Playing with EyeTV and my DVDs

Posted by Chris Green on Friday December 30 @ 10:15 pm

EyeTV running on the Mac Mini

This evening, as I write this post, I have a PC humming away at one side of my desk, as Windows XP slowly reinstalls itself on the PC’s 300GB hard drive.

Above the desk, my trusty Mac Mini is almost silent, as usual, as it checks my mail and does my usual day-to-day computing. However, over the last 24 hours, I have found a new task for it to undertake.

Yesterday, my latest purchase from the Apple Store arrived – an Elgato EyeTV for DTT, or put simply, a Mac-compatible USB Freeview digital TV receiver.

It’s rather different to most of its PC counterparts. It has no MHEG support and makes next to no use of the Freeview broadcast 8-day electronic programme guide (EPG), instead using a web-based EPG service called TVTV (for which you receive a free 12-month subscription, £14.99 thereafter). From here you can browse what shows are on over a 7-day period (though the service is a little behind the times, with no listing for ITV4, E4+1 or More4+1). You flag on the site what you want to record, and the software on your Mac periodically syncs with the site to pick up new recording requests (you can of course force an update).

This is great as it means you can set recordings remotely (assuming your Mac is on). Also, if you set a recording that is subsequently downloaded to the Mac, and you then switch the machine off, either the software or the USB adapter (we haven’t worked out which yet) will power up your machine at the appropriate time and engage the recording (although it falls foul of the login screen if you have a password or multiple accounts set).

And it gets better – as well as being a pretty good receiver and recorder (although the complete lack of MHEG is a real loss – no red button interactive services, no BBC Parliament video, no Sky Text, no BBCi etc etc), the software also includes the ability to easily export your recordings in either of two iPod supported formats, MPEG4 or H.264.

The results are excellent, but the process is VERY slow on my Mac Mini (I link to the US page as both my Mac Mini’s were bought in the US, rather than here in the UK). I am sure it will work better on a G5, and hopefully much better on a multicore G5 or one of the forthcoming multicore Intel-based Macs coming in 2006/7.

In any case, I have so far exported two recordings (a movie I recorded from Channel 5 last night, and a 30-minute chunk of Sky News) and transferred them to my 60GB iPod Video. Both play perfectly and look really good!

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