Today I wanted to capture some video from mini-DV tapes using my camera, a Panasonic mini-DV model. I have done so in the past using a firewire cable, but this is the first time I’ve tried with my new Ubuntu Studio setup.

Here are the steps to follow:

1. In “Ubuntu Studio Controls,” check “enable raw1394 access.” If you try to use your firewire device now, it may crash the machine, so you should reboot before proceeding. I had the system freeze up on me two or three times before I had everything working reliably (this may be a result of the wonky firewire connection on my camera, which seems to be loose).

2. After the reboot, put the camera into VCR mode and press play. Then run Kino (from a terminal as root) and switch to capture mode. You should see the video playing in the Kino window. Rewind the tape again before you proceed. This step seems to be necessary in order to get Ubuntu Studio to recognize the camera as a firewire device (dvgrab may work just as well).

3. If you aren’t capturing a whole tape, you could just use Kino to control the camera and capture the clips. I actually prefer to do the capture from the command line using dvgrab.  To begin capture, enter this command (again as root):

#dvgrab –autosplit –frames 0 –size 0 –format raw –timestamp <dest>/<foo>

In this command, <dest> is the place you want to store the clips (e.g. /home/video), and
<foo> is whatever prefix you want the resulting filenames to have (e.g. tape1-). The clips will automatically be split into files and the timestamp will follow the prefix in each name.

Once you run the dvgrab command, it will wait for you to press play on the camera and begin capturing the clips. You’ll have to press <ctrl>-c once the clips are finished being captured.

Because of the broken firewire connection on my camera, I investigated the possibility of using USB to capture video, but that doesn’t appear to be a viable choice (and much slower, even if one could get it to work).

More info on firewire in Ubuntu here: Firewire – Community Ubuntu Documentation