Introduction | Drivers (DVB/ATSC hardware) | iTele (viewer app) | Mpegitor | Forums
DVB and ATSC (Digital TV / HDTV) on the Mac
DVB is a popular standard for performing Digital Video Broadcast, i.e. it's used for the transmission of Digital TV (including HDTV). It relies on MPEG-2 compression just like DVDs do. This page is dedicated to receiving and viewing DVB and all the streams it transports on the Mac.
There are three main kinds of DVB:
- DVB-T Terrestrial DVB. This is used to broadcast Digital TV in the same way as 'normal' analogue TV, i.e. from a transmitter on the earth using radio waves.
- DVB-S Satellite DVB. This is used to broadcast Digital TV from a satellite (now you understand why the other one's called 'terrestrial')
- DVB-C Cable DVB. This is used in cable TV systems that carry Digital TV.
There are of course a myriad of other options and related protocols, but we'll get to them later.
ATSC is another digital video broadcasting system, also built on MPEG-2, that is used in North America and Korea, just so they could be different (again!). Supporting ATSC is included in the goals (and implemenations!) of the projects on this page, however DVB will usually come first since it is used by practically every other country.
Some DVB and ATSC transmissions are scrambled, so that you have to pay for a decrypter in order to descramble them. Scrambling is pretty much always used on satellite and cable transmissions, and practically never on terrestrial (yet).
There are a fair number of PCI decoder cards for each of the modes of DVB and ATSC, so if you have a PCI Mac (i.e. a PowerMac), you shouldn't have any trouble with the hardware side of things. There are a lesser number of USB devices, USB 1.1 doesn't quite cut it bandwidth-wise (for HDTV), but there are some USB 2.0 boxes too. I've heard rumours of a PC card (PCMCIA) but never seen one for real. And now of course ElGato has a digital version of their EyeTV hardware for Mac using FireWire (although it is around 3 times the price of a PCI card .. and unsurprisingly they did not make it compatible with my driver framework).
Some cards perform MPEG decoding in hardware, whereas others leave it up to the CPU. Usually those that do hardware decoding are more expensive and less flexible than those that do it in software. But they take less CPU.
If the DVB transmission is scrambled, then you need to acquire a 'CI' module in order to descramble the encrypted programs. This is another little card that plugs into the main DVB card. Various different pay TV providers sell these cards with a wondrous assortment of plans and services.
Of course, virtually none of this hardware comes with support for the Mac (OS 9 or OS X), so before you rush out and buy your card, see the Software section below.
Since Apple have embraced and promoted sensible hardware protocols (all cheer!), us enlightened Mac users now have little difficulty finding hardware which will physically (and electrically) fit inside our machines.
Getting the hardware to do what we require under our operating system of choice is however quite another matter. Fortunately, we are joined in this struggle by a huge and knowledgeable base of Linux wizards, who are trying to do exactly the same thing in a very similar environment. In particular, the prior efforts of the Linux-DVB developers greatly helped me to write the Mac driver for first digital TV card I acquired (and subsequent ones too).
So now there are quite a few digital TV cards supported on the Mac, with a few USB boxes thrown in for good measure - yes, you can now watch and record digital TV on your Mac! And as you can see from the links at the top of the page, there is a growing collection of software to present and manipulate it in a nice friendly Mac fashion. So what are you waiting for? Go get your PCI card or USB box, download the software on this site, and complete your digital hub!
Now we get to what you came here for - to download some software for your fancy new Digital TV card or box, and get it working with your Mac! First you'll need to get a driver. Then you'll need to grab iTele, which is what talks to the driver to let you watch and record Digital TV. After you've built up a few recordings you might be interested in Mpegitor to edit and prepare them for burning to DVD.
For interested developers, the source code is available through cvs, under the license described below. Use a CVSROOT of ':pserver:email@example.com:/home/defyneo/cvs/Repository' and check out the 'DVB' module. You will need to login with an empty password first. There is no mailing list, rather development discussion takes place on the associated forums. If the CVS server rejects your connection then let me know, sometimes it mysteriously dies.
You may do whatever you like with this free software and its source code, including using it or derivations of it in commercial products and trying to sell it. But you use it at your own risk, i.e. I don't guarantee that it's going to work or not crash your computer. And if you redistribute the source code or a derivation of it then you must acknowledge this site (www.defyne.org/dvb/) as its origin.
Notes from release v0.1
At the time of writing (8/7/2003) this project is in its very early stages. Here are some limitations:
- Alpha release, version 0.1. 'Works for me'
- Supports only one family of cards.
- DVB-T (Terrestrial DVB) only.
- Relies on external programs to do its dirty work
- My first Mac OS X programs (except for a hack so Civ III runs in 1680x1050 resolution :)
Last updated 10/4/2008 by John Dalgliesh