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 (www.epiphan.com). 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 www.epiphan.com/downloads/, 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.

Conclusion

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 froejoe@gmail.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Vivaldi 1.7.735.46 - An advanced browser...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
HandBrake 1.0.3 - Versatile video encode...
HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs. Features Supported Sources VIDEO_TS folder, DVD image or real DVD (unencrypted... Read more
Slack 2.5.1 - Collaborative communicatio...
Slack is a collaborative communication app that simplifies real-time messaging, archiving, and search for modern working teams. Version 2.5.1: New The way we load teams you don't view often has been... Read more
BBEdit 11.6.4 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
BBEdit 11.6.4 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
beaTunes 4.6.12 - Organize your music co...
beaTunes is a full-featured music player and organizational tool for music collections. How well organized is your music Library? Are your artists always spelled the same way? Any R.E.M. vs REM?... Read more
Tinderbox 7.0.1 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more
FotoMagico 5.4 - Powerful slideshow crea...
FotoMagico lets you create professional slideshows from your photos and music with just a few, simple mouse clicks. It sports a very clean and intuitive yet powerful user interface. High image... Read more
Direct Mail 4.3.9 - Create and send grea...
Direct Mail is an easy-to-use, fully-featured email marketing app purpose-built for OS X. It lets you create and send great looking email campaigns. Start your newsletter by selecting from a gallery... Read more
Tinderbox 7.0.1 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more

The best sales on the App Store this wee...
The App Store has quite an exciting lineup of discount games this week that range across a variety of genres. It's a great opportunity to catch up on some of the premium games you may have been holding off on -- and some you can even grab for free... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
Ah, here we are again at the close of another busy week. Don't rest too easy, though. We had a lot of great new releases in mobile games this week, and now you're going to have to spend all weekend playing them. That shouldn't be too much of a... | Read more »
Rollercoaster Tycoon Touch Guide: How to...
| Read more »
Rabbids Crazy Rush Guide: How to unlock...
The Rabbids are back in a new endless running adventure, Rabbids Crazy Rush. It's more ridiculous cartoon craziness as you help the little furballs gather enough fuel (soda) to get to the moon. Sure, it's a silly idea, but everyone has dreams --... | Read more »
Tavern Guardians (Games)
Tavern Guardians 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Tavern Guardians is a Hack-and-Slash action game played in the style of a match-three. You can experience high pace action... | Read more »
Slay your way to glory in idle RPG Endle...
It’s a golden age for idle games on the mobile market, and those addictive little clickers have a new best friend. South Korean developer Ekkorr released Endless Frontier last year, and players have been idling away the hours in the company of its... | Read more »
Tiny Striker: World Football Guide - How...
| Read more »
Good news everyone! Futurama: Worlds of...
Futurama is finding a new home on mobile in TinyCo and Fox Interactive's new game, Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow. They're really doing it up, bringing on board Futurama creator Matt Groening along with the original cast and writers. TinyCo wants... | Read more »
MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL (Games)
MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ENDLESS UPGRADES. CONSTANT DANGER. ANCIENT WISDOM. BOUNCY BALLS. Launch Sale, 40% OFF for a very limited time!!! MUL.... | Read more »
Dungeon Rushers (Games)
Dungeon Rushers 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon Rushers is a 2D tactical RPG combining dungeon crawler’s gameplay and turn based fights. Manage your team, loot dusty... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $2...
Newegg has the 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook (sku MLH82LL/A) on sale for $1349.99 including free shipping. Their price is $250 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model.... Read more
13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSR...
B&H Photo has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MMGF2LL/A): $899 $100 off MSRP - 13″ 1.6GHz/... Read more
9-inch 32GB Silver iPad Pro on sale for $549,...
B&H Photo has the 9.7″ 32GB Silver Apple iPad Pro on sale for $549 for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off standard MSRP for this model... Read more
13-inch 2.0GHz Apple MacBook Pros on sale for...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (... Read more
15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for up...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for $1150, $1...
B&H has 12″ 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1149 $150 off MSRP - 12″ 1.1GHz... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 11-inch MacBook Ai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 11″ MacBook Airs (the latest models recently discontinued by Apple), available for up to $170 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each... Read more
Apple Park Opens to Employees in April With T...
Apple has announced that Apple Park, the company’s new 175-acre campus, will be ready for employees to begin occupying in April. The process of moving more than 12,000 people will take over six... Read more
Manhattan Neighbors for Safer Telecommunicati...
A new education and advocacy group focused on cell phone and wireless risks, Manhattan Neighbors for Safer Telecommunications, launched today at http://www.ManhattanNeighbors.org. Manhattan... Read more
Portable Dual DisplayPort Monitor Dock Enable...
IOGEAR has announced the launch of its USB-C Dual DisplayPort Monitor Portable Dock (GUC3CMST). The dock enables users to easily connect two DisplayPort monitors to a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 laptop to... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Wireless Lead - T-ROC - The Retail O...
…of knowledge in wireless sales and activations to the Beautiful and NEW APPLE Experiencestore within MACYS. THIS role, APPLE Wireless Lead, isbrandnewas MACYS Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Chicago...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.