Capture HDV in Linux using dvgrab
This is my site Written by rower on November 5, 2011 – 10:33 pm

Linux can be the best way to capture HDV tapes

By Robin Rowe

HOLLYWOOD, CA ( 11/5/2011 – Final Cut has issues capturing HDV tapes. Sometimes it cuts up your video into a series of little files instead of capturing the whole tape as one as we want. What seems to happen is Final Cut drops out when it encounters timecode breaks and some tapes that seem otherwise fine cause Final Cut capture to miscue. If you have a Linux box with a Firewire port, that can be a better way.

We’re using Puppy ¬†Linux as our distro. That uses it’s own package manager GUI with the standard Debian repository. In the Puppy Package Manager, select {Configure Package Manager} and add the Debian Main repository. When you do that it will seem like nothing happened, but if you close and re-open the Package Manager you’ll see the Debian repository listed as a search choice. (Ignore the warning that you may need to edit system files manually to add a repository.) You may also add the Debian Multiverse and Universe repositories if you think you need them, but you probably don’t.

Installing dvgrab and dvcont and ls1394

Dvgrab is a command lne program that captures HDV from tape. In the Package Manager a search for  dvgrab recommends the dvgrab_3.5-1 package. Install that and say yes to installing all its dependencies of which there will be many with 1394 in the name.

Dvcont is the command line program that controls the tape transport so we can rewind the tape deck or camcorder. A search for that finds nothing. So, we’ll search in the Debian package repository online at That reveals dvcont is buried in libavc1394-dev. Now that we know what its package is called, we go back to the Puppy Package Manager and install that.

We’d also like to have the ls1394 bash script. Download that, rename as ls1394 and chmod 755.

# cp ls1394_v20070103 /usr/bin/ls1394
# chmod 755 /usr/bin/ls1394

Using ls1394, dvgrab and dvcont

$ ls1394
0:ffc0 0000850001a2498c ‘VIXIA HV30’
0:ffc1 08004603011534d3 (local)

$ dvcont rewind

$ dvgrab -f hdv filename

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