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8mm Video Capture Through DV

I’m fortunate to have a Sony DCR-TRV315 camcorder, which handles 8mm and Hi8 formats as well as Digital8. Moreover, even for older analog tapes, the camera will digitize and output digital video via its firewire port.

This is the camera

Pretty much all our old videos have already been digitized, and it’s unlikely that I would be taking any more. This article is mainly so that I’ll remember the steps. The order of these operations is significant. Doing things out-of-order can lead to weird failures.

Step 1. Most likely, the battery is dead. Connect the AC power adapter to the jack at back of camera, just below the battery. Plug in the AC adapter.
Step 2. Hold down the blue button while sliding the eject switch. The compartment will open.
Step 3. Insert the tape.
Step 4. Push the compartment IN, but NOT DOWN. The camera will take care of closing the compartment and loading the tape.
Step 5. Connect the firewire cable to the front of the camera. Connect the other end of the cable to the firewire port at the back of the computer.
Step 6. Turn the camera on by holding down the green button on the power switch while sliding the switch to DTR position.

Step 7. Power on the computer and boot it to Linux. In my case, it is Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. Note: the computer should not already be on until this point. Something about the firewire hot plug doesn’t seem to work quite right.

Step 8. After the computer has booted, turn the camera OFF, then ON again. Again, this seems to be a hot plug thing.

Step 9. Open a Linux terminal window, and type

dvgrab --rewind --size 0 FileName

The --rewind causes the tape to rewind before capturing. The --size 0 means unlimited size, and the output will go to a single large file named FileName.dv . Without --size, the default is to send the output to 1 GB files.

Alternatively, can do

dvgrab -i FileName

and interactively control the camera. Type i in interactive mode to see the choices.

The DV is captured in raw format by default (in the case above, FileName.dv), and a 2-hour video will take up about 25 GB.


Symptom: “no camera exists”, or “send oops”
Theory: Computer did not initialize the link with the camera properly
Fix: Have the camera on and connected, then boot up the computer

Symptom: “no DV” or capture won’t start, dvgrab doesn’t seem aware that video is playing
Theory: Camera is unaware of the computer as an output destination
Fix: Turn the camera off, then on again

Symptom: “bad firewire packet” or similar
Theory: Camera came upon a bad spot or scene change on the tape, and couldn’t digitize
Fix: None needed, normal with analog tape