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  #1  
Old 01-26-2013, 01:52 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Easiest way to record television?

We watch relatively little through our cable box, so itís not really worth it to spend the $180 or so per year to rent their DVR. But every once in a while something comes out that we want to see and not wait for it to be released on the Internet (or see if it will at all).

Remember when you could buy a VCR and set of tapes for under fifty bucks and be done with it? Seems quaint, but did anything replace it? Is there a basic DVR out there to buy that doesnít require an annual subscription to be useful? If it helps, weíve got a PC in the room and I donít mind spending on a specialized card or HDD. Or do I run into the same issues when trying to use a PC to replace the cable box entirely?

Do I dig one of the old VCRs out of the basement?
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  #2  
Old 01-26-2013, 02:01 PM
dstarfire dstarfire is offline
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If you use windows media center (free with windows vista and 7), the guide comes free with the program, so there's no additional subscription costs there. Also, you don't necessarily need another hard drive if your system already has a second drive with plenty of space (100+ GB).

You've got two options for putting a tv tuner in your PC:
1. Get a cablecard compatible tuner that can decrypt the cable signal on it's own (you'll also need to rent a cable card for it). These tend to be rather pricey ($200+)

2. Get a standard tuner card and an IR attachment (that lets it tell the cable box what to do).

I use the second option myself, and it works fine for me. I love recording stuff on my pc. I've even got it set up to automatically skip commercials.

Last edited by dstarfire; 01-26-2013 at 02:03 PM..
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  #3  
Old 01-26-2013, 02:12 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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A friend is looking to buy a new TV, and noticed that most models had USB ports and SD card slots. While I'm pretty sure that means they can read thumbdrives and SD cards with video, stills and/or music, I see no reason why they couldn't record whatever you are watching on the screen as well, direct to a card or thumbdrive. If so, that sounds like a very simple solution (as long as you are in the market for a new TV). Anyone know if consumer-grade TVs have that capability yet?
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  #4  
Old 01-26-2013, 02:13 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
2. Get a standard tuner card and an IR attachment (that lets it tell the cable box what to do).

I use the second option myself, and it works fine for me. I love recording stuff on my pc. I've even got it set up to automatically skip commercials.
How does this work?

Right now, the cable and PC HDMI outs go to a receiver with HDMI switching (it then sends the signal to the TV). If I instead connect the cable's HDMI output to the PC, does the card allow the signal to just pass through? As in, do I set the receiver to PC, start Media Center, and whatever we tune the cable box to will show up on the TV? And if we want to record something, we can just tell Media Center to jump through whatever hoops it needs to?

What card to you have?
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  #5  
Old 01-26-2013, 03:15 PM
dstarfire dstarfire is offline
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I'm not too sure how it would work with HDMI cables as I use simple coax cable in my setup, but I don't think your setup would get the results you want. Video capture and tv tuner cards only receive video. They're not equipped with a pass-through like VCR's and such.

In my setup, I connect the cable box to a splitter. One branch from the splitter goes to my PC, the other to my TV.

However, odds are, if your cable box has an hdmi output, it has a few other outputs as well. You could probably just use one of those to go to the PC, and leave the HDMI running to your tv. If that doesn't work, you should be able to find an HDMI splitter at any decent electronics store for $30-50.

@Musical: the requirements for playing data from a usb stick are much lower than the requirements for recording a video feed to a usb stick. At the very least capturing the feed would required some sort of encoder, which most tv's probably don't have.

Last edited by dstarfire; 01-26-2013 at 03:17 PM..
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  #6  
Old 01-26-2013, 03:22 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
Remember when you could buy a VCR and set of tapes for under fifty bucks and be done with it? Seems quaint, but did anything replace it?
You can get a DVD recorder and a stack of DVD-R for as little as $75.
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  #7  
Old 01-26-2013, 03:26 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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A DVR may not be the least expensive way to record television, but it's currently the easiest.
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  #8  
Old 01-26-2013, 04:50 PM
ftg ftg is offline
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I've seen people recommend some Magnavox DVR/DVD recorders. Here's WalMart's selection.

Usual warnings: I've never used one of these. No programming data provided. Figure out carefully how you can integrate channel changing with your cable/satellite/OTA setup.

Stay away from Hauppauge "PVRs".
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  #9  
Old 01-26-2013, 05:50 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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I actually still do use my VCR to record TV shows. Unfortunately, the switch to digital TV has limited its usefulness. It'll still record whatever input you give it, but it can't tune/select channels, so you can't program it ahead of time to record from more than one channel.
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  #10  
Old 01-26-2013, 05:55 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
We watch relatively little through our cable box, so itís not really worth it to spend the $180 or so per year to rent their DVR. ?
Can't you just buy a DVR?

One time charge and you're golden.
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  #11  
Old 01-26-2013, 10:21 PM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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the Magnavox DVD recorders can record to a hard disk or DVD. if you want to time shift then record to the HD and erase. you can later record to DVD if you want to keep it.
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  #12  
Old 01-27-2013, 01:23 AM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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I'm old enough to have used VCRs, and DVRs are infinitely easier and better. Mine is integrated with my satellite box, so I don't know about separate subscription fees. One advantage is that it follows a possibly moving program around, and won't cut off if the program runs long. Whether it is worth it is up to you. We have laptops which spend a lot of time in sleep or moving around, so they are not an option.
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  #13  
Old 01-27-2013, 08:23 AM
26charlie 26charlie is offline
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Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
... If it helps, weíve got a PC in the room and I donít mind spending on a specialized card or HDD.?
Google tv tuners for PC - i use the "pctv hd pro stick, 801e" that i got for around $80, but there are many others and as cheap as $30. You can record the input to your PC. If you use it with a coax cable, you can only pick up the analog channels, like up to 100 or so. I use a splitter to select either straight cable or the s-video output from my cable box. The latter is how i can record anything i subscribe to, like a vcr - just not in HD (which i dont care about).

Something you might like about a dvr box is other than recording and storing 100 hours of video - its recording up to an hour of whatever is on screen, so you can rewind and play something back on the fly, as well as pausing to go to the bathroom, etc. I use the dvr's rewind feature very often now, like when i miss what someone said thats important. I can play it back and find out what i missed or if i heard it correctly or not - or rewind and pause on something i need to write down, like an address or phone number. Its such a habit now that i miss it alot when watching tv on a set without that control feature.

The other unhearalded bonus of a dvr is you can go do other things while your program is on, then join the show 20 min later and rewind to the beginning. Then, fast forward at every commercial break to cut out commercials. I love those control features alot more than its ability to record programs.
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  #14  
Old 01-27-2013, 10:55 PM
Hail Ants Hail Ants is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
We watch relatively little through our cable box, so itís not really worth it to spend the $180 or so per year to rent their DVR. But every once in a while something comes out that we want to see and not wait for it to be released on the Internet (or see if it will at all).

Remember when you could buy a VCR and set of tapes for under fifty bucks and be done with it? Seems quaint, but did anything replace it? Is there a basic DVR out there to buy that doesnít require an annual subscription to be useful? If it helps, weíve got a PC in the room and I donít mind spending on a specialized card or HDD. Or do I run into the same issues when trying to use a PC to replace the cable box entirely?

Do I dig one of the old VCRs out of the basement?
If you really want to keep it simple I would suggest you go with a DVR/DVD-R disc burner mentioned above. The DVR part of it acts as a large 'buffer' for several hours worth of material so that you can pick & choose what you want to burn permanently onto DVD. This is very useful for DVD-Rs because, unlike VCR's tape, DVD disc burning is not conducive to frequent and/or short stops & starts. Unlike full-fledged DVRs (like TiVos etc.) they don't require a subscription. Be aware however that because TV is now 100% digital there will be some things that you will not be able to burn to a DVD-R disc if the network doesn't want to let you.

You might be able to still get just a DVD-R burner (without the DVR hard disk buffer). These essentially started to replace VCRs about 10 years ago. They're cheaper (under $100) but they're becoming scarce (having been replaced with the DVR/DVD-R units). They too won't record programing that is restricted not to be.

Another thing: Without the unit being integrated into your cable box you may have to set the channel manually! You'll be able to schedule a day & time but you'll have to make sure to leave the cable box on the desired channel. Some DVR/DVD-R recorders will include an IR 'wand' that you put in front of your cable box so it can change the channel as well.
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  #15  
Old 01-28-2013, 09:46 AM
xizor xizor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
A friend is looking to buy a new TV, and noticed that most models had USB ports and SD card slots. While I'm pretty sure that means they can read thumbdrives and SD cards with video, stills and/or music, I see no reason why they couldn't record whatever you are watching on the screen as well, direct to a card or thumbdrive. If so, that sounds like a very simple solution (as long as you are in the market for a new TV). Anyone know if consumer-grade TVs have that capability yet?
Nope, that doesn't work. To record out to such a device the TV would require an encoder chip and US TVs don't have them. A European TV would however.
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  #16  
Old 01-28-2013, 09:49 AM
JerrySTL JerrySTL is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
I've seen people recommend some Magnavox DVR/DVD recorders. Here's WalMart's selection.

Usual warnings: I've never used one of these. No programming data provided. Figure out carefully how you can integrate channel changing with your cable/satellite/OTA setup.
I have an older Philips DVR with a 160 GB hard drive. Recording off the air in HD is a snap as it has an ATSC DTV tuner. Recording analog content from cable just takes a cable splitter before the cable box.

Recording digital content, such as HD channels, from Charter cable requires connecting the cable box to the DVR so you can only record what is coming out of the cable box.

BTW: The DVR is a great way to convert VHS tapes to digital content. Just connect a VCR to the DVR through the video jacks or even coax cable. Record to the DVR's hard drive. Then you can edit it before burning to a DVD. This works well for home video tapes. For most prerecorded content, you need a 'digital video stabilizer' between the VCR and DVR. The stabilizer is a cheap device that strips off the copy protection from the tape.
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Old 01-28-2013, 10:39 AM
sidecar_jon sidecar_jon is offline
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I'm in the UK and i picked up a cheap supermarket TV (about £100) came with DVD player Digital tuner and USB recording, I plugged in a USB stick and latterly a SATA hard drive rescued from a "I spilled a cup of coffee" lap top i had off a friend. The Adapter to make the SATA plug into USB is cheap and easy ..
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  #18  
Old 01-28-2013, 10:47 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by xizor View Post
Nope, that doesn't work. To record out to such a device the TV would require an encoder chip and US TVs don't have them. A European TV would however.
There's no technical reason why a TV can't record to a USB thumbdrive or a SD card. The signal is already there; what I'm asking is for the relatively minor software to process the signal and store it in a conventional manner like all computers do. Incredibly simple solution to recording audio/video.

There are TVs with built-in VHS recorders. Why not a SD card recorder, especially if the socket is already there?

For that matter, does a recorder exist, equivalent to a VHS or DVD recorder, that takes the same, standard, composite video signal as those devices do and writes to a thumbdrive or memory card without needing the intermediate of a PC? That would be easy to plug in to any TV and quite compatible with today's storage devices. Replace your VHS with one of these.
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Old 01-28-2013, 05:43 PM
Blakeyrat Blakeyrat is offline
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Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
How does this work?

Right now, the cable and PC HDMI outs go to a receiver with HDMI switching (it then sends the signal to the TV). If I instead connect the cable's HDMI output to the PC, does the card allow the signal to just pass through? As in, do I set the receiver to PC, start Media Center, and whatever we tune the cable box to will show up on the TV? And if we want to record something, we can just tell Media Center to jump through whatever hoops it needs to?

What card to you have?
You can buy pass-through HDMI recording cards-- I use this model-- but:
1) You need a PC with a big HD to record *to*
2) Since that model is designed for recording games, there's no scheduled recording or program information
3) It's more expensive than just springing for the DVR anyway, and much harder to set up and use
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Old 01-28-2013, 05:46 PM
Blakeyrat Blakeyrat is offline
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Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
For that matter, does a recorder exist, equivalent to a VHS or DVD recorder, that takes the same, standard, composite video signal as those devices do and writes to a thumbdrive or memory card without needing the intermediate of a PC? That would be easy to plug in to any TV and quite compatible with today's storage devices. Replace your VHS with one of these.
I think the problem is that modern equipment doesn't use composite anymore, it's all HDMI. And to really record HDMI you need a device that can understand compression... if you tried to store the entire HDMI data-stream without compressing it in some way, you'd fill up your entire storage before it grabbed a single 22-minute episode.

When you're buying something like that Hauppauge box I linked to in the last post, what you're really buying is a device that can do H.264 (or equivalent) compression in near-realtime so the data can be practically stored. That's not yet cheap.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:10 AM
deltasigma deltasigma is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
There's no technical reason why a TV can't record to a USB thumbdrive or a SD card. The signal is already there; what I'm asking is for the relatively minor software to process the signal and store it in a conventional manner like all computers do. Incredibly simple solution to recording audio/video.

There are TVs with built-in VHS recorders. Why not a SD card recorder, especially if the socket is already there?

For that matter, does a recorder exist, equivalent to a VHS or DVD recorder, that takes the same, standard, composite video signal as those devices do and writes to a thumbdrive or memory card without needing the intermediate of a PC? That would be easy to plug in to any TV and quite compatible with today's storage devices. Replace your VHS with one of these.
You're probably right. Look at Roku. I think their newest streaming player is just going to be a USB stick, not even a set-top-box. Of course it doesn't record more than a few seconds of video, but obviously it has to store something. So really all you're talking about is scaling that up. Not sure what the input is but I think it's wi-fi, I don't think it gets the signal from the port it's plugged into.

But as was mentioned, one issue is HDMI which monitors when you try to record something it thinks you're not authorized for. You can get around that, if I'm allowed to discuss such things, by using a different input. If it's available and you use it, I don't see a problem. Coax, composite (red, yellow, blue) and component (5 cables, red and yellow for audio + 3 video) will all be fine. Component will, or at least is able to give you as good quality as HDMI although some will dispute that.

I think though that there is a really big disconnect between electronics makers and consumers. I don't think they really have any concept of what is actually important to people. So they'll strip off all but the HDMI connectors to save a few bucks so they can add some other feature you'll probably never even know you have because it's on page 242 of the manual and you just don't give a shit. But they figure you'll turn your nose up at those primitive 'connectors'. Either that or as geek patricians, they have decided that you will have no idea what they are and will never use them so they make the choice for you.

There are options though if you don't mind using a computer to do the recording and you do happen to have the right kind of connectors on the output device. I know that my cable DVR has a coax out that seems to work although I normally use it for the financial news so I'm not sure I've ever tested it on a premium channel. Regardless, some of the PC based video capture devices are really cheap. Here are some that use the USB port and start at about $25 bucks, just to give you an idea. You'll see for the consumer grade stuff (at least on that site) they top out at around $100 for just capture devices. The pro equipment is another category.
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  #22  
Old 01-29-2013, 03:49 AM
deltasigma deltasigma is offline
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Correction: not sure what was wrong with me.

composite - red and white for audio, same for component. Yellow is video.
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  #23  
Old 01-29-2013, 04:12 AM
Cugel Cugel is offline
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I have a set top box that records directly to a USB device. Two of em actually, both free, as people are falling over themselves to get rid of them along with their SD TVs.
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  #24  
Old 01-29-2013, 06:10 AM
Ximenean Ximenean is offline
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Originally Posted by Cugel View Post
I have a set top box that records directly to a USB device. Two of em actually, both free, as people are falling over themselves to get rid of them along with their SD TVs.
Yeah, but you're in Australia, according to your profile, which is a DVB territory like Europe. These things, and cheap DVRs, are commonplace in places where lots of people receive digital TV via antenna. I know they have ATSC in the US, but I get the impression that most people there get their TV through cable which seems less standardised.

Last edited by Ximenean; 01-29-2013 at 06:12 AM.. Reason: Make that ATSC, not ASTC
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  #25  
Old 01-29-2013, 06:17 AM
deltasigma deltasigma is offline
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Originally Posted by Ximenean View Post
Yeah, but you're in Australia, according to your profile, which is a DVB territory like Europe. These things, and cheap DVRs, are commonplace in places where lots of people receive digital TV via antenna. I know they have ASTC in the US, but I get the impression that most people there get their TV through cable which seems less standardised.
I think that when the cable providers broadcast "in the clear" they use QAM, which is similar to the ATSC signal used for over-the-air broadcasting.

I believe the problem is that not everybody broadcasts even the free, regurgitated local channels in the clear. But even when that's true, you never know what else will be. Will basic cable be encrypted or not for example.

You can get around this via a device that takes a cable card. Rental costs are nominal, at least from my provider (cablevision). But devices that will take one tend to be in a higher price range than just plain old video capture thingies.
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