When I first got my Power Mac G4, I missed having the on-screen TV that I had with
my old Mac. There were solutions available such as external USB tuners, but since
I had available slots in my Power Mac and did not want an external box taking up
desk space, I wanted a PCI TV tuner card that worked with OS X. The German company
Meilenstein Software GmbH introduced the Televio PCI TV Tuner Card that was OS X
only, but I thought the price was a bit high, so I waited. Finally, Miglia Technology
Ltd of the UK entered into an exclusive agreement with Meilenstein to sell the product
under the AlchemyTV name and market an NTSC version to the US. The DVR (Digital Video
Recorder) software was added as an option and the card then had all the features
I wanted at a reasonable price.
The version of the AlchemyTV DVR reviewed is the Power Mac G4-only version that includes
an FM tuner and lists for $149. I purchased mine from Other World Computing for $129.
Miglia also offers a G4/G5 compatible version that features a silicon tuner but no
FM tuner that lists for $10 more than the G4-only version. Miglia also offers the
AlchemyTV tuner card without the DVR software and remote control for $30 less list.
The TV Tuner card and software was reviewed on a Power Macintosh G4 Quicksilver 867
MHz with 1.125 GB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.3.3. The version of AlchemyTV DVR software
reviewed was 1.0.10, which includes AlchemyTV application version 2.0.7.
- PowerMac G4 with
free PCI slot
- PowerPC G4/400 processor
- 256 MB of RAM
- Mac OS 10.2.4 and
- AlchemyTV DVR (NTSC)
- Infrared remote control
with Infrared receiver cable
- CD with Mac OS X
software, Installation and user guide
- FM Antenna
- Two years limited
- G4-only version:
PCI card compatible with PCI bus 2.1 to 2.2 (5V)
- Connectors: Antenna/Cable
in, FM Antenna in, Composite in, S-Video in, Stereo Audio in/out, Remote in.
- Max viewing size:
- Max audio sample
rate: 32 kHz, 16 bits, stereo
The AlchemyTV DVR requires installation of the PCI card first and then the software.
The G4 PCI card was easy to install in a free slot, and if you have never installed
one before, refer to the user guide for instructions. I suggest reading through the
user guide during setup process, as things are not always intuitive. After the Mac
is closed up, attach the antenna/cable, FM antenna, and remote receiver to the proper
inputs of the card.
AlchemyTV PCI Card
Be sure to download the latest version of software from Miglia. The software version
on the CD that came with my card did not work with my Quicksilver. Open the ''Install
AlchemyTV DVR" application, select your startup drive, and click on 'Install'.
You will be asked for your administrator's password to perform the installation and
it will ask to reboot after it has completed. Two applications are installed, the
AlchemyTV application for viewing, tuning the TV, and recording on the fly, and AlchemyTV
DVR for setting up scheduled recordings. Do not run both applications at the same
as only one can use the card at a time. Next, launch the AlchemyTV application and
setup the software by going to the AlchemyTV > Preferences menu selection. Here
the proper video and audio sources can be setup along with video capture settings.
Be sure to setup the TV Tuner to the NTSC format. To set up your TV channels, use
the Channel Assistant that is also available under the Preferences menu. Make sure
you are connected to the Internet then launch the assistant and follow the instructions.
The Channel Assistant did a good job of properly identifying the available channels
with only a couple channels needing correction.
A remote control is included with the AlchemyTV DVR. IR receiver is on a cable that
is plugged into the card and the sensor at the end of the cable should be positioned
in a spot will be in view when using the remote. The preferences for the remote can
be set so that the remote will control the TV card even when the application is in
the background. The remote control settings (accessed from the System Preferences)
can also be programmed to control other programs such as iTunes.
If you wish to use iChat AV with a FireWire webcam, also install the included AlchemyTV
iChat patch. Before installing the iChat patch, an "Application Enhancer"
manager must be installed. A link to its download page is available in the iChat
patch read me file.
The picture quality produced by the AlchemyTV is very good. The viewing window can
be moved anywhere on screen and be sized to full, half, or quarter. The window can
be minimized and viewed in the dock. The close and minimize control buttons will
appear when the cursor is over the top left corner of the window. The buttons are
hard to activate on the first try and seem to have a too small sweet spot. You can
also view it in full-screen mode. There is a delay between changing channels. AlchemyTV
version 2.0.7 seems much quicker than previous versions.
AlchemyTV picture sample
Software has a foreign feel to it due to its German heritage that leads to a few
usage problems. For example, AlchemyTV uses ordinal numbering for the channels so
you cannot change channels by typing the exact channel number; channels are indexed
starting at one. In the US, we use the technical numbers to identify the stations
with the channel numbering starting at 2. Example: ordinal Channel 1 = US Channel
2. Because of this, the channel number displayed in AlchemyTV will always be at least
one less than the US channel number. The next software update will let the user choose
between ordinal and technical numbering. (Note: Public Beta 2.1 has been released
and combines the TV and DVR functions into one application. Version 2.1 allows you
to set a check box so normal US channel numbers are used. I have tried the beta version
and it indeed corrects this issue and has other nice features such as channel number
displayed in the TV window when changing the channel. The maximum audio sample rate
has also been increased to 48 kHz. I found it to be not ready for primetime but very
You can force the software to accept a given channel or bypass it by clicking on
the 'Rec' part of the list. This is not very intuitive and I am not sure what 'Rec'
stands for but I'll guess 'Receive'. If there are additional channels you don't want
on your list such as scrambled channels, the difference between the ordinal and technical
channel number will increase after the channel you removed from the list. The channel
can be changed using the station's name from the 'List' drop-down menu on the on-screen
remote control. You can also change the channel or the volume by using the keyboard
arrow keys. The channel is changed with the up/down arrows and the volume with the
right/left arrows. The volume changes do not affect the system volume levels.
The AlchemyTV software occasionally malfunctioned where it would not respond after
launching or would be only a black window with audio. Each time I was able to correct
it by reinstalling the software. I've also had random occurrences of incomplete dialog
boxes (can't enter data via pull-downs) and incorrect sizing of the video window.
The AlchemyTV DVR software is a bit awkward to use at first but seems to work well
except for one caveat: you cannot record back-to-back programs. For example, if you
want a program recorded from 8:00 to 8:30 then switch to another from 8:30 to 9:00,
the software will not record the second program since it wants to start five seconds
before the first program ends. Thus, an error occurs and the recording stops. I could
not seem to modify the seconds in the setup of the DVR even though they show up and
looks like you can modify them.
For video capture, all QuickTime codecs are available with the recommended ones being
Motion-JPEG and MPEG-4. The codec is selected in the Video Preferences under the
Compression tab. The Motion-JPEG codec has large disk space requirements but requires
less processing power to encode the video and can be edited in some video applications
such as iMovie. Be aware that iMovie cannot import a video that is more than about
nine and a half minutes long. Therefore, you would have to limit the length of the
video clip or split it with another application. The MPEG-4 codec requires less hard
drive space, but requires more processing power and cannot be edited by a video application.
The quality of the recording can also be affected by the resolution chosen for the
recording. I recorded the Super Bowl at 640 x 480 resolution using the MPEG-4 codec
and each two-hour segment was about 7 GB. I used iDVD 4 to create two DVDs of the
game and it took over twelve hours to encode and burn each one! The final quality
was less than I hoped (I'll try the Motion-JPEG codec the next time).
It is not documented in the user guide, but you can also use iMovie to record from
the AlchemyTV card. Since you cannot schedule it to occur, you must first set the
channel via the AlchemyTV software, quit AlchemyTV, then launch iMovie and setup
to import. Using the AlchemyTV card this way allows iMovie to automatically split
the video into usable clips.
Using the composite, S-Video, or RF inputs, you can to capture any analog video source,
such as a VCR, or camcorder, into a digital video file or into iMovie. To record,
first select the connection type you wish to capture from with the AlchemyTV or AlchemyTV
The FM Tuner was cumbersome to setup, as there is no automatic scan to find stations.
You have to know the station's frequency and call letters. The sound quality was
good, however, occasionally the stations would not tune properly. To correct it,
I had success when I closed the FM Tuner then reopened it. You cannot use the FM
Tuner and the TV Tuner at the same time if you have the desire to watch something
while listening to the radio.
AlchemyTV FM Tuner
The AlchemyTV DVR User Guide PDF file is included on the CD and covers the basic
operations of the card and software. I suggest that you review this document before
using the card, as it will clarify some of the conventions used and make the set-up
and usage easier.
Software updates and the latest documentation can be obtained from the Miglia
DVR is a PCI card and software that lets you watch TV on your PowerMac G4 running
OS X. The DVR software allows you to program the time and date for scheduled recordings.
The TV program will be recorded onto your hard drive for later viewing or export
to a DVD. With the composite or S-Video inputs and stereo audio input, AlchemyTV
DVR can convert the analog video from your VCR or camcorder and record it in a digital
video format. Different QuickTime codecs can be used to fine-tune the level of video
quality. An FM tuner is also included with the G4 AlchemyTV. The software is a bit
buggy and could be made to be more intuitive. But despite its flaws, I really like
and enjoy using the AlchemyTV DVR. Miglia has been actively updating the software
to improve its functionality and eliminate bugs, so I have confidence that most issues
will be addressed. Thus, I can recommend the AlchemyTV DVR to anyone with a Power
Mac G4 running OS X.
- TV Tuner is a PCI
Card, no desk clutter, FM Tuner included
- Easy to use, good
- Good quality picture
- Can digitize video
from analog sources such as a VCR or camcorder
- Ordinal numbering
for the channels
- Software has some
irritating bugs and requires occasional re-installing
- Unable to record
back-to-back programs without a 1-minute gap with the DVR software
- Some user interface
elements are not intuitive
3 1/2 out of 5 Mice