recordmydesktop and OGV

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September 20th, 2011

Just a small heads up to anyone doing any kind of screencast or desktop recording on a typical desktop Linux:

Usually, people will recommend recordmydesktop, which is a very cool program that's available e.g. in the Ubuntu repositories. It works really well and all, but I keep running into walls with the OGG/Theora videos that it produces.

I'm no expert on video encoding, but apparently recordmydesktop does some very fancy optimizations involving variable FPS and stuff like that, so the video files are quite small byte-wise. Unfortunately, this has caused problems for me down the line: I can play the files just fine in Totem (thus, gstreamer) or VLC. But as soon as I try to reencode them, all hell breaks loose.

I tried importing the files into Kino, but they would cut off too early and the framerate would go bananas. I tried reencoding with ffmpeg, only to get playback speed issues. Mencoder didn't help either. Even VLC, which could play the files without problems, would not produce usable results, but would seemingly offset frame rates, so that when there was no movement on screen for any length of the video, in the resulting video it would pause a couple of frames earlier, which was very annoying.

Despite long searches, I wasn't able to find anyone else having the same problem online. So maybe I'm just incompetent and I'm making some obvious mistake. Still, I wasted hours today trying to figure this out, and I still failed.

So if by any chance you run into the same problem some time, just save yourself a lot of grief and use ffmpeg with x11grab instead of recordmydesktop. It has the added advantage that you can directly encode to any format that ffmpeg can do (which is pretty much all of them).

(It almost pains me to admit this, but in the end I used ffmpeg/x11grab to capture my OGV playing in Totem and then re-muxed the audio because I didn't want to re-record it all. In the future I'll probably use x11grab directly.)


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