Beyond TV: PVR software for your PC TV tuner card, Buid your own media center



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Beyond TV Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

Section 1: General
Section 2: Hardware and Software Compatibility
Section 3: Features
Section 4: Support for digital / HDTV
Section 5: DVD Burning
Section 6: H.264


Section 1: General

  1. What are the minimum system requirements to run Beyond TV?
  2. Visit the Beyond TV System Requirements page to determine if your computer meets the minimum requirements to run Beyond TV. At a high level, to run Beyond TV you will need a TV tuner card and enough hard disk space to record MPEG-2 shows.

  3. Is there a monthly or yearly subscription fee for Beyond TV?
  4. There are no subscription fees for the retail and online versions of Beyond TV.

    Select TV tuner cards from manufacturers like Diamond Multimedia and Visiontek include Beyond TV Subscription Edition (SE). Beyond TV SE may require a subscription fee.

  5. How much do upgrades to Beyond TV cost?
  6. Point releases to Beyond TV (for example, upgrading from Beyond TV 4.1 to Beyond TV 4.2) are free. Existing users can download updates for Beyond TV 4 now.

    Major version releases (for example, an upgrade from Beyond TV 3 to Beyond TV 4) typically involve an upgrade fee.

  7. Will Beyond TV work without an Internet connection?
  8. Beyond TV works with dial-up and broadband Internet connections alike.

    If you don't have an Internet connection, the core functionality of Beyond TV will still work but certain features such as the SnapStream.Net program guide and remote recordings will be limited or will not work.


Section 2: Hardware and Software Compatibility

  1. Is Beyond TV compatible with my notebook computer?
  2. Yes, Beyond TV works on notebook computers through the use of a USB 2.0 TV tuner device. One problem you might potentially have with running Beyond TV on a laptop is your graphics card because laptop graphics cards tend to be underpowered. Visit the Beyond TV System Requirements page for more information.

  3. Will Beyond TV work in my living room with my remote control?
  4. Yes. Beyond TV is 100% remote control compatible, so you don’t need a keyboard or mouse to enjoy it. If you have a PC remote, like the Firefly PC Remote you can use Beyond TV from the comfort of your couch. Other compatible remotes include the StreamZap and ATI Remote Wonder. You can use other remote controls with Beyond TV with key-mapping software such as Girder.

  5. Will Beyond TV work with my mouse or keyboard?
  6. Yes. While Beyond TV is optimized for use in the living room, you can use it in a desktop setup with your mouse and/or keyboard as well.

  7. Will Beyond TV work with my digital cable or satellite?
  8. Yes, Beyond TV works with most digital cable and satellite systems in the U.S. and Canada.

    Setup for digital cable and satellite television is a little more complex than analog cable or antenna setup. To enable Beyond TV to change channels on your digital cable or satellite set-top box you need an additional connection between your set-top box and your PC so that Beyond TV can change channels on your set-top box. This is done either through serial tuning or IR blasting.

    Serial tuning is the most reliable, if your box supports it (most DirecTV system and boxes support serial port tuning). As far as IR blasters go, some TV tuner cards—such as the Hauppauge PVR-150—include IR blasters with built-in code libraries though you can also use something like the USB-UIRT for IR blasting. See the knowledgebase and the Beyond TV help file for more information on serial tuning and IR blasters.

  9. Can Beyond TV record from multiple TV tuner cards?
  10. Yes, support for recording from multiple tuners became available with Beyond TV 3.5 and later. The tuner devices in a multiple-tuner setup must all be hardware-encoding TV tuners. See sample articles on 10 TV tuner (Hydra) and 6 TV tuner (Medusa) PCs built with SnapStream Beyond TV. Also, see the knowledge base for more information on multiple tuner support.

  11. Can I watch one channel while recording another or record from two channels at once?
  12. Yes, with multiple tuners in your Beyond TV PC, you can watch one live TV show while you record another or simultaneously record two (or more if you have more than 2 tuners) live TV shows.

  13. Can I watch a recorded show while Beyond TV is recording a new show?
  14. Yes. Shows that have already been recorded are simply video files and do not require the use of the TV tuner card.

  15. Can Beyond TV record in Dolby surround-sound?
  16. Yes, but it depends on the broadcast. If a show is broadcast with Dolby Digital audio, Beyond TV will record it in that format. With Beyond TV 4’s support for high-definition television (HDTV), you can now record Dolby surround-sound in high-definition programming as well. Depending on your audio capabilities, you may also be able to configure your computer to record and playback standard, analog TV shows in stereo as well.

  17. Does Beyond TV work with the Macintosh or Linux systems?
  18. Beyond TV is currently only compatible with Windows™ XP Home, Pro, Media Center Edition, Windows™ 2000 and Vista. There are currently no plans to create a Macintosh or Linux version.


Section 3: Features

  1. What video file formats does Beyond TV support?
  2. Beyond TV can record live TV in the default MPEG-2 (.MPG) format, DivX format, Windows Media (.WMV) format or H.264 format.

    Your TV tuner card can limit what formats you can record directly to -- for example, most MPEG-2 hardware encode cards can only record directly to the MPEG-2 format (which isn't a bad thing -- these are the most popular type of cards among our customers). By the same token, some of Plextor ConvertX TV cards support recording to both the DivX format and to the MPEG-2 format.

    Finally, if you have a TV card without any hardware encoding, you can pick to record directly to MPEG-2, Windows Media or DivX (though this will increase your CPU requirements).

    Regardless of what format you record to, you can always use ShowSqueeze to convert recordings to other formats (either to save disk space or to make shows portable).

  3. How much hard drive space do I need?
  4. The size of a recording depends upon the file format, its length and the Beyond TV quality profile selected for making the recording.

    Use the charts below to determine how much your system can record.

    For digital cable, satellite, regular cable and analog antenna

    MPEG-2 format ("Good" quality level):

    Hard Drive Space Recording Time
    10 GB 5 hours
    20 GB 11 hours
    40 GB 22 hours
    80 GB 44 hours
    120 GB 66 hours

    Windows Media Format ("Good" quality level):

    Hard Drive Space Recording Time
    10 GB 7 hours
    20 GB 12 hours
    40 GB 27 hours
    80 GB 53 hours
    120 GB 80 hours

    DivX Format (Home Theater (High) quality level):

    Hard Drive Space Recording Time
    10 GB 15 hours
    20 GB 31 hours
    40 GB 62 hours
    80 GB 123 hours
    120 GB 185 hours

    For over-the-air digital / HDTV

    Hard Drive Space Recording Time
    10 GB 1 hour
    40 GB 4 hours
    80 GB 9 hours
    120 GB 13 hours
    240 GB 27 hours


  5. Can I burn my Beyond TV recordings to DVD?
  6. Yes. With Beyond TV 4's DVD Burning, you can seamlessly record TV shows with Beyond TV and then burn them to video or data DVDs.

  7. How does ShowSqueeze™ work?
  8. ShowSqueeze™ is how Beyond TV converts a recording from one format and size to another. ShowSqueeze™ allows you to save disk space and make your shows more portable.

    Beyond TV 4 allows you to ShowSqueeze™ Windows Media files (.wmv), MPEG-2 files (.mpg), MPEG-2 Transport Streams (.ts) and DivX files (.avi) to the Windows Media format or DivX (.avi). Additionally, you are able to ShowSqueeze™ your recordings to the H.264 format.

    ShowSqueeze™ can be setup as a system-wide setting or it can be configured to only run on certain recording jobs. ShowSqueeze™ can also be configured to run during off-peak hours, which you can specify, or it can be configured to run as soon as a recording is made.

  9. How does SmartSkip™ work?
  10. Beyond TV’s SmartSkip™ feature detects where commercials and other breaks are located in a recorded show. Then when you play back your recording, you can jump between the different segments with the simple press of a button.

    SmartSkip™ runs as a post-process job, after your recordings are made. Like ShowSqueeze™, SmartSkip™ can be configured to run immediately after recordings are made or during off-peak hours. Depending on the power of your PC's processor, SmartSkip™ might take 1 hour to run on a 1 hour show, or it might take only 30 minutes.

    And when you burn DVDs of your favorite shows with the DVD burning feature, SmartSkip™ chapters get created on your DVD as well.

  11. Can I change video quality settings? (recording bit-rate, resolution, and other parameters)
  12. Yes, recording quality is highly customizable in Beyond TV, but only for analog capture. The "Recording Preferences" section of the "Configure" screen in the Web Admin interface provides access to these settings. This is extensively documented in the Beyond TV Help File.

  13. How can I use Beyond TV on a television in my living room?
  14. As mentioned above, Beyond TV works great in the living room. There are a number of ways you can do use Beyond TV in the living room.

    You can build or buy a home theater PC (HTPC), put it in your living room with your other home entertainement components, and connect it directly to your television. To do this, you would need a video card that includes TV-OUT connection.

    You can also connect an inexpensive digital media adapter (such as Hauppauge's MediaMVP) to your living room television and use it to share TV shows recorded in Beyond TV over your home network. Because Beyond TV uses standard MPEG-2 to record TV shows, this works pretty well. MediaMVP users should also see the posting on our blog about the MediaMVP Beyond TV Interface.

  15. How does Beyond TV’s remote recording feature work?
  16. With Beyond TV's SnapStream.Net service, you can schedule recordings while you are away from home. You can schedule remote recordings from an PC web browser at http://www.snapstream.net/ and on any mobile device with web access at http://mobile.snapstream.net/. Remote recordings are retrieved by Beyond TV every thirty minutes by default.

  17. When will guide data for my country be supported by Beyond TV?
  18. Beyond TV currently includes an integrated program guide for the United States and Canada, through the SnapStream.Net service.

    With tvtv, a web-based electronic program guide geared toward European countries, SnapStream's Beyond TV includes support for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands.

    There is also third party support for something called XMLTV. With 3rd party XMLTV support, you can get integrated (as opposed to web-based) EPG support for many different countries around the world.

  19. How does tvtv work with Beyond TV?
  20. Our electronic program guide and tvtv’s are similar in function. When you run the setup wizard for Beyond TV, and enter your home country, Beyond TV will ask if you want to use tvtv. You must then register with tvtv on their website. Then, you can schedule recordings on the tvtv website. Beyond TV pulls your recording requests from tvtv and executes them as if you were using Beyond TV’s own program guide.

  21. How many days of TV listings do I get in the U.S. and Canada?
  22. You receive data for the upcoming 14 days.

  23. I want to record straight to DivX. How fast a processor do I need?
  24. Based on internal testing, the minimum requirement for DivX software encode is a 2.4 GHz P4 processor. With that processor it's possible to record and playback DivX Portable (Medium). Anything above that quality level may max out the CPU and cause dropped frames or sluggish PC performance.

    Prescott processors, however, can encode up to our highest quality, DivX Home Theater (Highest), without any problems. The slowest Prescott that we have tested this on is a 2.8 GHz HT model.


Section 4: Support for digital / HDTV

  1. How much better will HDTV look and sound than standard TV?
  2. HDTV’s major appeal is its sharper and wider image display accompanied by award-winning Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio. HDTV is completely free of signal degradation and bleeding. Aspect ratios in HDTV also differ greatly from standard analog or cable television. Once you have experienced the higher clarity, crisp digital sound and life-like pictures of HDTV, we don't think you’ll never want to go back to a standard-definition television.

  3. Does Beyond TV 4 support ATSC?
  4. Yes. Beyond TV 4.0 supports recording over-the-air ATSC.

  5. Does Beyond TV 4 support DVB-S, DVB-C, or DVB-T?
  6. No, Beyond TV 4 does not support DVB.

  7. Does Beyond TV 4 support all 5.1 channels of the Dolby Digital AC-3 audio in ATSC broadcasts?
  8. Yes. Beyond TV 4 is Dolby Digital certified and provides both 5.1 speaker and S/P-DIF output modes.

  9. What ATSC tuner cards does Beyond TV 4 support?
  10. Beyond TV 4 currently supports every BDA-compliant ATSC tuner card on the market. Please ask your tuner card manufacturer if they provide BDA drivers for your tuner card.

    A list of all supported cards is available here.

  11. Does Beyond TV 4 support Cable Card?
  12. Beyond TV does not support cable card at this time.

  13. Does Beyond TV 4 support QAM tuning?
  14. Beyond TV 4 now supports clear QAM tuning. A list of compatible tuners can be found here.

  15. What antenna do you recommend for use with Beyond TV 4 HDTV support?
  16. The type of antenna you need depends on your distance from the stations’ towers, whether all of the stations’ towers are in the same direction, obstructions, and many other factors. For a detailed analysis of your area and an antenna recommendation, please visit http://www.checkhd.com/. And to learn more, visit the Beyond TV HDTV setup center.

  17. What HDTV stations can I get in my area?
  18. This depends upon your geographic distance and positioning in relationship to broadcast towers. You can determine this information by entering your address on http://www.checkhd.com/.

  19. Does Beyond TV 4 work with HDTV over firewire?
  20. No. Beyond TV 4 does not support HDTV over firewire.


Section 5: DVD Burning

  1. What is DVD Burning ?
  2. DVD burning is a great way to preserve your TV recordings. DVDs tend to be more durable than their VHS counterparts, and it's unlikely that you'll accidentally record over the latest episode of The Office.

  3. What DVD burners are supported?
  4. Pretty much any drive that can burn a DVD should work with Beyond TV's DVD Burning & H.264 Plug-in. The plug-in uses burning technology from Sonic Solutions, the same burning technology used by Microsoft (in Windows XP and Vista), Adobe and many other companies. So this technology is well-proven.

  5. How many hours of shows can I fit on a single DVD?
  6. If you use one of Beyond TV's pre-defined MPEG-2 qualities, Good (DVD Ready) or Best (DVD Ready), and are burning a video DVD, use the charts below.

    MPEG-2 "Good (DVD Ready)" quality level:

    DVD Type Capacity
    Mini DVD 40 minutes
    Regular DVD 2 hours
    Dual-layer DVD 4 hours

    MPEG-2 "Best (DVD Ready)" quality level:

    DVD Type Capacity
    Mini DVD 20 minutes
    Regular DVD 1 hour, 20 minutes
    Dual-layer DVD 2 hours, 20 minutes

    If you are burning a video DVD with any other MPEG-2 format, the DVD Burning DiscSqueeze™ technology will compress whatever you select so that it fits on the DVD media you are burning to.

    Finally, if you are burning a data DVD, it's simply a matter of the file size of the shows you are trying to burn and the space available on the DVD.

  7. Will my SmartSkip chapters get burned to DVD?
  8. Yes, if SmartSkip has run on your recordings, they will be burned to DVD. With a video DVD, SmartSkip chapters are created as DVD chapters within a particular show so you can press "next chapter" on your DVD player to skip commercials. With a data DVD, the SmartSkip data file is simply copied along with the show to the DVD.

  9. Which file types are supported? Can I burn my over-the-air digital TV recordings?
  10. See table below:

    File type Description of support
    MPEG-2 (.mpg) Burning directly to video DVDs and data DVDs is supported. It's recommended to use one of the "DVD Ready" quality levels (Good or Best).
    MPEG-2 Transport Stream (.ts)

    Burning directly to data DVDs is supported.

    Burning to video DVD is supported, but it's a two-step process. You first have to ShowSqueeze to WMV or DivX and then you can burn to video DVD.

    Windows Media Video (.wmv) Burning directly to video and data DVDs is supported.
    DivX (.avi) Burning directly to video and data DVDs is supported.
  11. Can I burn DVDs over the network with Beyond TV Link?
  12. You can burn DVDs over the network using Beyond TV Link.

  13. How long will it take to burn a single video DVD?
  14. DVDs get burned in the background so you can continue using Beyond TV to watch live TV, record shows and perform other functions while a DVD is being burned.

    That said, burning a video DVD requires two potentially time consuming steps: transcoding and burning.


    The time required to transcode depends on the quality and file format of the shows you are burning.

    If your recordings are made in MPEG-2 in one of the pre-defined DVD-ready MPEG-2 formats, Good (DVD Ready) and Best (DVD Ready), then no transcoding is required. If you'll be frequently burning DVDs, we highly recommend recording shows to one of these formats.

    If your recordings are in any other MPEG-2 format or in the Windows Media or DivX format, transcoding could take up to a couple of hours.


    And, finally, the time required to burn a DVD depends entirely on the speed of your DVD writer -- the faster the writer (ie 8x is faster than 4x, 4x is faster than 2x, etc), the less time it will take.

  15. What will the DVD menus look like?
  16. The DVD menus look similar to the Beyond TV menu. Here's a screenshot:

    There is a 10-second preview of each video on the menu. Also, the show's name and episode name are included under each video.

  17. Can I burn Video CDs or data CDs?
  18. No, the DVD Burning feature only supports burning to DVDs.

  19. Am I able to control the speed at which a video or videos are burned to DVD?
  20. Yes, you are able to choose a burn speed from the DVD Burning Settings screen from within Beyond TV.


Section 6: H.264

  1. What is H.264?
  2. H.264 is a video format that is supported on a variety of different consumer devices such as Apple's iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. H.264 has a lower bitrate than standard MPEG-2 video, however, does not lose much quality when transcoded from MPEG-2 to H.264* (iPhone/iPod Frimware known Issue)

  3. How do I create H.264 videos from within Beyond TV?

  4. If you would like to create H.264 videos to sync to your iPod, iPhone or Apple TV, please read this blog article for detailed instructions.

    Otherwise, to compress to H.264 format to save drive space on your Beyond TV PC, you must do the following. From Beyond TV's ShowSqueeze™ settings menu, there is an option to ShowSqueeze™ recordings into H.264 format. Setting ShowSqueeze™ in this menu is a global setting, meaning, all recordings that get ShowSqueezed™ will be compressed to H.264.


      The "ShowSqueeze and SmartSkip Settings" screen is where you can set your global ShowSqueeze™ settings to transcode recordings to H.264.

    To convert only a single job to H.264, from the Beyond TV viewscape, go into the "Setup Recordings" screen from the main menu, then select "Recording Settings and Priorities". From here, you are able to select a single recording or job, and configure which format to ShowSqueeze™ to.

  5. How do I sync recorded shows to my iPod, iPhone or Apple TV?
  6. This blog article explains how to set up automatic syncing of your shows to your iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV.

  7. Can I convert my HD recordings into H.264?
  8. Yes, you are able to convert recordings into H.264 format.

  9. How large are H.264 files?
  10. Depending on what profile you create the H.264 file with, will determine how large the file sizes are. See the table below for filesize estimates.

       Profile  1 Hour Recording
       iPod®  333 MB
       iPhone™  407 MB
       Apple TV™  1,036 MB
       Fair  246 MB
       Good  399 MB
       Better  641 MB
       Best  1,140 MB
       1280 x 720p  1,116 MB

  11. How does the H.264 video format compare to MPEG-2, WMV and DivX in terms of filesize?
  12. See the table below to compare the filesize of H.264 videos to MPEG-2, WMV and DivX types:

      (1 hr recording)
      (1 hr recording)
      (1 hr recording)
      (1 hr recording)
       953 MB  1,812 MB  2,240 MB  3,098 MB
       246 MB  399 MB  641 MB  1,140 MB
       306 MB  585 MB  757 MB  1,002 MB
       DivX  290 MB  484 MB  1,310 MB  1,810 MB
  13. How long does it take to encode video files into H.264 format in Beyond TV?

Using a Pentium dual-core CPU (E6400), the following table estimates the length of time it takes to transcode a show from MPEG-2 to H.264.

      H.264 Encoding Profile
      Encode Time
      1 x real-time*
      1.5 x real-time*
      3 x real-time*

      * These times assume a Core 2 Duo (E6400) based PC is being used to transcode the content from MPEG-2 to H.264.

If you have a question that wasn't answered here, e-mail us at info@snapstream.com.

*Update: iPhone/iPod 2.0 Firmware Known Issue has been resolved in Beyond TV 4.9



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