Mini-Review #4: vcs (Linux)

vcs is a command-line utility for Linux and Unix-like OSes to create video contact sheets (a collection of screenshots from a video file in a single image file). There are a few other apps that can do this, but I found this the easiest one to install and use.
The most basic way to use it is by typing vcs [videofile], which would get you a contact sheet with two columns with interval of 5 minutes in a png file. Keep in mind that vcs would create screenshots with the same size as your video, so the resulting contact sheet can be pretty big. You can change the size of the created screenshots, though.

The video I’m using in this post is Mayer and Bettle Explains Creative Commons.

There are lots of parameters you can use to create different-looking contact sheets, which are detailed in the documentation or by vcs --help/--fullhelp. The most simple ones are -i which sets the interval between screenshots, -c which sets the number of columns (the number of rows depends on how much screenshots it captured), and -n which sets the number of captures it’ll take.

For example, here’s what I get with vcs [samplevideo] -i 30 -c 4:

There’s also Funky Mode (-k* or —funky [name]), which can add effects to screenshots. They can be combined, for example vcs [videofile] -n 20 -c 4 -kL -kr -ko, which would create a contact sheet with 20 screenshots, 4 columns and overlap, rotate, and give them Polaroid-like frames. It’ll take some time and memory, though:

vcs lets you create profiles, which you can see with parameter -p:list and use by -p [profile name]. If you want to edit them or create your own, the configuration files are located in /usr/share/vcs/profiles.

Here’s a profile I created by combining the profiles ‘white’ and ‘mosaic’, which would create a 4×5 contact sheet with no timestamp, border, and shadow, username (by default, there’s your username on the bottom of contact sheets), on white background.:

# vcs:conf:
# vcs:desc: Combination of White and Compact
# $Id: default.conf 


I’ve been having some fun playing with vcs. It has lots of options and a pretty clear and complete documentation. The ability to create profiles is a great feature; if you often use command line-based programs, you know how long they could be.
Overall, it’s a pretty good app.

vcs (Video Contact Sheet)
Developer: Toni Corvera
Version: 1.13.2 (18 May 2014)
License: Open source, license unknown
OS: Linux, FreeBSD, UNIX-like
Website: vcs at


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