I want my EyeTV

Now’s my chance to give back. Allow me to speak geek for a moment.

I want my EyeTV… but I can’t have one. I can’t justify spending another $100-$300 on EyeTV when I already have A) a firewire analog-digital DV converter (Canopus ADVC300) and B) a 32inch HD TV with DVR in the other room. Yeah my Mac is great. But its not that great. I imagine many of you are in the same boat as me. You’ve already got a great TV and DVR, why buy another piece of hardware?

The EyeTV however, gives me one thing a “normal” DVR doesn’t… iPod food! I’m completely addicted to my video iPod and spending an hour and a half on a train everyday allows me to soak up all that wonderful content. Sure I could read on the train, but there’s TV to watch!

So here’s the predicament. How do I get last night’s Heroes on this morning’s iPod?

I’ve come up with a way to solve this using mostly freeware. Obviously, this tutorial hinges on the fact that you already have some kind of hardware to get TV on your Mac.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Firewire DV converter ($?)
Quicktime Pro ($30)
Vidi (free)
Cronnix (free)
Export for iPod Automator action (free)

Lets get started…

1) First we’ll use Vidi. Vidi is an awesome DV capture app that allows you to record from any firewire DV device. Among its features is the ability to schedule a recording. And that’s what we want! Start up Vidi and you’ll know right away if you have your TV connected to your computer properly. If you can see it and hear it in Vidi, you’re good to go. Go to the file menu, select “Recording Schedule…”, and add a new one. Set this up to your liking. Unfortunately, the times are in 24-hour military format. So for a one hour show that starts at Midnight, you’ll record from 00:00 to 01:00. The key thing here is to hit the “Select” button next to File. Select the folder where you want to save the file and GIVE IT A NAME. I’ve named mine capture.dv. Hit OK and you’re done with the first step. Vidi has to be open when the recording is scheduled to start.

2) Next we’ll make an Automator workflow to bridge the gap between Vidi and QT Pro. You’ll need to download and install the action confusingly called “Export for iPod” from this great repository site at www.automator.us.

Fear not. We only need to do this step ONCE. Fire up Automator and drag “Find Finder items” and “Export for iPod” over to the right. Configure “Find Finder Items” to look for the file we just recorded. Select the folder where you sent your recorded DV and make the name equal to the exact file name you used earlier. (capture.dv in my case) Export for iPod is pretty self explanatory. Check the “Delete source files when done” if you want to delete the large DV file. That’s it. We’re done. When saving the workflow be sure to SAVE AS AN APPLICATION. Remember where you put it. The workflow is simply telling QT Pro to convert our file to iPod format. With QT Pro there’s little you can do to customize your export options and a $30 price tag. Until one of the other iPod conversion apps provide Automator support, we’re stuck with this.

3) Lastly, we need to schedule this workflow to start up at a certain time… After the show is done being recorded! For this we’ll use a wonderful free app called Cronnix. Cronnix is a cron utility for easily scheduling your system to run tasks at certain times. Open the main window and simply drag your Automator workflow into it. A new task will be created. Hit the edit button and then select the “Simple” tab. Again, we have to use 24-hour military time. The scheduling interface is incredibly convoluted, but we’ll get through this. Drag the sliders to schedule the task to run a few minutes after your show is scheduled to end. Keep everything else the same and hit Apply. Finally, you have to hit the Save button in the main window to actually activate the task. Once it’s activated you can quit Cronnix and we’re there.

That’s it. We’ve scheduled to record our show and we’ve scheduled to convert it for the iPod. If all goes well, as you sleep, Heroes will be squished into glorious h.264. Drag the converted file into iTunes and sync up your iPod. Now its ready to be eaten on your morning commute. I’d suggest testing the setup on a minute of TV and see what happens. Just to be sure.

I’ve been using it to record shows from my DVR as well. I set the time to record for right as I go to bed, manually hit play on the DVR when Vidi stars recording, and adjust the schedule times accordingly. I’m able to set up a both schedules in less than a minute. You will be too.

Commercials. You can take the DV file Vidi creates and bring that right into iMovie to edit out commercials. But this of course defeats the whole point of this tutorial. We’re trying to eliminate that extra step. As far as I’m concerned, I can live with commercials if the show is for quick consumption on an iPod. Just scroll through them. Or watch them. I don’t care.

It’s not the most graceful setup, but it gets the job done. If anyone can improve on this method, please tell us!

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