Dec 21 AT 12:37 AM Clark Wimberly 43 Comments

How to take screenshots of Google TV over WiFi with ADB


A few days ago, my Logitech Revue received its long-awaited update to Android 3.1 and with it came glorious, glorious access to the Android Market. The main category I’d been longing to fill was a solid media player with decent codec support. I finally found that in Plex so I wanted to review the app, which meant I needed a way to capture screenshots. Which, of course, I had no idea how to do.

Turns out it’s not a terribly complex process, but there are definitely a few gotchas that you should watch out for. You don’t even need to physically connect to the device, since the entire process is completed over WiFi via the Android Device Bridge (or ADB).

It’s called remote debugging and it’s something I’m sure the seasoned hackers out there are familiar with it but it’s not something I spent much time on myself. Also, after I got it working, I tweeted about my success, where @trsohmers chimed in and mentioned that remote debugging isn’t allowed on the Sony Google TV products, so this guide is exclusive to the Logitech Revue for the time being.

Update: As Cole points out in the comments, this method DOES work for the Sony Blu-ray player, so at least there’s that. It seems like only the Sony TV users are left in the cold here.

Prerequisite: Install the Android SDK

To complete the steps I’m about to lay out, you’ll need the Android SDK installed on your computer, the explanation of which is outside the scope of this tutorial- but fear not! There is ample explanation in other areas of the web, including a fairly old version right here on our site. If someone has a better basic SDK guide, please post it in the comments.

Another extremely important step is to set your Revue to display in 720p. The first few times I attempted this I was met with errors and it took finding an obscure post in a GTV Google Group to learn that 1080p is too large and will overrun the buffer. So for now, 720p is the way to go!

Once you’ve got the Android SDK installed on your workstation and a Logitech Revue powered up and on the network, you’re ready to connect and start debugging. If you’re Revue is in another room, you might want to make note of your workstation IP before we begin (example:

Step 1: Enable Remote Debugging on the Revue

Before you can do anything, you’ll need to enable Remote Debugging on your Logitech Revue. You’ll find the option in Settings > Applications > Development and all you need to do is check a box:

While you’re here, you’ll also need to enter the IP address of your workstation computer. It’s basically a whitelist which allows your computer to connect- if you don’t enter the correct IP address here, you’re ADB command in the next step won’t work. I’d imagine this is for security, and I guess I appreciate it because I especially don’t want some goober peeping on what I’m watching.

Step 2: Retrieve IP address of GTV device

To connect to the device over WiFi, you’ll need the IP address of the Logitech Revue, which you can find in Settings > Network > Status:

Step 3: Connect to the GTV device via ADB

Once the Revue knows your workstation IP and you know the IP of the Revue, you’re ready to connect with a simple ADB command. Open up the command promt, and type:

adb connect <ip address>

replacing <ip address> with the actual IP we retrieved in the last step. If the command works, the prompt will return connected to <ip address> and you’ll be able to proceed as if you’d physically connected the device like you’ve done with a phone hundreds of times in the past.

Step 4: Capture screens using DDMS

Once you’ve got you’re GTV device connected (which you can verify by typing adb devices into the command prompt), you’ll be ready to capture screens using DDMS (the Dalvik Debug Monitor Server). Simply type ddms into the prompt and you’ll be on your way:

You’ll notice in the bottom of the DDMS window that you’ve got a ‘Log’ pane, which should be flashing all sorts of activity from your connected GTV device (this should let you know you’re on the right path). From there, just select Device > Screen Capture and you’ll get a nice capture of what’s going on on your Logitech Revue:

I should point out that the screen capture won’t work correctly if you’v got live TV currently displayed. Apparently they’ve used some sort of black magic to scrub the picture out, but almost every other app captures just fine.

In conclusion…

Now that I’ve got this new-found, TV-app-capturing capability, I plan on trying to do some more Google TV app reviews. Since I got the upgrade I’ve really been using the hell out of my Logitech Revue. My wife even just bought me a second one for Christmas (she even let me open it early because I guessed what it was). I opened it tonite and the upgrade came as part of the initial setup, so I see the Revue being at the center of my entertainment world for the foreseeable future.

I’d say my current favorite app is easily Plex for Google TV, which is a full-feature media player that feels close to what I thought I’d be getting with GTV the first time around. I can play all of my network media with ease, along with custom channels from around the internet. I’ll be working on a full review of Plex, but I was curious what other apps you GTV users have taken to. Is there anything else out there I totally need to check out?

And just for good measure, here is one more captured screenshot:


Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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  • damambt

    THANKS !!!!!

    • tmihai20

      Now all I need is a Google TV…

      • Lewis McGeary

        Tell me about it, maybe after Christmas when money isn’t so tight(and maybe an official UK release).
        Will be really hard to resist once all the app reviews start coming using this screenshot technique.

        Thinking about it, I could really have done with a Google TV this past fortnight while our Satellite TV’s been out of commision(still is). A Google TV would have filled that gap nicely!

      • LukeT32

        For $99 you can’t go wrong. I couldn’t honestly say I have been happier with any purchase then my Revue. (Well price to enjoyment ratio.) :)

  • Jorge Eslava

    Thanks Clark, this is great info.

  • jaxidian

    This is some good info for sure! I didn’t realize this was possible. Thanks for this write-up!

  • Hall Lo

    This is amazing :D Thanks for the tips!

  • Cole Loomis

    This sucks that you can’t do it on Sony.

    • Cole Loomis

      SWEET. OK. So I have got it working. I was having some issues with my sdk. I have the Sony BluRay player with Google TV, and it does have the remote debugging option. I tested it out and was able to take a screenshot.

  • ramenchef

    Thanks for this in-depth guide.

  • Dylan Andersen

    Great write up. So useful.

  • erimin

    Great didn’t know it!

  • Aaron

    I appreciate the tip, but I think this officially crosses the line into “more trouble than it’s worth” territory for those of us not running Android blogs.

  • Martjn2

    Google tv is amazing!

  • stenzor

    How does this stack up against XBMC?

  • Stella

    Thanks for the in-depth guide.

  • MOnline

    Thanks for the info. I have been trying to take screenshots of my Google TV for weeks now. Although I am curious how making screenshots will work when android 4.0 arrives for google TV (as it has build in screenshot functionality)

  • zyphbear

    This is great that they got this included in Honeycomb for GTV! I am a little disappointed I can’t do it on my Sony GoogleTV though. Maybe a 3rd party will come along and offer that ability to do that soon.

    Now I can’t wait for Hulu to finally release their GTV app so I can watch TV content easier! (Outside of connecting the TV via HDMI or stream what is on my computer via TVersity.)

  • keridel

    Nice little how to there thanks.

    Now we just need it in the UK!

  • HoLfElDeR

    There is no google tv in my coutry, and i want it so despetrly

    • kazahani

      I’ve heard that they are working on building this great big worldwide network of communication tubes.

      You could probably order it using that.

      Once it’s finished, of course.

  • Lee Swanson

    We are still debating between getting the Revue or a Roku. My co-worker has a Revue and really likes it. I just wish the Revue would get Hulu Plus.

    • Harley_Pearson

      It would be nice if the Revue got Hulu plus. Then the Revue would be a clear winner.

  • ndub21

    Seems like there would be an easier way to accomplish that. I love my Google TV and I’m getting two Revues as presents for my parents and my wife’s parents this year, but there really need to be some better apps. I’m hoping that with time, the apps will improve and so will Google TV. I am a little concerned though since Logitech abandoned the Logitech Revue that software updates won’t come quickly. I would love if the Google TV team would take over the Revue and issue updates for it (like a Nexus). That would be the optimal solution for me.

    • azswift

      Isn’t screen capture just two simultaneous button presses on ICS? Maybe someone could use the code responsible and make a small app for 3.X devices…

  • amgala

    I just got the GTV a few days ago, so I’ll definitely have to try this out. Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Anton Spaans

    Note that there are some limitations. You may not get a screen shot when you Revue’s output is set to 1080p. Set it to 720p or lower if you can’t take a screenshot.

    This issue is discussed here:

    • Clark Wimberly

      I mentioned it in the original post.

  • Ben Rollier

    Got my update last week. Overall, I’ve been a little underwhelmed with the choices in the Market so far but, I’ve been meaning to check out Plex. Looking forward to your review :)

    Really can’t wait until Angry Birds gets GTV compatible.

  •!/profile.php?id=583695634&ref=profile rahuly2k7

    Guys! Help me out.. Should I buy Logitech Revue google TV? Is it worth it? I don’t have cable, I watch everyting online…

    • Clark Wimberly

      What services do you watch? The Netflix app has been pretty solid, Amazon video works just fine, CNN has an app, but mainly I find myself watching my own downloaded content. I used to use the Logitech Media Player that comes pre-installed on the Revue, but since the update I’m running Plex. The only service I really hear people complain about missing is Hulu, but if you don’t use that I’d say it’s a pretty solid buy.

      •!/profile.php?id=583695634&ref=profile rahuly2k7

        Thank you for the quick response.. I usually watch netflix, watch youtube videos.. How is the chrome browser? does it play flash content and is it the same was how we use on our PCs?

        • Clark Wimberly

          Ah, yeah, I forgot about YouTube. The new YouTube app is pretty great, and when paired with your phone it gets even cooler. You can share the video right from your phone up to the big screen. The browser works pretty well. It’s a bit slow, but that’s sort of expected with a $100 device. It handles flash video pretty well, games not so much, but again, that’s probably expected.

          Overall for the value I think it can’t be beat.

          •!/profile.php?id=583695634&ref=profile rahuly2k7

            Oh ok great! Thank you so much for you feedback, it really helped..

  • Skis03

    I want Google TV and I need to get it. It slowly but surely gets better.

  • dave01568

    That’s good to know. How in the world did you learn this

  • Adryan maldonado

    Thats a really nifty feature. although i could see this used for really cool things as well as well some bad things. Lets focus on the good though. Its still really cool regardless

  • humidity

    I can’t wait to get a Logitech Revue of my own!

  • donger

    i would like a revue. seems cool

  • subbu

    thanks Clark, great post.

  • Jerry

    hmmm seems with the newest update you cant do this via wifi.. i did this before but now i cannot :(

  • Chulteur Thelus

    Im Stuck On Step 3, The Command Prompt Keeps Giving me An Error