Originally Published: Tuesday, 18 July 2000 Author: J Olive
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

A Quick Look at Video for Linux

After a few months of rebooting just to edit video, I decided that I would at least browse around and look for a few Linux solutions which could make use of my video hardware.

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I bought an Iomega Buz card a few months back. For those of you who don't know what this is, it's a PCI card with an AdvanSys Ultra SCSI controller and some MJPEG video compression hardware built onto it. Before last week, I had only used the Buz in Windows with Adobe Premiere 5.1. After a few months of rebooting just to edit video, I decided that I would at least browse around and look for a few Linux solutions which could make use of my video hardware.

I was very pleased with what I found. For instance, did you know that the Video 4 Linux (V4L) API is in its second stage -- V4L2? I would glance at V4L every time I would compile a kernel, but I never paid much attention to it. It looks like the V4L API matured quite a bit, and then a new API was started (V4L2), which could replace the previous API and take care of some extendibility issues.

Many devices are supported by V4L. If you have a TV card in your computer, there is a pretty good chance that it has the BT848 chipset on it. The BT848 chipset is very popular and the support for it in Linux is excellent. Also, there is a driver for a few Zoran chipsets -- the MJPEG compression hardware in the Buz is made by Zoran. The Buz support in Linux seems to be good. There are some people working on a buz-tools package which will include applications to record and playback video using the Buz hardware. There is also great support for Matrox video hardware and there are even drivers for FM tuner cards.

There are video applications ranging from simple video viewers to complex editors like Broadcast 2000. Broadcast 2000 reminded me of Adobe Premiere -- and that should definitely be a compliment to the guys who coded Broadcast 2000. It isn't as robust as Adobe, but it's a very good start in the right direction.

After compiling V4L into my kernel and loading in the Buz driver, I was ready to go. I had already downloaded and compiled XawTV, a video viewer. I made the required video links in /dev, and then hooked my Buz up to the VCR and fired up XawTV. I was immediately impressed. Since the driver was using the Buz hardware to digitize and format the video, there was relatively no CPU utilization. Now, that I had my driver up and working, I wanted to play with some bigger toys. I installed Broadcast 2000, and for the next 45 minutes I fiddled with getting it working. I finally gave up. However, I think the error was on my part because I had read message board posts of people who were using Broadcast 2000 and the Buz and it was working well.

V4L has come a very long way and seems to still have a good amount of momentum pushing its development and usage. There are many applications which use V4L, which range from viewing to editing. So if you have some video hardware in your box and you want to make the most of it, then take a look at V4L.

J Olive, UAH LUG





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