Doesn't matter what it's coming in at on the satellite. It's what you capture in at the computer. But I believe it would be mpeg 2.
As for best card, that's more of a subjective issue. I personally have used the ATI products, as well as Pinnacle PCTV card. Both had roughly the same quality, however the ATI in my opinion, wins out, with the Radeon line that also includes the Remote Wonder, which not only controls functions of the capture card, but also allows you to operate your system, where as the remote that came with the Pinnacle card, only worked with the software bundled with the Pinnacle card.
You're best bet for capture, for lowest size but good quality, would be DivX. A bit tricky, but there are tutorials available on the internet. Otherwise, the cards capture to mpeg format by default (or a proprietary format). Usually they will have presets (such as VCD, SVCD, DVD Low, DVD High, etc). VCD will run you about 10 megs per minute. Or 600 megs per hour. Roughly. SVCD is 15 - 20 megs per minute (haven't used it much, and never paid attention to how large the files were). DVD Low will run you about 1 meg every 2 seconds (30 megs per minute), and DVD High will run about 1 meg per second.
VCD is mpeg 1, SVCD and up is generally mpeg 2. VCD is vhs quality (or a little better). SVCD is obviously higher quality, but not as good as DVD quality. DVD Low is the same resolution (720x480) as DVD High, but is compressed twice as much. Near DVD quality, but not quite there. DVD High is the same as ripping a DVD to your hard drive, and watching the vob files.
When recording from an svideo or rca input on the capture card, SVCD is more than adequate for excellent looking recordings. I personally don't use more than VCD, unless I'm recording a movie on pay per view, where it's actually presented in a much higher quality than broadcast or even premium channels. The difference in quality is negligable, and the savings in hard drive space needed is justified.
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