Using MythTV

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Software-update-available.png This page is up-to-date as of MythTV version 0.27.6, the current release is 34.0

Using MythTV From Day To Day

This section explains what you can do with a MythTV unit, how the parts work and how to control them. Hopefully, it will also identify things which can be done more than one way, and point out the most effective choice (and why you might want to do it another way anyway).

MythTV is a capable, powerful, and most of all expandable system. We will describe things which can only be done with, or will work differently with, an expanded configuration.

Most of the daily usage of MythTV is done from the frontend with a remote control or keyboard. If your frontend is set up on a large TV screen in the living room you will want to have a remote control to use with it. You can also set up a frontend remotely on a laptop or desktop computer and use the keyboard to control it.

Whether your screen will look exactly like the screenshots in this manual will vary depending on the theme you have chosen.


MythTV has been designed for the "ten foot Interface": it should be driveable from your sofa ten feet (3 metres) away.

This is a compromise between functionality and simplicity--especially since the average Remote Control only has about 40 to 50 keys (10 of which are numbers), while MythTV has over 100 keyboard functions.

MythTV users will also cite the much needed WAF or GAF; that is, Wife/Girlfriend Acceptance Factor. The good news is the 80/20 rule applies - you can do 80% of your day to day things with MythTV on about 20 keys on your remote.

Remote Control Buttons

The frontend can be controlled with a keyboard or an IR remote control. Either way, the functions are mapped to keyboard keys. If you use an infra red remote, the infra red button presses are mapped to keyboard keys, which are then mapped to MythTV functions. The mappings of keyboard keys to MythTV functions can be changed in the frontend setup (Setup->Edit Keys). If you have made changes there, this chart will not match your system.

The remote button icons represent common names for remote control keys. In reality, how these map to physical keyboard keys will depend on how your particular machine was configured. You will need to setup your Remote Control to suit.

You can find a full list of keyboard keys and functions on the Keybindings page.

Remote Control Name Keyboard Key Remote Control Name Keyboard Key Remote Control Name Keyboard Key
RemotePause.png Pause p RemoteExit.png Exit ESC RemoteREW.png Rewind Page Up
RemoteLeft.png Left Cursor Left Arrow RemoteVoldown.png Vol Down [ or F10 RemoteFF.png Fast Forward Page Down
RemoteRight.png Right Cursor Right Arrow RemoteVolup.png Vol Up ] or F11 RemoteZoom.png Zoom, Size w
RemoteUp.png Up Cursor Up Arrow RemoteStart.png Start Home or Q RemoteProgup.png Channel Up Up Arrow
RemoteDown.png Down Cursor Down Arrow RemoteEnd.png End End or Z RemoteProgdown.png Channel Down Down Arrow
RemoteSelect.png Select CR RemoteRecord.png Record CR RemoteMute.png Mute F9
RemoteInfo.pngInfo i RemotePower.png Power User RemoteSlow.png Slow Motion A
RemoteMenu.png Menu m RemoteStop.png Stop User RemoteAVInput.png AV input C
130.png 1 1 230.png 2 2 330.png 3 3
430.png 4 4 530.png 5 5 630.png 6 6
730.png 7 7 830.png 8 8 930.png 9 9
030.png 0 0 Guide.png s

Live TV vs MythTV

MythTV will shift your TV paradigm. Once you had to plan your time around your broadcaster's schedule, or sit channel-surfing just to see what was on, more often than not finding nothing you liked.

MythTV introduces the Electronic Program Guide, or EPG, with its full description of what is currently being broadcast and what will be broadcast in the coming weeks. The guide is stored in a relational database so that you can make queries such as find episodes of "Desperate Housewives".

MythTV watching is more like the way you would watch your DVD collection. You browse what is in your collection and watch what you want, when you want. However instead of going out and buying DVD's, you harvest your favourite programs as they are broadcast, record them to your hard drive and watch them as you want.

MythTV allows you to just look for broadcasts of your favourite films and, as soon as they are broadcast, record them to your hard drive to add to your collection! You can even have the system make recommendations and record them against the kind of shows that you like.

Many long-term MythTV users will say that they have stopped watching live TV and are instead spending time each week scheduling the system to record the kind of shows they like and just browsing through their collection of shows and movies and watching what they like at their leisure.

MythTV also supports watching, pausing, fast forwarding and rewinding of Live TV.

Dealing with Commercials

Some people like commercials. If you don't, MythTV lets you skip these in your recordings. As such MythTV is often compared to a TiVO.

Media Consolidation

Over the years MythTV has transformed itself into a full blown media hub, able to handle all digital media including photos, music, videos, DVD and CD plus much more. MythTV is able to support the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) media server/client and control point standard, so that it can interact with all manner of other media applications and devices.

You may find it useful while reading the manual to refer to (or even print out) the Menu Maps for the front end and the backend setup program.

Starting MythTV

MythTV consists of two main applications: MythBackend and Mythfrontend. Mythbackend handles all aspects of your TV cards and capturing live TV shows into recordings, and most importantly all the information about these recordings and any media you have such as music and photos. You will always need to start the Mythbackend first. Mythfrontend handles the user interface and the interaction between you, your remote control and the mythbackend server.

Mythbackend should be autostarted when you power on your machine. Normally it will run as a daemon on the backend machine (which may be the same machine as the frontend). The installation procedures in Software Installation will take care of that. See that section if this is not working.

Mythfrontend is a GUI application and can be launched from the menu system after logging on. You can run the frontend this way to watch your recorded shows, controlling it with the keyboard. However the normal situation would be using a TV set and remote control. In this setup you may be unable to achieve a Linux login using your remote. The user manual chapter Frontend Startup describes how to deal with that.

The backend normally runs under a special user id called "mythtv". The MythTV frontend should be run from a normal logged in user, not the "mythtv" user, which is a "system" user id without password.

Many users just leave their backend machines running all the time so that they can be sure to capture scheduled TV shows to recordings. For those of you that are concerned about electricity usage, then you can have your MythTV machine automatically wakeup just before a show starts, and then shutdown after the show has been recorded -- see the mythTV HowTo "ACPI Wakeup". The mythbackend server will automatically shut down when it is idle, i.e. is not connected to a front end, and not recording.

You can start the MythTV Frontend from the menu or with the following command:

> /usr/bin/mythfrontend

mythfrontend can be run either in full screen mode or inside a window. The default is full screen. If you are using it on your living room TV then only full screen makes sense. To change this, use the settings in Setup->Appearance.

How MythTV Records

Watching Live TV and recording are one and the same. When watching Live TV, the system is recording the show and watching it at the same time. Actually, watching will be a few seconds delayed as the show is written to the disk, and then read by the frontend. If you press the record button 10 mins into the show, MythTV will flag this as a recording and move it to the default recording group. All of the show that you have watched to that point is saved in the recording.

Live TV recordings that have not been "Recorded" by pressing "Record" appear in the LiveTV recording group. By default these will be deleted after 1 day.

Storage Usage

Depending on how you set up your system, you need to be aware of your recording group disk storage usage. There is a discussion of this in the article Setup Storage Directories#Storage Usage.

In the frontend Watch Recordings screen the percentage full and number of gigabytes free are displayed. If you are relying on auto expire to make space for recordings, this will not be very useful as it will always show 99%. If you are not relying on auto expire, this gives a good indication of how your disk space is going, and when it starts to get too high you need to take some action.

If your machine starts to run low on disc space it will start to expire (delete) recordings to make room. The default behaviour is to delete oldest shows first, but there are other policies you can choose. A check for recordings that should be expired is made every 10 mins. The disc space threshold at which recordings start to be deleted is configurable. You can control most aspects of how recordings are expired in:

Frontend Setup -> Video -> General -> General (Auto-Expire)

The settings are described in Configuring Frontend#General .28Auto-Expire.29.

If you want to keep a recording around, you can mark it as permanent in the Recording Browser. Select the recording you want and press RemoteMenu.png and select "Storage Options" and then "Disable Auto Expire". This only applies if the recording had auto expire enabled in the recording rule in the first place.

MythTV Front Page

Once MythTV has started you will be presented with the MythTV Front Page. Here is one using the MythCenter Wide Theme.

You can see a collection of the available themes on the Themes page.


The MythTV Front Page with the default menu theme provides you with the following options:

  1. Media Library - Watch previously recorded programs or your video collection.
  2. Manage Recordings - Manage recording schedules
  3. Information Center - View MythTV status
  4. Optical Disks - Watch and Import DVDs
  5. Watch TV - Watch and record Live TV.
  6. Program Guide - Show the Electronic Program Guide.
  7. Setup - Configure MythFrontend and Plugins.

Media Library

This item has two sub-menus, Watch Recordings and Watch Videos.

Watch Recordings

(Media Library->Watch Recordings)

Shows that have already been recorded can be accessed by selecting Watch Recordings.

Detailed information about watching recordings can be found in the Watch Recordings sub chapter of this manual.

Watch Videos

(Media Library->Watch Videos)

Videos that are in the directories listed in the Videos storage group on the back end (see Setup Storage Groups) or are in the video directories on the front end (see Videos General Settings) can be viewed on the front end.

Manage Recordings

The Manage Recordings section has several layers of sub-menus that are used to select programs to be recorded in many ways. Also included are options that view recording rules and upcoming recordings, as well as recording conflicts. There is the ability to manage the list of previous recordings.

MythTV has the built in feature of remembering what episodes have already been recorded and not recording them again, unless you specifically wish them to be recorded again.

Detailed information on all of this can be found in the Manage Recordings sub chapter of this manual.

Information Center

The information center contains system status information and access to plugins like MythBrowser.

A detailed description about the information center can be found in the Information Center sub chapter of this manual.

Optical Disks

To play a DVD with the MythTV media player, simply click on Optical Disks >> Play Optical Disc from the front page.

The MythTV media player has complete menu and subtitle support, as well as remote control behaviour and menus which are consistent with the those used when watching recordings.

In order to play encrypted DVDS such as most commercial DVDs you will have to install libdvdcss2.

Press RemoteMenu.png to bring up the DVD On Screen menu options.

All of the controls that work with watching of Recorded Programs or Videos are available, such as fast forward, forward skip, etc. Controls are better than are typically available with a normal DVD player.

Watch TV

Live TV can be accessed by selecting Watch TV from the main menu screen. This feature provides a way to watch TV through channel surfing at the time it is broadcast. Since everything is recorded to disc, it is possible to pause programs, replay scenes, and store shows permanently on the system. In addition to channel surfing, it is possible to browse through TV listings using the Electronic Program Guide.

Detailed information on watching live TV can be found in the Watch TV sub chapter of this manual.

Program Guide

The Electronic Program Guide can be started from various places.

  • Main Menu (Program Guide selection).
  • While watching TV (From Menu button).
  • Manage Recordings (Manage Recordings->Schedule Recordings->Program Guide).

In each case you will have options for recording or selecting a channel for Live TV.

For more information see Electronic Program Guide.


The Setup menu contains the frontend setup pages. For details see Configuring Frontend.

Topics to be moved to a separate document

Commercial Detection

MythTV recordings can be flagged for commercials if you select the option in the recording rule. There are markers put in the database that tell the system where it believes commercials start and end. This allows you to jump over commercials when playing back recordings. You can also use this information to delete the commercials when you export the recordings.

You can change the default behaviour in Setup->TV settings->General settings->Job Queue

You might find it useful to have a look at Commercial Detection which explains how it works.

Normally, commercials are just detected so you can skip them, but not actually removed from a recording. If you're interested in permanently removing them, please refer to Removing Commercials.

Editing, Transcoding, Removing Commercials

Detailed information on editing and transcoding can be found in the Removing Commercials page.

Archiving Recordings

Note: Should this section, and the following section "Exporting Recordings", be moved to its own page, such as Archiving and Exporting Recordings?

At some point you will want to archive your TV recordings for safe keeping. There are however some complications with this, due to the way Digital TV content is held on your hard drive. MythTV stores its recordings in the "/mnt/video" directory by default. You will find files in here with a .nuv or .mpg file extension and a long complicated name based on the recording schedule. These files are either in NuppelVideo format or MPEG-2 (Program or Transport Stream) format. To archive these files to DVD they will need to be either be transcoded if NuppelVideo format, or remultiplexed to specially formatted MPEG-2 files suitable for burning to DVD.

MythTV 0.20 plug-ins now includes MythArchive for archiving your recordings. What follows is for users of MythTV 0.19 or earlier. A separate detailed guide exists for SUSE users at

The process to archive recordings to DVD before version 0.20 involves the use of several external tools in the following steps:

Split DVB File with ProjectX

Project X takes a collection of DVB stream files and concatenates them into one big project. You can trim the files here also. It will then create synchronization marks between the audio and video. You can use the default settings.

Create DVD MPEG-2 stream

We now can convert the above output video (m2v) and audio stream (mp2) generated by projectX to a DVD compatible stream. We use the mplex command, which is part of mjpegtools. You will then have a .mpg file with combined audio and video all nicely synchronized.

> mplex -f 8 -o 1.mpg 1.m2v 1.mp2

Create a DVD Image with KDE_DVDAuthor

KDE DVD Author will allow you to create very nice DVD's complete with animated menus. You do not need to compile it. Just download and click on the installer.kmdr icon and KDE will install it. KDE DVDAuthor is a KDE Kommander application.

Required packages:

  • DVD Author
  • ffmpeg
  • lsdvd
  • normalize

Just follow the steps in the wizard, adding in the video , audio and images files that it asks for. It wil then generate a DVD ISO image once it completes.


Burn DVD image using K3b

K3b includes a wizard to burn DVD ISO images. You will find it under the Tools pull down. Tools -> Burn DVD ISO image. Just load up the ISO image from step 3, and you are done.

Exporting Recordings

MythTV recordings can be exported into multiple different formats such as iPod or PSP compatible MPEG-4 files, DivX and Xvid files, or files to burn to VCD, SVCD or DVD with the use of Nuvexport, which as of 0.21 is included in MythTV. It can also be downloaded from

Nuvexport is a command line program that can be used to create a copy of your recording in the following formats: Xvid, SVCD, VCD, DVCD, DVD, DivX, ASF, MP3, PSP, iPod, and MPEG-2 (though the iPod and PSP export options are currently unavailable). It does not alter the original file in any way, just gives you a new one in a folder of your choosing.

When run, it will use information from the MythTV database to give you a list of all your recordings to choose from, and allow various options such as resizing the video, cutting out sections marked with MythTV's edit cut list, altering the bitrate, and various other things. A work in progress manual for nuvexport can be found at

There is also a specialized script that allows you to transcode your files and subscribe to them on your iPod available at This utility uses nuvexport, and then does special post-processing with MP4Box to create an iPod-ready video. It will even generate an RSS feed for your shows, which you can subscribe to in iTunes. Currently (6/22/06) transcoding HD shows doesn't appear to work - you get rolling colors and disjointed sound. This is apparently a bug in nuvexport. SD shows work fine though. is an alternative to While this how to is aimed at Gentoo users, it can be applied to any distro. Features include tagging files correctly (so they show up in TV shows instead of movies by default) and user job integration instructions.

Managing Media


The MythVideo plugin provides the ability to manage and play videos of various formats with the help of external players.


Gallery and the MythGallery plugin allows you to view all your photos as well as short movies from your digital camera. It will show your photos as they are organised in your file system and generate thumbnails of both folders as well as individual photos.


MythTV allows you to play music in various ways

  • The MythMusic plugin adds the ability to manage and play music files on the frontend.
  • Play CDs direct from your CD/DVD Drive
  • Access your music files on your Mythbox from the internet using MythWeb
  • Access your music files from a UPnP Client by using your MythBox as a DLNA UPnP Server

Advanced Features

Job Queues

Advanced Search

Controlling the mythfrontend via netcat (0.19)

For detailed information see the Frontend control socket article.

Fixing Problems

See User_Manual:Diagnosing_Problems