EyeTV 3: Television on Your Desktop & iPhone

Few people would argue that we’ve begun to see a fundamental shift away from broadcast television to online media in recent years. That said, there’s still a phenomenal demand for digital, cable and satellite television (and some great programming available).

Just because broadcast TV isn’t streamed over the Internet, doesn’t mean that your Mac can’t play a part in the experience. Today I’ll be looking at EyeTV, an application designed to watch, pause, record and convert television on your Mac. To use the application, you’ll also need a compatible TV receiver (I’ll be using the EyeTV Sat, which supports HD in the UK).

Choosing a Hardware Device

The first thing to note is that EyeTV requires a hardware TV receiver. Various different types are available – some receive standard analogue TV, some digital, one picks up satellite broadcasts, and another also includes composite/s-video inputs. You have several options, but be sure to pick one that’s appropriate for the type of broadcast in your country.

setup

Setting Up the EyeTV Software

After setting up the device and installing the software, you’ll be walked through a very straight-forward setup and tuning procedure. You’re given a free subscription to an online TV guide, which provides regular updates to the software so you always know what’s on.

You may find that you need to manually tune a few channels if they aren’t picked up by default. This can be done by opening the “Channel Guide”, right clicking, and selecting “Manually Add Channel”. It’s particularly useful when using the EyeTV Sat.

EyeTV in action

EyeTV in action

The software is remarkably simple, but also packs a fairly impressive bunch of features.

The Controller

The Controller

The Controller

The most notable part of the app that you’ll interact with regularly is the controller. It looks sleek, and features buttons to control the TV channel, volume, and playback (you can quickly record a programme, or fast-forward/rewind through the recent broadcast). EyeTV automatically records a “buffer”, so you can rewind television even if you’re not recording.

The two buttons in the top corners will open each of the two types of menu/guide:

  1. The Overlay Menu: Great for when you need to control EyeTV from a distance – this is similar to the TV menu you’d expect on a set top box.
  2. The EyeTV Software Menu: A more in-depth interface for managing channels, recordings and schedules.

Each EyeTV device also contains an infra-red receiver and comes bundled with a physical remote control. It makes for easy channel-hopping from the couch. If you’re already a fan of Front Row – never fear – you can also use the Apple Remote to control EyeTV and easily swap between the two media interfaces. Simply press the “Menu” button once to access Front Row, or hold it down for a few seconds to access EyeTV.

Schedule & Recording

The real power behind EyeTV becomes apparent for viewing TV schedules and setting up recording. The TV guide looks gorgeous, and is packed with information about each programme:

Programme Guide

Programme Guide

You can schedule any program to record simply by clicking on it and, if it’s a series, instruct EyeTV to automatically record all the future episodes (Tivo style). This worked well in my testing (the app hasn’t missed an episode of Peep Show so far). Obviously this will only work if you have the EyeTV application open, so it’s a good idea to leave it open even when not in use.

After recording a TV show, editing is a simple process (don’t worry – you won’t need to export into iMovie!). A straight forward edit window lets you crop out the beginning and end of a recording, remove advertisements, then save it back into EyeTV.

The Editing Window

The Editing Window

Exporting

After you’ve recorded a program, EyeTV makes it easy to export it to various devices:

  • Toast: You can burn the programme to a DVD using the popular application, Toast.
  • iPod/Apple TV: The app can convert the show to iPod (or Apple TV) sized video and import it directly into iTunes

This process can happen completely seamlessly in the background, so a show is ready to put on an iPod next time you come back to your Mac.

On Your iPhone

The last few months have seen some fantastic improvements to the EyeTV iPhone application, which is now capable of streaming programmes you’ve recorded across a Wi-Fi network, scheduling new recordings, or even watching and controlling live TV:

iPhone Preferences

iPhone Preferences

The setup process works seamlessly, and the interface on the iPhone is remarkably easy to use. I was impressed with the quality of live TV streaming, though I’d also love to see this feature enabled for streaming video to another Mac connected to the network.

On the iPhone

On the iPhone

The iPhone app costs $5, and obviously requires a licensed copy of the desktop EyeTV software.

Conclusion

After using EyeTV regularly for a few weeks, I’m very impressed with the number of features packed into the software and the level of reliability. Despite doing some fairly heavy video lifting, EyeTV always remains responsive and snappy.

In a future version of EyeTV I’d love to see integration with online social/streaming video sites such as Hulu, Netflix etc. To have access to both broadcast and Internet video in one application would be superb.

The thing I find most remarkable is that, despite the lack of competition in this market, EyeTV are innovating at a phenomenal pace. Very few other companies produce similar software, but Elgato are not resting on their laurels. Not only is EyeTV a great piece of software at the moment, it seems to be improving regularly with new features and bug fixes.

If you’re looking for a TV solution on your Mac I can’t recommend EyeTV highly enough.


  • http://coghillcartooning.com George Coghill

    etv ComSkip for EyeTV to automagically adds commercial markers to your recordings. Free!

    http://code.google.com/p/etv-comskip/

    Also, you can indeed stream Mac-to-Mac – just install the EyeTV software on the second Mac, enable streaming on the host Mac EyeTV prefs, and then on the 2nd Mac you’ll see the host Mac folder in the “Shared” folder on the left-hand panel.

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  • Russ

    but how many free channels do you get in North America..say West Coast for this to really be beneficial and worth it.

  • Peter

    I own the DVB-T version, and I love it. I have had to deal with several Windows-based TV receivers in the past, and I have to say the software alone is worth the price, let alone the price difference with comparable receivers. Reception is very good, significantly better than with a Windows-based receiver from Pinnacle that cost quite a bit more. I haven’t been able to test HD reception/performance since we won’t get HD via DVB-T here in Germany for another two or even five years, but it says that the hardware/software is theoretically able deal with it, so it should be ready for the future.

    The software has a built-in auto update function, which lets you stay current and gives you access to the lates bug-fixes, which are made available regularly. The EPG timeline is just amazing, and overall the UI is very Mac-like. Also, performance is great. On my MacBook it can play or record in the background without causing any noticeable sluggishness whatsoever.

    One minor problem, though, is that recordings with multiple sound tracks (for instance if a movie is broadcast with dubbed and original sound in parallel, which sadly rarely ever happens here), eyety is capable of recording it, but not of burning it to DVD as multiple sound tracks, it will only use write of the two to the disc.

    Another annoyance is that the software keeps asking for admin privilleges every time it is started. However, I found that you can safely click “Cancel” in that dialog box without getting into trouble of any kind, so you only need admin privilleges for the installation and to set up the sharing/iPhone thing.

    But other than that, I can thoroughly recommend eyeTV. Even for Windows users who are looking into getting a living room computer, buying a Mac Mini to use eyeTV would probably be worth it. It doesn’t install 2.5 GB of crap plus several autostart tasks that take forever to load every time you boot the system and it doesn’t have a nonstandard interface with bright and ugly colors. It looks great, behaves great, and works great, which is fantastic.

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  • http://www.seowonders.com Bustor

    Considering the hardware updates we continuously have we are not far from getting this as a common feature

  • http://twitter.com/fritcher Dan

    The hardware and software are separate. You’ll have to pay for upgrades after getting the software with the hardware the first time. ($80.)

    If you are a big fan of hulu – probably don’t need this. If you watch a lot of live tv, it’s a nice pick up.

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  • Oscar Ruitt

    I’m thinking of using the EyeTV Hybrid to record over-the-air (U.S.) to a Mac which is in a different room than my TV. I am considering connecting another computer, either a Mac Mini or Apple TV, to the TV. If I install the commercial-skipping software into the EyeTV software, presumably it will leave an edited version of the recording on my recording computer. (It seems that earlier versions left a separate text file with edit points, but newer versions incorporate the edits into the video file.) So my question is, after comskip finishes its work on the recorded program, will Apple TV honor the skips or will I need to get a Mac Mini? I want this to work with little or no input from me, essentially like my trust old Panasonic VHS recorder which tireless marks commercials and then automatically skips then when playing back.

  • Ralph Figueroa

    I’m setting up a media room right now and wondering if I should be including a mac mini in the installation as well as an ethernet run from my router in another room. If my HD OTA programing is coming via a coax RF cable and going into the EyeTV and then to the mac mini, can I in essence, just attach a hard drive along with this as well and pull HD programming? I guess I’m just wanting to be sure I’m not missing anything? It seems like that’s all I need in essence. I could control my mac mini from the couch with an itouch or similar device and go through the menus on EyeTV’s software to schedule programming, I imagine? Can this be true? Will this be able to replace my TIVO Series 3? What are the caveats? Can I record two channels at once?

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    many free channels do you get in North America..say West Coast for this to really be beneficia

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