This morning, while in the process of a lengthy sunday-morning wake-up process, I figured: Let's see if I can't get that PinePhone video recording script I downloaded recently to work on postmarketOS. After being successful, I felt that documenting how I did this might be helpful.

Just to be clear: This article is about the AllWinner A64 powered original PinePhone, NOT the PinePhone Pro

The issue at hand

PinePhone video recording? Why would you want that? I don't really know either. On the other hand, it somewhat upset 1 me when I read the title of a recent reddit post on the topic: When are they going to add video recording to the default OS? It’s ridiculous it can’t take video out of the box 📦.

I knew that people had managed to record video with the PinePhone before, but personally I had never bothered. I had downloaded scripts, but device names did not match up, and I moved on. After all, 720p at 30FPS would not be enough for todays content creation for YouTube & co.

I left some comments on the thread and browsed another reddit thread (a video recording success story), and downloaded a fairly recent script2, which records video in 720p, adjusts rotation and compresses it afterwards by reencoding it to VP9 and opus in a .webm container. Being made for Manjaro, it (as I had expected) did not work right out of the box after installing the necessary packages:

sudo apk add ffmpeg v4l-utils

I gave up then, and tried again this morning.

Adjusting the script

The first adjustments I had to make were to line 8 and 9. I figured this out by using the well known and simple command ls :

ls /sys/bus/iio/devices

listed three devices: iio:device0, iio:device1, and iio:device3.

I then used ls to show the content of these "device folders" and figured out that it had to be iio:device1 on postmarketOS and changed the script accordingly.

Now, the script failed differently, something could not be linked. I did not even know where, so I added some echo statements before line 30 (echo "media-ctl does its magic now") and line 32 (echo "ffmpeg takes over").

And... it was media-ctl, sadly - I had hoped for ffmpeg, since I have used it a lot more.

I ended up reading through media-ctl --help to understand the error better. Apparently, device names or IDs were different here, too. To solve this, I went a way that did not require much thinking, working around my utter lack of knowledge and my not wanting to get out of bed: Just compiling Megapixels with meson and ninja right on the device. I had to install a lot of packages3 for that, but after successfully running

meson build && cd build

I could now run megapixels-list-devices which told me what I needed to do: Adjusting lines 30 and 31 was necessary: 3-003c and 3-004c had to be changed to 4-003c and 4-004c respectively.

Now, I could run the script with a simple ./ test, but had forgot the way to skip recording to move on to ffmpeg (it's pressing q, as documented on the corresponding post on the Manjaro forums). I looked that up, and did again. After pressing q, ffmpeg did it's job, which took multiple minutes. I plugged my PinePhone into its power supply and went to take a shower.4


While I won't share my 21 second long video (privacy, you know), here are some metrics:

-rw-r--r--    1 user     user      380.6M Sep 11 12:44 test.mkv
-rw-r--r--    1 user     user        7.2M Sep 11 13:15 test.webm

As you can see, video recording at 720p leads to quite large files quickly, and encoding, to free up storage, takes a lot of time. I think this could be improved by trying different encodings - x264 may be an option, as that has at least hardware support for accelerated decoding.

The result is quite okay. I think that adding a desktop file and maybe a minimal GUI (e.g. using yad) could bring this to a more user-friendly state rather quickly. But that's more than a simple sunday morning thing.

Other projects

There are more options to record video that may be better starting points (this is not a complete list, just the projects that I know of):


While the hardware is obviously limiting the use of video recording on the PinePhone, it's doable. Maybe this post inspires someone to take it on as a seperate project, or to integrate it into Megapixels. Maybe, you, dear reader, are the one to make it happen!

Update, 2023-10-03: A video recorded on PinePhone

While I have not looked into this since publishing this blog post, YouTube user Flax published a video which was actually recorded on PinePhone: Pinephone video recording - YouTube

Here's the script they came up with/used: -

Update, 2023-10-09: A GUI for video recording

alaraajavamma has put together recent video recording scripts and asimple GUI for using them which you can find on GitLab. Great job!


The "When are they" is really not okay IMHO - I read questions like this as "Why can't the people that work on this hardware unpaid in their free time not work on the feature I want, without me even asking for it?".


Since neither the code hosting page nor the posts on reddit or the Manjaro forums indicate a license, I'll just share my adjustments to the script and not my adjusted script here.


alpine-sdk, meson, ninja, gcc, cc, gtk4.0-dev, zbar-dev...


I've added the a hint to my first echo statement so that I'll know next time.