How to get TV-Out working on ATI graphic cards

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Revision as of 20:34, 8 November 2006 by Whoopie (Talk | contribs) (Using the GATOS driver: tv_out patches against Xorg CVS)

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This HOWTO should help you enable TV-Out support on your ATI Radeon or ATI Rage based ThinkPad.

This page is not applicable to recent ATI Radeon Mobility chips. See ATI Mobility Radeon X300 for a discussion.

Using the GATOS driver

At the GATOS webpage one can find the ati.2 driver, a drm-module for the kernel and some additional software. When combined this suffice to get the TV-Out of ATI Radeon (Mobility) chips activated. Yet the information and the software there seem to be a bit out of date.

Tv_output patches that work against latest Xorg can be found here. For current Xorg 7.1, you can use this patch.

Using atitvout

Another approach is by using the atitvout tool provided (but no longer maintained) by Lennart Poettering.

The provided archive contains a source release which can be compiled and installed by # make && make install within the extracted directory. The atitvout tool will then be installed to /usr/local/sbin/atitvout.

The tool uses the VESA Bios Extensions (VBE) which are initialized only once during power on. So if you want to use the TV-out, be sure to get the corresponding video device such as a tv connected before powering your ThinkPad. Under some circumstances the tool fails to communicate properly with the VBE Bios. By issuing $ atitvout -f t you activate the SVideo output port. The command $ atitvout -f l you change the graphics output back to the LCD.

The atitvout doesn't seem to work on higher resolutions. To send a Xserver to a connected video device, it is possible to start a second Xserver e.g. with $ startx -- :1 -xf86config XF86Config-4_reduced-resolution. For resolutions up to 1024x768 the switching should work fine.

While this works very well for ordinary X applications, playing video files, say with mplayer or xine might result in wrong aspect ratio or otherwise distorted output.

Switch to a text console (preferably a non framebufferd one) and issue an $ atitvout -f t. Then start $ mplayer -vo svga and the filename and other options needed. After enjoying the show, switch back with $ atitvout -f l.

ThinkPads/Other laptops this has been successfully tested on

  • A30p
  • Compaq Evo N800v