Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sometimes, polishing a turd can reveal gold underneath....

So if you have attempted to try any 'serious' video capture in the past, but wanted to do things on a limited budget, chances are, you bought an EasyCap USB Capture device off of eBay (probably came direct from Hong Kong with free shipping, costing you a whopping $10 at the time (by contrast, a local 'mom & pop' computer supply and repair/cellphone vender had the balls to sell the identical set up for $60 (!!!!) in store, probably bought from the same vendor (businesses back home like to do insane mark-up on items, claiming the cost was 'too high' as they weren't a chain, yet they own their own wholesaler and warehousing businesses). So anyways, i got mine in 2009/2010 (cannot remember the correct time) for $7 with shipping. First offhand, my Linux PC at the time was too underpowered to run it, but the included disk with the Windows software asked for a key that wasnt provided, so i ended up using VirtualDub, but ending up getting that delay that was so characteristic of the EasyCap (DC60), along with a really crappy audio input (mixed mono @ 8000 kHz), so i had to use the line-in on the computer, record it separately, and then splice it together in post. Honestly an unwieldly mess that leaves much to be desired in the category of fluidic function. Fastforward about 5 years later and i dug it out of a pile when i was making a portable kit for capture with my HP DV6700 running Xubuntu 13.10. i sat down and plugged the EasyCap into the computer, opened terminal and entered 'lsusb' (this lists any/all USB devices interfacing with the computer at the moment). It said that my Easycap was a "Syntek Semiconductor Co., Ltd STK1160 Video Capture Device", and further searching online revealed that the DC60 was supported natively in the kernal version i was using, so no need for screwing around with drivers (in fact, most all of my gear, including my HP Printer, IDE/SATA/Floppy to USB adapter, and my Xbox 360 controller are all identified by brand name and chipset, with only the 360 controller needed a driver installed - sudo apt-get install xboxdrv).i then sat down and researched some Linux alternative, first using scripts in terminal with MPlayer and VLC, and then outdated programs like TV Time giving me green screens, and Cheese only recording videos. I watched videos by kids young enough to be my offspring tell me how they did theirs on Youtube, but my results not seeing any fruition. i was in the right area, but ran offtrack when trying different programs, and instead went back to VLC when i discovered a video: For the most part he is on the money, but he is still having two issues: no true 16:9 (appears to be letterboxed), and still has a delay (to which he admits). So now i was on the right track, so i started fine tuning things. For starters, i had to swap the audio inputs, making VLC ignore the onboard audio capture, and going instead with the mic input (and only audio input device on my computer) by changing the audio device to 'pulse' (i honestly clipped the useless f*cking audio inputs off that were on the EasyCap, as they were a pain in the ass to navigate around when I am hooking something up, so they wre lopped off at the root). After this, i went through the list of things to select, like NTSC mode, then selected option 0 for my composite, til i had gotten SVideo cables for my 360, and had to do a hunt and peck for my DC60's list number, as it was 4, and not 5 like in the above-shown tutorial. After this, a forum entry i found showed me the secret to eliminating the lag experienced between the audio and video in the EasyCap. You have to go to the additional settings area below on the Capture Device settings dialog window, and tick the box for additional options. When this is done, a box appears in the dialog box giving all of the video settings listed in sequence. simply scroll to the back of the list, and where it says 'live-caching=300', change it to 'dshow-caching=10', which allows the EasyCap to have DirectShow access, bypassing a need for a cache/buffer. after all of this, i hit play, and i was FINALLY capturing signals from the EasyCap with no lag, SVideo, and live audio. One caveat is that when i was viewing through VLC, there would be a delay of a half a second, a fault more so of the recording process, but there was no delay in the recordings themselves, so all i did was use the Composite feed from the 360 cable, routed it to the Composite input of the Sanyo flatpanel that i was using as my second monitor for my Xubuntu PC, so when i recorded i can watch a feed with no lag as i record my footage from games like Fallout New Vegas and GTA IV. All i did to the footage was add a deinterlace process in VLC, and then deinterlate and compress the raw footage from VLC, which records in 3:2 and nearly a gig a minute, so i use Handbrake as the general compression/processing program, which i also use to make the footage nicer to look at as well as in the proper 16:9 ratio. This finished footage is devoid of any interlacing between frames (EasyCaps were notorious for horizontal lines on much of the moving objects in the video it would record), and because of this, was technically a full 480p via SVideo. The finished product below: Now another thing to mention is that VLC is able to run on most any Operating System, so i am sure you can run it in a similar manner on your Windows PC or Mac. I hope this makes it easier for some people who may want to use this device, but have heard too many horror stories.

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