A first in the market of high resolution video capture hardware, Epiphan Systems has announced a new open source frame grabber – Epiphan Lecture Recorder.
According to the product page, shipping of the Lecture Recorder will start sometime in November. Epiphan Lecture Recorder, or ELR in short, has some promising features that, at the price tag of $2000, are unbeatable by similar offerings.
ELR’s Unique Features
Even though this product seems to be aimed at the educational market, Epiphan Lecture Recorder has some unique features that make it a perfect frame grabber for pretty much any application. Firstly, ELR supports not only DVI and VGA capture, but also has on-board inputs for composite video and stereo audio.
Furthermore, Epiphan Lecture recorder has a very generous 32GB of buffer memory, which is expandable via portable flash sticks, network drives, or external hard disks.
Finally, ELR features 5 USB ports for external devices and peripherals, meaning that you can create software that will allow you to connect external control devices such as IR remotes, CD/DVD writers, wireless modules, an so on.
As mentioned earlier, Epiphan Lecture Recorder will be an open source device. What this means for developers is that it is possible to access all features of the frame grabber. And, because the ELR is more of an embedded computer or internet appliance, many interesting applications can be written for it. For example, the ELR, as it has an Ethernet network interface, can function as its own server, as pictured below.
In a Nutshell
The Epiphan Lecture Recorder is more of a computer with on-board frame grabber and video and audio capture cards than it is an actual frame grabber. While this might not be the ideal device for the general public, the ELR could be used as a platform for a wide variety of applications.
Shutter is a fully-featured screenshot tool for Linux. Within one window, Shutter lets you take a screenshot of the screen, a window, or an area of the screen, edit it, and upload it to the web. Shutter is fully open source and, according to their website, has the following features:
- take a screenshot of your complete desktop, a rectangular area or capture a website
- take screenshot directly or with a specified delay time
- save the screenshots to a specified directory and name them in a convenient way
(using special wild-cards)
- Shutter is fully integrated into the Gnome Desktop (TrayIcon etc.)
- generate thumbnails directly when you are taking a screenshot and set a size level in %
- Shutter session collection
- keep track of all screenshots during session
- copy screeners to clipboard
- print screenshots
- delete screenshots
- rename your file
- upload your files directly to Image-Hosters (e.g. http://ubuntu-pics.de), retrieve all the needed links and share them with others
- edit your screenshots directly using the embedded drawing tool
It works like your standard screen capture program (we review such programs all the time) and does not yet have a video recording feature. The program can be set to run automatically as soon as you press the PrtScn or Alt+PrtScn buttons. Read here about configuring Shutter to activate automatically.
One neat thing about Shutter is the support of plugins.
These plugins are able to create effects similar to those in GIMP and PhotoShop but directly in Shutter, making it a nice tool for web developers who want to add effects to images on their website, but either don’t have the expertise or the time to do so. All plugins have a slate of settings to make your image look just the way you want it.
Uploading your Images
Shutter lets you upload your screen captures to a wide variety of free image sharing websites. One of the neatest feature of the upload feature is that you get embed and direct links to the uploaded images right away, without the need to launch a browser.
Shutter is a very powerful and fully-featured tool for capturing still screenshots within a graphical Linux environment. As a matter of fact, it surpasses many of its’ Windows counterparts in features, ease of use, and usability. For more information about Shutter for Linux visit http://shutter-project.org/.
When an organization, company, or individual has an idea for a VGA capture-based product, such as a webcasting system, a recorder of VGA signals, or any other VGA-related hardware product, a separate frame grabber is purchased, mated with a PC with software, packaged, and sold.
Solutions for capturing, broadcasting and recording presentations and seminars are often rediculously expensive ($10 000+) due to the fact that the original cost of the hardware (frame grabber + capture card + PC + peripherals) runs at half the retail value of the actual product. Not only did this make VGA capture-based solutions unaffordable to some, it also meant that educational institutions such as school and colleges had to spend an arm and a leg if they were to outfit every single one of their classrooms with such devices.
In order to solve this problem, Epiphan Systems has announced and is now shipping a new product aimed at capturing the market of developers, power users, and integrators – the VGA2LAN Development Kit. With a fully open-source architecture, a custom Linux build environment, access to all drivers and ports, the VGA2LAN is poised to create a revolution in the industry.
What is it?
The VGA2LAN platform is based off of a Motorola PowerPC chipset and comes preinstalled with a custom build of Ubuntu. The basic specifications are as follows:
- 1 VGA input with integrated frame grabber
- 1 VGA output
- Integrated Gigabit Ethernet hub
- 5 USB 2.0 ports (4 external + 1 internal)
- No moving parts
In other words, the VGA2LAN is effectively a small PowerPC-based computer with an integrated frame grabber.
Of course, what interests us most is the quality of VGA capture that this device can achieve. Does it really make sense to develop products using the VGA2LAN platform or is it still better to use an internal or external frame grabber paired to a PC? The basic specs are listed below and a full list of specifications can be obtained at Epiphan Systems’ web page:
- 2048 x 2048 maximum resolution
- 120 frames per second maximum capture rate
- Lossless quality
- 270 Mpixels/s pixel rate, 532Mpixels/s if interlaced
The specifications of the integrated frame grabber are comparable to those found in high-end devices costing upwards of $2000. A detailed comparison of VGA frame grabbers can be found here. And, since the price of the VGA2LAN Development Kit is under $1000, it makes sense to use it instead of a computer + frame grabber combo often costing 5 times that amount.
A Platform for Next Generation Internet Appliances
The VGA2LAN does not come with any internal memory. However, USB 2.0 flash memory drives can be purchased for pennies on the dollar and are sold in all capacities up to 128GB, meaning that you have plenty of buffer space to work with. Furthermore, the 4 external USB ports can be used to connect external hard drives and other storage media, such as CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray burners, infinitely expanding the VGA2LAN’s storage capacity.
Since the VGA2LAN is an open source platform, devices such as USB Wi-Fi antennas can be connected in order to provide wireless communications, should the integrated Gigabit Ethernet network card not be sufficient for your application. Furthermore, the presence of USB 2.0 ports means that peripherals suchs as keyboards, mice, AMX/Crestron control units, and others can be interfaced with the VGA2LAN, making it perfect for virtually any application that involves the capture of VGA signals.
The VGA2LAN Development Kit is a great way to build, use, and sell hardware products for a company or organization that doesn’t have the resources, finances, or expertise to manufacture their own capture hardware. And, at a price of $999 US, it is most definitely a bargain.
Don’t you ever wish that your PocketPC had a dedicated “Print Screen” button? Unfortunately, screen capture is not present in Windows Mobile 5 and most screen capture applications are not free. Screener, an entirely free Windows Mobile 5 application that weighs in at under 20KB, captures the screen of your PocketPC device and saves it as a .JPG file in your root folder.
In order to take the screenshot, you must first figure out which hardware button on your PocketPC is assigned to the Screener application (it is usually button #2). Then you simply press that button, after which the capture of your screen is saved to your root folder. Simple as that!