1. Free up some disk space. It helps to have a gigabyte or two or ten to spare when you're recording video to disk. As you probably already know, video data is big. DV-25 video, the kind of video used by iMovie and Final Cut, occupies about 13GB per hour. This represents the higher end of computer video, certainly the highest quality you can record with HackTV. Contrast this with some just-watchable but highly compressed MPEG-4. The latter might take up only 250MB per hour. (Going below about 4MB to 5MB per minute results in blodgy output-blocky, unwatchable video and tinny, hard-to-understand audio.)
  2. Pick a window size. Use the Monitor menu to select the window size you wish to record at. When recording, HackTV uses this size to determine the dimensions of the recorded frame. By default, HackTV displays video at the "Half Size" setting. For this walk-through, use this default setting.

The size of the monitor window sets the size used during recording.

  1. Record both video and sound. Open the Monitor menu. Ensure that Record Video and Record Sound are both checked. (They are, by default.) If they aren't, choose each one to select them.
  2. Open your audio settings. Choose Monitor -> Sound Settings. The Sound dialog opens.
  3. Choose an audio source. Click the Source button. (It's to the right of Compression and Sample.) The Sound window lists the available audio sources. Make sure that the proper items have been selected per your camcorder or converter box. As a rule, if you're hearing the audio and it sounds good, the proper item has been selected.

Select the audio source for your recording. I use the audio from the first two DV channels of my Canopus converter box.

  1. Select a sampling rate. Click Sample. This panel allows you to choose the sample rate and sample size for your audio. The highest quality settings (DVD-quality, in fact) are 48 kHz, 16-bit stereo. While this produces the best-quality audio, it also produces the largest amount of sound data. Retain these settings for this walk-through.

Sampling audio at 48.000 kHz, using 16-bit Stereo sound, produces the highest-quality audio capture.

  1. Select audio compression. Click Compression. This panel allows you to choose a compressor and set the options associated with that compression. For this walk-through, leave the compression set to None.

HackTV allows you to select from a list of installed audio compressors. Leaving your audio uncompressed produces files with the greatest playback compatibility but at the cost of increased file sizes for captured data.

  1. Finalize your audio settings. Click OK to dismiss the Sound window and accept your changes.

    HackTV is a little flaky. Sometimes it updates your settings when you press Return, sometimes it doesn't. Always recheck your audio and video settings before recording!

  2. Open your video settings. Choose Monitor -> Video Settings. The Video dialog opens.
  3. Choose a video compressor. By default, HackTV records to the DV format. Locate the pop-up at the upper left area of the window (just under the Adjustments/Compression/Source buttons). Choose MPEG-4 Video from the pop-up.

The Video Compressor pop-up displays many of the video codecs currently installed on your computer. Choose one to set the compressor for your captured video.

  1. Set compression options. After choosing a codec, the Compression panel updates to show the options associated with that choice. For this walk-through, leave the Quality slider at the default setting of Medium, and leave the Frames per second box blank. (You may want to click the adjustment button to the right of the box to confirm that the default value of Best has already been selected.) Leave the Key frame every and Limit data rate boxes unchecked.


The Video Settings panel reflects the options specific to the selected compressor. For example, the choices for compressing MPEG-4 differ from those for Motion JPEG, which differ from the choices for compressing Apple H.263 (shown here). Always keep your eyes open for any Options button that might pop up in Settings windows. They offer access to advanced settings.

  1. Review your source. Click the Source button (to the right of Adjustments and Compression). Use this panel to confirm that the correct video source has been selected. It is possible to hook up several video devices to a Macintosh at one time. This panel helps you select between them.
  2. Confirm your video options. Click the OK button to dismiss the Video window and accept your updated settings.
  3. Set optional recording options. Additional menu items include the following. Select them only if you need these special features.

After working through these steps, you've discovered where HackTV sets its most important video and audio options. Now that you've chosen your settings, you're ready to begin recording.

Recording HackTV

When you tell HackTV to start recording, it begins to capture sound and video to disk and will continue to do so until you tell it to stop or it runs out of free disk space. In the following steps, you'll discover how to start a recording, name the file you'll produce, and let the recording run through until completion.

HackTV offers two recording options: Record Without Hogging Machine, and Record Until Mouse Click. I prefer to use the former option, as it lends itself better to AppleScripting; these steps use this option simply because I typically do. Feel free to use Record Until Mouse Click instead. Either way, you'll be asked for a file name before recording will continue. Take this into account when timing your recordings.

  1. To begin your recording session, choose Monitor -> Record Without Hogging Machine (Command-R). A dialog box appears asking you for a file name.
  2. Type a name, such as mytest.mov, and choose to save to the desktop. Click Save. Your video begins to record.
  3. Wait about 30 seconds or so, and then press Command-R. A dialog box appears stating "Your movie has been recorded".
  4. Click OK.
  5. On the desktop, select the new movie and choose File -> Get Info (Command-I). The file's info window opens. A 30-second (or so) movie recorded with these settings occupies about 20MB of disk space, or about 40MB per minute. This "half-size" MPEG-4-compressed video corresponds to about one fifth of the size that standard DV video would occupy.

Half-size, medium-quality MPEG-4 video (recorded at the "best" frame rate) with DVD-quality audio occupies about 40MB per minute.

  1. Next, open the new movie in QuickTime Player and watch it. The video quality should look excellent and should sound very good indeed.
  2. If you've upgraded to QuickTime Pro, you can inspect your video. For more information about your recorded video, choose Window -> Show Movie Info (Command-I).

MPEG-4 video recorded at the highest settings offers high-quality playback in QuickTime.

Final Thoughts

As you've seen, HackTV is a terrific utility for watching and recording video. In this article, you've discovered how to adjust HackTV's audio and video settings and how to record a movie to disk using those settings. You've also seen how to watch the movie you've created in QuickTime Player and how to inspect it with QuickTime Pro. I hope you'll enjoy using HackTV recording both for your work and for pleasure.