, allowing you to create ultra-high-quality movies without the need to write a single line of code on the... Read more
Dash 4.1.5 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API documentation browser and code snippet manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
Evernote 7.0.3 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
jAlbum Pro 15.3 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

All the best games on sale for iPhone an...
It might not have been the greatest week for new releases on the App Store, but don't let that get you down, because there are some truly incredible games on sale for iPhone and iPad right now. Seriously, you could buy anything on this list and I... | Read more »
Everything You Need to Know About The Fo...
In just over a week, Epic Games has made a flurry of announcements. First, they revealed that Fortnite—their ultra-popular PUBG competitor—is coming to mobile. This was followed by brief sign-up period for interested beta testers before sending out... | Read more »
The best games that came out for iPhone...
It's not been the best week for games on the App Store. There are a few decent ones here and there, but nothing that's really going to make you throw down what you're doing and run to the nearest WiFi hotspot in order to download it. That's not to... | Read more »
Death Coming (Games)
Death Coming Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: (iTunes) Description: --- Background Story ---You Died. Pure and simple, but death was not the end. You have become an agent of Death: a... | Read more »
Hints, tips, and tricks for Empires and...
Empires and Puzzles is a slick match-stuff RPG that mixes in a bunch of city-building aspects to keep things fresh. And it's currently the Game of the Day over on the App Store. So, if you're picking it up for the first time today, we thought it'd... | Read more »
What You Need to Know About Sam Barlow’s...
Sam Barlow’s follow up to Her Story is #WarGames, an interactive video series that reimagines the 1983 film WarGames in a more present day context. It’s not exactly a game, but it’s definitely still interesting. Here are the top things you should... | Read more »
Pixel Plex Guide - How to Build Better T...
Pixel Plex is the latest city builder that has come to the App Store, and it takes a pretty different tact than the ones that came before it. Instead of being in charge of your own city by yourself, you have to work together with other players to... | Read more »
Fortnite Will Be Better Than PUBG on Mob...
Before last week, if you asked me which game I prefer between Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), I’d choose the latter just about 100% of the time. Now that we know that both games are primed to hit our mobile screens... | Read more »
Siege of Dragonspear (Games)
Siege of Dragonspear 2.5.12 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 2.5.12 (iTunes) Description: Experience the Siege of Dragonspear, an epic Baldur’s Gate tale, filled with with intrigue, magic, and monsters.... | Read more »
7 Wonders Guide - Should You Buy The Lea...
The fantastic mobile version of 7 Wonders just got updated with an expansion that adds Leaders to the game. This new content adds a whole layer of depth to the game, but before you spend $1.99 to buy it blindly, check out this breakdown of exactly... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

B&H drops prices on 15″ MacBook Pros up t...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on new 2017 15″ MacBook Pros, now up to $300 off MSRP and matching Adorama’s price drop yesterday. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished 2017 13″...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros for $200-$230 off MSRP. A standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, models receive new outer cases, and... Read more
13″ Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale...
Adorama has new 2017 13″ Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (... Read more
Best deal of the year on 15″ Apple MacBook Pr...
Adorama has New 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NJ and NY only: – 15″ 2.8GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray (MPTR2LL/A): $... Read more
Save $100-$150+ on 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros...
B&H Photo has 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $100-$150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro... Read more
Current deals on 27″ Apple iMacs, models up t...
B&H Photo has 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 27″ 3.8GHz iMac (MNED2LL/A): $2149 $150 off MSRP – 27″ 3... Read more
Thursday Deal: 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pro for $11...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space... Read more
How to save $100-$190 on 10″ & 12″ iPad P...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 2017 10″ and 12″ iPad Pros for $100-$190 off MSRP, depending on the model. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: –... Read more
Silver 12″ 1.3GHz MacBook on sale at B&H...
B&H Photo has the 2017 12″ 1.3GHz Silver MacBook on sale for $1399.99 including free shipping plus sales tax for NY & NJ residents only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest... Read more
Amazon offers 21″ Apple iMacs for up to $150...
Amazon 21″ iMacs on sale today for $50-$150 off MSRP, depending on the model. Shipping is free: – 21″ 3.4GHz 4K iMac (MNE02LL/A): $1349.99 $150 off MSRP – 21″ 3.0GHz iMac (MNDY2LL/A): $1199 $100 off... Read more

Jobs Board

Data Scientist, *Apple* Ecosystem (AMP Anal...
# Data Scientist, Apple Ecosystem (AMP Analytics) Job Number: 113428728 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 24-Jan-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 113523441 Orange, CA, California, United States Posted: 21-Feb-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Are you passionate Read more
*Apple* Professional Learning Specialist - A...
# Apple Professional Learning Specialist Job Number: 113456892 Englewood, NJ, New Jersey, United States Posted: 02-Feb-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Read more
*Apple* Retail Online, Senior Financial Anal...
# Apple Retail Online, Senior Financial Analyst Job Number: 57228835 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 12-Feb-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
Site Reliability Engineer, *Apple* Pay - Ap...
# Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Pay Job Number: 113356036 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 12-Jan-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.