Read Canopus DV files
Thursday July 10th 2008, 9:57 am
Filed under: Old New Media

A decade ago, Apple and Microsoft had just begun to offer DV video capture over Firewire as a built-in OS feature. The quality of their early DV codecs was awful, so smaller companies stepped in to provide better ones. The Canopus codec was, arguably, the best of the lot, but it was crippled to work only on a system using their expensive custom Firewire cards. Since the cards are no longer sold, this creates a problem for people with lots of Canopus DV AVI files still lying around.

If it’s worth it to you to continue working in the Canopus codec–in my opinion, its superior quality still holds up–their Procoder software (US$500) includes an un-crippled version. For the rest of us, fortunately, Canopus was a good corporate citizen; they released several free tools to help out their former customers. Here are your options:

1. Canopus DV Playback codec (Windows only).
Install this and you can read Canopus AVIs. This is the most hassle-free solution if you run Windows and just want to import the files into another program. However, you’d need to convert them to another format to carry them over to a non-Windows OS, with accompanying generation loss. And even on Windows, Canopus files still can’t be played directly over Firewire out to tape without Canopus hardware.

2. Canopus DV Converter app (Windows only):
This is a step up; it reads a Canopus AVI and writes a Microsoft DV AVI, which you can play and record to tape on both Mac and Windows. This is probably the simplest archival solution. However, it has an annoying limitation–it can’t convert video files with no audio track. In the settings, set the target format to Microsoft DV (AVI 2).

For converting any Canopus file, including those without an audio track, there’s:

3. AVI FourCC Changer (Win) or AVI FourCC Changer X (PPC Mac).
It’s not as user-friendly as the Canopus converter, but it’s my preferred choice. It looks a bit like the old ResEdit file tweaker for Macs. You’ll see two text fields with the letters CDVC (sometimes one will be full of garbage characters). Change both of these to DVSD. Then save. (Be careful; unlike the Canopus converter, this overwrites your original file.)

4. AVI2CDVC (Windows only).
A command-line version that does the same thing, only you can batch-process a folder. Once again, remember that you’re overwriting originals.

And finally, if you just need to watch a Canopus file on any system, there’s:

5. VLC Player (Windows, Mac, and Linux)
Confirming once again that VLC Player plays everything, it’ll read a Canopus AVI just fine.

You can also use AviFourCCChangerX for OS X, available from

Comment by TedJ 08.06.08 @ 10:07 pm