Capturing still images from video devices in PHP using Framegrab

I found I had a need to capture and process still video images from video devices using PHP so I wrote the Framegrab PECL extension. This post introduces the basics of Framegrab.

The framegrab extension is currently only available for Linux although Windows and OS X support will be coming soon. On Linux the extension uses the Video For Linux API version 2.

Framegrab adds two classes to PHP. FrameGrabDevice represents a video capture device and FrameGrabImage an image captured with a FrameGrabDevice.

You can create a new FrameGrabDevice for the default video capture device as follows:

	$device = new FrameGrabDevice();

The extension will iterate through available video devices until it finds one that supports video capture. A FrameGrabDeviceException will be thrown either if no video devices are available or if the available video devices do not support video capture.

You can supply an argument to the constructor (see below) if you want to initialise a specific video device. In this case the FrameGrabDeviceException will be thrown if that specific device does not exist or does not support video capture.

	$device = new FrameGrabDevice('/dev/video1');

Once you have a device you can then grab an image using the grab() method. The method takes no arguments and returns a FrameGrabImage object or false on error. As the FrameGrabImage constructor is a protected method you cannot create objects directly using new.

Once you have the image you can either save the image to the file in PNG format or have it returned as a string in PNG format using the writeAsPNG() and toStringAsPNG() methods respectively. The former takes a filename as the sole argument and returns false on error. The latter takes no arguments and returns either the PNG data as a string or false on error.

The two objects also support a number of properties. The code below demonstrates the extension in use. It returns an image captured from the default video device as a PNG. The image has capture device and image meta data embedded in it visible in the top left corner of the image.

	if ($fgimage) {
		// Create a GD image from a frame grab image
		$gdimage = imagecreatefromstring($fgimage->toStringAsPNG());
		// Output data about the image on to the image
		$font  = 1;
		$black = imagecolorallocate($gdimage, 0, 0, 0);
		$fh    = imagefontheight($font);
		$x     = 10;
		$y     = 10;
		imagestring($gdimage, $font, $x, $y, "Device: ".$device->device, $black);
		$y += $fh;
		imagestring($gdimage, $font, $x, $y, "Card: ".$device->card, $black);
		$y += $fh;
		imagestring($gdimage, $font, $x, $y, "Width: ".$fgimage->width, $black);
		$y += $fh;
		imagestring($gdimage, $font, $x, $y, "Height: ".$fgimage->height, $black);
		$y += $fh;
		imagestring($gdimage, $font, $x, $y, "Format: ".$fgimage->format, $black);
		$y += $fh;
		imagestring($gdimage, $font, $x, $y, "Bytes per line: ".$fgimage->bytes_per_line, $black);

		// Output the image
		header('Content-Type: image/png');
} catch (Exception $e) {
	// Handle the FrameGrabDevice exception here.


The extension is available at the PECL site.

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to “Capturing still images from video devices in PHP using Framegrab”

  1. Muzer Says:

    Sorry for offtopic-ness, but is the BBC Ethernet interface something you are going to finish? Will you post the schematics for the working User Port version?

  2. cyberspice Says:

    Yes and yes 🙂 Watch this space 🙂

  3. Mohit Says:

    I installed the framegrab extension and then saved your example program as a PHP file. But when I access the page it says “Fatal error: Class ‘FrameGrabDevice’ not found in /var/www/tut/webcam.php on line 6”.

    Can you tell me why it is not working?

Leave a Reply