Digital Lifestyles Reviews Tutorials

Elgato Systems’ EyeTV Hybrid

I like to watch TV in bed at night. Sometimes I like to record what I am watching, but this involves getting out of bed, putting a tape in the recorder and getting back in bed. Usually I have to open a new tape by somehow ripping off the cellophane that has been adhered to the tape pack by static electricity (a force often stronger than I am), and by the time I have the tape in the recorder I’ve missed the first few minutes of what I wanted to record anyway. In the meantime I’ve awakened my wife, disturbed the cat, and often stubbed my toe in the dark. My wife asked if there was not a better solution? She was insistent!

I found a better solution. I now watch TV in bed on my 17" laptop (MacBook Pro 2.33 C2D) connected to my Elgato Systems’ EyeTV Hybrid. A simple connection to a rectangular box smaller than my iPod attaches my laptop to the EyeTV, then RCA cables to my cable box completes the connection and enables me to watch TV full screen in bed.Earphones make the program silent as far as my sleeping wife is concerned. A quick selection from the dock opens myEyeTV control panel and allows me to begin to record; no time is lost, and I don’t miss any of the program. My wifedoes not wake up, turn over, or notice. No getting out of bed, no fumbling about for a new tape, nogetting cold feet,and the cat doesn’t wake up and decide an extra feeding is in order.

Here’s the control panel that pops up when I select EyeTV from the dock. Along with it I’ll get a window showing what is on the selected channel and all I have to do is hit the red button to RECORD.

Let’s look at what can be done:
  • You can watch analog and digital TV on your Mac.
  • You can rewind, fast forward, and pause digital TV.
  • You can record TV and edit out the unwanted content.
  • You can Search programs and schedule recordings with the built-in program guide from TitanTV (sorry,that’s for the USA only).
  • You can export recordings automatically to your iPod.
  • You can connect a game console to your Mac.
  • You can burn to DVD with Toast 8 Titanium (sorry, not included).
  • You don’t need an external power supply; the USB connection does it all.
System Requirements:
  • Mac® with a Power PC® G4, G5 or Intel Core® processor,
  • 256 MB of RAM (512 is recommended),
  • a built-in USB 2.0 port,
  • Mac OS X v10.4 or later.
  • An Internet connection is needed for downloading Program Guide Data if that feature is used.

This two-in-one system receives free-to-air digital HDTV (ATSC) and analog television (NTSC). It can be connected to a standard cable (more about this later) or an antenna that is not included. EyeTV Hybrid comes with a break outcable for composite video and S-Video; this enables you to connect a set top box for premium channels, digital cable,or satellite.

One note: 720p or 1080i HD require a Dual Power PC G5 or an Intel Core Duo processor. Analog TV is recorded via software encoder, and the quality depends on your processor speed and computer capabilities.

Here’s the EyeTV Setup Assistant initial window.

Naturally, there are the license requirements.

Select the country in which you are going to use the EyeTV.

Now choose the particular Elgato EyeTV that you are using.

Register and activate your product.

Now choose how you are going to physically connect your EyeTV to your particular television, DVD player, VHSplayer, and (in my case) the cable television box.

Here, to me, is the magic. The EyeTV box is about the size of two packages of chewing gum laid side by side. That’s all there is to it. I set mine to start up the EyeTV software whenever I plug in the small EyeTV box.

You can, if you desire, register with TitanTV and set up a programming guide. In my case, however, it would be futile.I live in the country where the electric service is interrupted at least twice a week. This means that any programming ofmicrowaves, alarm clocks, television recording or any circuit-dependant device will be lost on a regular basis. So, the ability to set up EyeTV to record programs while I am away is blocked. I passed on opening an account andincorporating the programming capability into my daily life.

Now comes the physical set up. In my case it is a digital cable receiver.

Give your set up a name and choose whether you are connecting by composite (RCA), S-Video, or an Antenna. In mycase, the combination of an older TV set with no S-Video or RCA out, and the separate cable box, VHS recorder/playerand the DVD player, meant that I had to connect to the cable box as it was the only unit with an extra composite (RCA)video out. There was nowhere else to attach my EyeTV cables. I’ve blanked out my Zip and the name of my particular service.

That’s all there really is to it. Now I watch TV in bed using the earphones attached to my laptop with the TV on mute.My wife doesn’t even stir.

Now let’s look at the control’s available. We’ll start with the Preferences.

Notice that in addition to the usual set up items you might expect, there is also the option to export to iPod and iPhoneformat.

You have to create a location to save your recorded movies if you intend to do more than simply enjoy TV on yourcomputer. In this case I created a folder on my desktop simply entitled EYETV RECORDING. I also set a buffer size for my live TV.

These are the default forward and back second adjustments to shift backwards and forwards through recorded TV material.

If you are using the TitanTV guide, here is where you insert your account.

Display allows you to choose whether overscan is on or off, and whether to allow full screen imaging or whether youwant to stretch your image horizontally. Deinterlace allows you to balance your picture quality and CPU usage.

The Full Screen option allows you to utilize your full screen from the beginning rather than having to increase fullscreen image after you have started watching or recording TV.

If you intend to access your network recordings on a Wi-Fi device you will need additional disk space for the reduced size copy.

Choose how your sound is to be played (remember, I’m using earphones).

With Devices choose ENCODING and choose your Live Quality and your Recording Quality.

If you are not happy with the Brightness, Contrast, Color, and Hue of your image, it can be adjusted.

Finally, here is the description of your EyeTV unit if you need to know any of the information about it.

The remainder of your controls will resemble those that normally appear when you are playing a DVD on your computer.

There you have it.

With Elgato’s EyeTV Hybrid selling for roughly $135 at many retailers. Some dealers I have seen it have it priced at just below $100. It has been one of the best investments for household harmony that I have encountered in a long time. I’ve described the set up in more detail than possibly is needed, but there are two ways of looking at it. One could assume that the new user could find his way through the set up with minimal difficulty and there would be no reason to explain the process. The other way of looking at it, which was what I chose, was to display a straightforward process that I think is a good model for the way set up should be for many devices. In short, I liked the process and I liked the product. Now I can watch and record late TV without disturbing either my wife or the cats.

Harmony is restored!

By Dr. Michael N. Roach

Dr. Michael N. Roach is a retired Professor of Art from Stephen F. Austin State University. His 33 year teaching career spans the silver to digital age. His images have been shown throughout the American South, Russia, Ireland and France; some of them are in the permanent collection of the Combes Gallery at The American University of Paris in France. An avid Mac Computer advocate he teaches workshops on digital imaging and courses in Adobe Photoshop as well as digital printing for the Fine Arts.