Sony DCR-TRV30E and Linux

Accessing the Memory Stick
Accessing the MiniDV Tape Recordings
Other Things of Interest


The Sony DCR-TRV30E works just great with Linux. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it should be to get it up and running, though the information is out there. Unfortunately, you have to read all kinds of documents, though all you want to do is to get those darn pictures from the camera. Hence I decided to put up this page that gets you to a working setup so you can access your Sony DCR-TRV30E using Linux.

The TRV30E has two kinds of storage devices that must be accessible. One is the memory stick which holds still pictures and short movies. The other one would be the tape, which stores your footage. See the respective sections below to learn how to access each.

The process should be generic to Sony DCR cameras, and has been verified with other models as well. If you have a similar model, it is worth to give it a try using these instructions.

Procedures described here were done on SuSE Linux 8.0, 8.1 and 8.2, but it rather depends upon the kernel version included than on the distribution's brand. Kernels 2.4.18 and later should all work, previous versions were not tested.
If you succeed using these instructions with a different model or another distribution, let me know and I will add it to the list.

Accessing the Memory Stick

The memory stick stores still pictures and short movies. It can be accessed either via USB or Firewire (to be confirmed). Currently, only USB works.


To access the pictures, you got to have an USB adapter. There is a huge range of adapters available, and it should not be a problem to get one that works with Linux. The best address for information on which adapters work and how to get them up and running is this page.
The other thing you need to have is USB Mass Storage support in your kernel. To check whether you do have it or not, simply log in as root and issue the following command: modprobe usb-storage. If you do not receive an error message, you have USB Mass Storage in your kernel. Otherwise, see Linux USB for further hints. For information on USB Mass Storage, see this link.

Get it done

Once you have your USB adapter configured, connect the camera to your box and turn it on to Memory mode.
If everything went right, you will hear a beep after a few seconds, informing you that the hotplugging capabilities of the Linux kernel have successfully identified the camera. The USB Mass Storage module was automatically loaded, and the Memory Stick is available in the file system as /dev/sda1, provided that it is the only USB device in your system so far. The hotplugging feature will have created a respective link in your /etc/fstab to a place like /media/sda1 to mount the camera, and all that is left to do for you is to type mount /media/sda1 as a regular user (you do not have to be root to do this). The only problem here could be that the automagically created entry in the fstab is to a different place than /media/sda1. In that case simply look into /etc/fstab and see where /dev/sda1 is linked to. Most recent distributions like SuSE 8.0 or later should be able to do this.
If things did not go so smooth, do not despair. First off, check if the usb-storage module is loaded. To do so, log in as root and enter lsmod | grep "usb-storage". If that does not yield any output, manually load it via modprobe usb-storage. Then try to mount the device via mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /media/sda1 (check that /media/sda1 exists. If not, create that directory or mount it to a different place). If that works, you can still manually add a respective entry to /etc/fstab. See the respective man page on how to do that, and do not forget to make the entry noauto!

The content of the memory stick now resides under /media/sda1. For the DCR-TRV30E, the content is split into two subdirectories:

I do not know what the directory structure looks like for other models, but it is most likely very similar.

The pictures and short movies can then be accessed like ordinary files since they are part of the file system now. This includes deleting them, which will save you some effort as you do not have to fiddle around with the camera to delete the files manually after downloading them.

Here is a trivial script that will download the pictures and short movies from the memory stick to the current directory, no matter what the directory structure on your memory stick looks like. Do not forget to make it executable via chmod +x after downloading it.

Usage: <directory-where-MemoryStick_is_mounted>
Example: /media/sda1

Accessing the MiniDV Tape Recordings

All your footage is stored on these.

To access your recordings you have to use a Firewire connection. First off, note that Firewire is also referenced to as 1394. The reason is that Firewire is a registered trademark by Apple, who are very strict regarding usage of the term Firewire. Most others use 1394 instead, as it is the ISO 1394 standard that defines Firewire. Sony does not use any of the above, they use the term In the following description, we will use the term Firewire, but when you read other manuals or websites, remember that Firewire can be referenced to by various names.


You have to get a Firewire adapter. Not all adapters work with linux, but linux1394 provides a list of supported hardware. It is basically a good idea to look for OHCI compliant hardware, but always check that page to be sure that you buy something you can use other than as a door stopper.
Firewire support comes with 2.4 series kernels. Development still continues, but any recent distribution should work. Tests have been done using a kernel of version 2.4.18. Similar to USB, hotplugging support for Firewire exists, but is only recently available. SuSE 8.2 started to bring hotplugging support for Firewire devices, other distributions can be expected to follow.
If hotplugging dies not support Firewire on your box, other than USB setting up Firewire support is not trivial. linux1394 has all the answers you need and features an excellent tutorial for setting up Firewire support. You can most probably skip the part about the kernel configuration if you use the standard kernel of your distribution. Make sure that the gscanbus application works and remember how you got there!
The most common problem here is that the necessary kernel modules for Firewire support are not always automatically loaded. In that case, after connecting your camera (do not forget to switch it on!) to your box, load the necessary modules manually.
Whether hotplugging works or not, make sure that gscanbus works.
If everything is right, gscanbus should show your camera.Another common problem is user-rights related: You might not have the necessary rights to access the Firewire device as a regular user. In that case, either make the device accessible for all users via the chmod command. Or log in as root for further operations, which is strongly discouraged due to security risks.

After that, you have two options to proceed: Use the command line tool dvgrab or opt for a fancy GUI-based application and use kino. You might have to compile these programs yourself, and since kino has way more dependencies than dvgrab and is hence harder to build, inexperienced users might want to opt for dvgrab in that case. Equally, in case one of these two applications is available as a package for your distribution, inexperienced users should prefer whatever they can get packaged.

Another prerequisite for transmitting your footage to your box is a huge and fast harddrive. As the footage is only slightly compressed, even short sequences need a lot of space. You need approximately 15GB for an hour of footage! A few seconds will immedialtely generate hundreds of megabytes on your disk, so you have been warned. Also, your harddrive has to be fast: It has to write all that data on your disk in real time. Since there is only a tiny buffer available, what cannot be written onto the harddrive in time will be discarded! Therefore it is not a good idea to do backups of your harddrive while copying footage from your MiniDV at the same time...

Get it done

Using dvgrab

In the best case, your distribution will provide a package for dvgrab.
Otherwise, download the sources from this page. After extracting the files, find instructions on how to compile and install dvgrab in the INSTALL file included in the package.
Once you have successfully installed dvgrab, it is time to grab some footage off your camera:
    1. Connect your camera to your box, turn it on  and set everything up
    2. Use gscanbus to verify that your camera is connected correctly
    3. Switch your camera to VCR mode or alternatively to camera mode. Note that whatever you can see on the display of your camera is also transmitted to your machine via Firewire. dvgrab will then write that stream to your harddrive.
    4. Enter the following command to record what your camera is transmitting:
      dvgrab --format dv1 test
      See dvgrab --help for explanation of parameters.
    5. Hit <CTRL> + C to stop recording
You can now find a new file test.avi in your current directory, which contains what you have

Using kino

In the best case, your distribution will provide a package for kino.
Otherwise, download the sources from this page.
Then, proceed like this:
  1. Connect your camera to your box, turn it on and set everything up
  2. Use gscanbus to verify that your camera is connected correctly
  3. Switch your camera to VCR mode or alternatively to camera mode
  4. Start kino and select the tab labeled capture, located on the rightmost side of the GUI. Whatever you can see on the display of your camera should also be  visible in kino now.
  5. Enter a filename in the edit field below
  6. You can now start recording by hitting the button labeled Capture
  7. Stop recording by hitting the button labeled xxx
The file you specified in step 5 contains what you have recorded.

Other Things of Interest

Watch your Recordings

To watch what you have recorded on your harddrive, use your favorite movie player. The most popular ones around are mplayer and xine, and it is impossible to give a good suggestion on which one to use. mplayer supports nearly any video format out there and pays a lot of attention to performance issues. It also has a pretty good GUI. xine still supports many video formats, though not as many as mplayer. But the GUI is even more polished, and the overall usability is better.

Edit your Recordings

You may now want to edit what you have. There exist three tools so far to do

Replay the Videos to your Camera

kino, again, has the capability to do that, TBD

Other things of interest


11.5.2003 initial version

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