I'm planning to start a service which archives TV video content (at low quality). I'm exploring what software and server setup will be needed.

The TV channels in the geography I'm looking at are unencrypted and are provided through coaxial cable wires (similar to standard 'Cable TV' in the US).

There are about 200-250 channels, each of which is to be digitized and archived. I'm looking for a cost-effective, scalable solution which can be scaled up from an initial set of 5-10 channels to a max of 200. I can afford a set of servers each dedicated for a particular set of tasks. Obviously, cost effective linux setups would be preferred over expensive dedicated hardware solutions - but I'm open to either...


With a Windows based solution, you will have to pay a lot for OS license fees. Instead, doing this on a few Linux boxes is more efficient and cost-effective.

Install XawTV. It should come with a binary called streamer. Streamer can capture video from a video card or a web cam. It uses only a little amount of CPU and RAM per channel.

For example,

streamer -q -c /dev/video0 -f rgb24 -r 3 -t 00:30:00 -o /home/vid/outfile.avi

will record half an hour stream from the /dev/video0 device and save it to an output file specified by -o. You can write scripts (bash/perl/python etc) to do the recordings automatically (invoked every half an hour from crontab, for example).

With ffmpeg, another open source application, you can convert your recorded file (avi in the above example) to most popular compressed formats (both audio and video), including the windows video format (wmv), and mpeg.

Hardware-wise, there are capture cards that can handle 16 video streams with audio simultaneously. But I recommend 4-channel capture cards, as these will provide better image quality for TV. The others are more suitable for low quality surveillance camera recordings. There are vendors supporting Linux, with their own dedicated Linux drivers. You may have to check if the card can work with XawTV/streamer. BT787 is a pretty standard chipset that is supported by all Linux flavours. Beware that not all video cards support audio input, and in that case, you would have to use the microphone-in of your computer for audio, which in turn restricts the number of audio channels you can monitor to the number of audio cards you have.

  • Hi there Neuron34 - thanks for the wonderful insights... Have you any experience with any of the 4 or 16 channel capture cards? – siliconpi Nov 27 '11 at 11:01
  • Hi Matt, Glad that you found my answer helpful (so I deserved an up-vote? :) ) Check out this web site: store.bluecherry.net/categories/Capture-Cards/…. They seem to have Linux-friendly cards. I haven't used them myself. – neuron34 Nov 27 '11 at 22:25
  • Apologies - and did justice to your answer as well! :) – siliconpi Nov 28 '11 at 7:31

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