8.5. Setting Up TV Cards

Original contribution by Josef El-Rayes.
Enhanced and adapted by Marc Fonvieille.

8.5.1. Introduction

TV cards allow can be used to watch broadcast or cable TV on a computer. Most cards accept composite video via an RCA or S-video input and some cards include a FM radio tuner.

FreeBSD provides support for PCI-based TV cards using a Brooktree Bt848/849/878/879 or a Conexant CN-878/Fusion 878a video capture chip with the bktr(4) driver. Ensure the board comes with a supported tuner. Consult bktr(4) for a list of supported tuners.

8.5.2. Loading the Driver

In order to use the card, the bktr(4) driver must be loaded. To automate this at boot time, add the following line to /boot/loader.conf:


Alternatively, one can statically compile support for the TV card into a custom kernel. In that case, add the following lines to the custom kernel configuration file:

device bktr device iicbus device iicbb device smbus

These additional devices are necessary as the card components are interconnected via an I2C bus. Then, build and install a new kernel.

To test the driver, reboot the system. The TV card should appear in the boot messages, as seen in this example:

bktr0: <BrookTree 848A> mem 0xd7000000-0xd7000fff irq 10 at device 10.0 on pci0 iicbb0: <I2C bit-banging driver> on bti2c0 iicbus0: <Philips I2C bus> on iicbb0 master-only iicbus1: <Philips I2C bus> on iicbb0 master-only smbus0: <System Management Bus> on bti2c0 bktr0: Pinnacle/Miro TV, Philips SECAM tuner.

The messages will differ according to the hardware. Check the messages to determine if the tuner is correctly detected. It is still possible to override some of the detected parameters with sysctl(8) MIBs and kernel configuration file options. For example, to force the tuner to a Philips SECAM tuner, add the following line to a custom kernel configuration file:


or, use sysctl(8):

# sysctl hw.bt848.tuner=6

Refer to bktr(4) and /usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES for more details on the available options.

8.5.3. Useful Applications

To use the TV card, install one of the following applications:

  • multimedia/fxtv provides TV-in-a-window and image/audio/video capture capabilities.

  • multimedia/xawtv is another TV application with similar features.

  • audio/xmradio provides an application for using the FM radio tuner of a TV card.

More applications are available in the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

8.5.4. Troubleshooting

If any problems are encountered with the TV card, check that the video capture chip and the tuner are supported by bktr(4) and that the right configuration options were used. For more support and various questions about TV cards, refer to the archives of the freebsd-multimedia mailing list.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.

Send questions about this document to <freebsd-doc@FreeBSD.org>.