How to get TV working in VLC with PVR

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This article uses Portage. Do not proceed if you have no idea what Portage is.


VLC is part of the VideoLAN project with functionality in all area's of video rendering and playback. It is also extremely portable and can be used on any operating system and can do “(MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Div X, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multi cast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.” Additionally, it is capable of High Def and DVR playback as well as DVD decryption. It also has fully customizable interfaces via gtk and soon Qt via wxwidgets. For our purposes, well set it up on Sabayon 3.4 loop 1 (full version) for us-cable TV (NTSC, although that does not matter) using a PVR-150 card (Hauppauge WinTV PVR 150). Lets get started.

What you need (prerequisites)

  1. A Hauppauge PVR card (150+)
  2. Sabayon 3.3+ (mini or full)
  3. Your specific frequency listings from you CableTV provider, or frequencies of local channels if using antennae.
  4. VLC 0.8.6b as of this writing

Getting dirty

First off, if your using the Sabayon 3.3 mini, you might not have VLC. Either way, it is useful to know how to upgrade VLC in Portage. Here is how:

emerge -pv vlc

This will give your dependencies and maskings. For our purposes, well need to remove lirc from the emerge since it currently conflicts with the ebuild. This may get fixed soon so first try the emerge with everything included:

emerge -av vlc

If it fails for lirc, simply

USE=”-lirc” emerge -av vlc

If you are using the full version of Sabayon and simply want to upgrade it, then substitute the -u switch for -av. After your done upgrading/compiling, then your ready to set it up for TV with your PVR card. Open up VLC and you will be presented with the default interface.

If you use a top box connected to your computer by Composite (Audio-Video) wires, then it is much easier to setup. Simply click File|Open select the "PVR" tab and click "Advanced". Now the last option (Channel) does not mean TV channel, it means input channel. It says that setting it to "1" means Composite input, but I personally had to select "2". I would recommend trying them both. setting it up like this means your cable box will do all the channel changing and whatnot. If you do not use a top box, than don't do this and continue onto the following steps, otherwise you are done. Enjoy your TV watching or Wii or w/e you just hooked up.

Prerequisite Step 1

Click the "Open" button, and then the "PVR" tab. You should not have to make any changes here, but go through the options and if you know you need to change some settings, do so. I would recommend trying it first before making changes. Click OK below and a window should launch with your default channel (2, 3, or 4) playing. You wont be able to change channels however, so lets get on to that next.

Step 2

Click on the "Open" button again so that we can setup our channels for surfing. Click on the PVR tab again. Now, we need to reference our channel frequencies which you can get from your Cable TV provider. For US Cable, the freq's will be listed in Mhz, and VLC needs Khz input, so you will need to translate between the two. For example, 350 Mhz translates to 350000 Khz for Frequency input.

Step 3

Input your frequency into the "Frequency" box and press OK. You should see the new channel pop up. If you dont, then you will need to experiment with the freq's until you get it. For my part, it took a lot of that, but I eventually figured it out and so will you. ;=)

Step 4

This step is easiest if you do it in conjunction with step 3 above – Setting up your Playlist to make channel hopping a breeze. From the main interface you will click on the "Playlist" button which will bring up the Playlist interface that well be setting up our channels in.

Step 5

Click on the "pvr" channel you inputed as below, and right click > info, which will bring up the Playlist item info window. From there, type in the name of the channel you just input from Step 3. Click OK and then simply repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 as many times as needed until you have completed your desired channel playlist.

Step 6

When your done, from the Playlist window click on Manage > Save Playlist, and save it to your desktop. You are going to use this file a lot so don't lose it! Currently, every time you close out VLC you will lose your play list info. To get it back when you reopen VLC, simply mouse grab the saved play list on your desktop and move it into the Playlist window and your up and running again. Done!