how difficult to turn a PC into a DVR?

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by ipso facto, Mar 2, 2004.

  1. ipso facto

    ipso facto Guest

    I might be upgrading to a new desktop soon so I was considering turning my
    old desktop PC into a dedicated digital video recorder. Is there a FAQ or
    other resource that describes what I'd need to do? My PC is an Athlon
    900mhz, 256mb RAM, Win2k, 30gb hard drive. Is this enough processing power
    to record TV at a good resolution? I'm assuming I'd need to buy a new video
    card with TV in/out capability (I've got an old ATI Radeon right now).
    Also, how much audio & video would 30gb hold? I'd probably get a second
    hard drive, too. Any other things I should be aware of? Thanks.
    ipso facto, Mar 2, 2004
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  2. ipso facto

    Keith Clark Guest

    Have you read any of the other threads in the last few days?

    Search for the topic on Avermedia boards.

    Bottomline - yes your system should be powerful enough.

    Recommended software Snapstream, Show Shifter, MyHTPC, Windows Media Center
    Edition. If you can handle a lot of pain, then MythTV in Linux might be for you.

    30 GB is about 10 hours in highest quality mpeg-2 mode with SnapStream.

    Recommended capture card - anything by Hauppauge (I use a WinTV-Go, but a
    Hauppauge PVR-250 with hardware encoding is definitely a better way to go).

    For remote viewing (mpeg-1&2 only) look into Hauppauge Media MVP, a steal at
    under $100.

    For HTPC cases, check out the D-Vine series by Ahanix. Spendy, but definitely
    very nice. People will not think it's a PC.

    Keith Clark, Mar 2, 2004
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  3. ipso facto

    Lordy Guest

    Get a consumer dvd recorder unit. Ive got a PC with TV Card, Dual boot
    Linux/Windows etc etc but for 1st capture (esp time shifting) a nice quiet
    consumer unit fits my usage to a tee..

    Lordy, Mar 2, 2004
  4. Keith, how "bad" is the included Hauppage software compared to
    Snapstream? I notice Snapstream has an on TV interface that looks
    similar to what's built into my satelite IRD.
    Chris Phillipo, Mar 3, 2004
  5. ipso facto

    Keith Clark Guest

    I didn't like the layout of the Hauppauge interface. It didn't seem suited for "10
    foot" use, it seemed designed more for "PC" use. But mostly my issue was with the
    Hauppauge driver itself. At least on my system, the Hauppauge driver blue-screened
    the system a lot. When I removed the Hauppauge software and replaced it with the
    open source "btwincap" driver then all the problems went away.
    Keith Clark, Mar 3, 2004
  6. Will the Hauppauge software work with that driver? I'm not even sure
    the 350 has the same software your card does.
    Chris Phillipo, Mar 3, 2004
  7. ipso facto

    Keith Clark Guest

    I don't know, it's really a moot point since I prefer the Snap Stream software. I don't
    know how I ever got along without it. Now I have more stuff recorded than I have time to
    watch, and the quality is every bit as good as live broadcast.
    Keith Clark, Mar 3, 2004
  8. ipso facto

    Ken Maltby Guest

    I feel my DirecTvio unit is a much better 1st capture device.
    It well even gather up whatever I ask it to, for my later capture.

    Ken Maltby, Mar 3, 2004
  9. ipso facto

    Keith Clark Guest

    So will "Beyond TV" ( I can even schedule recordings when
    I'm away from home from any web browser, and now their remote scheduling will
    help resolve scheduling conflicts. On my lunch hour I searched for Bogart and
    John Wayne movies, found some cool History Channel documentaries, old Taxi
    reruns, and when I got home from work, there was a bunch of stuff already
    recorded & ready to go. It's great. Like I said, I don't know how I ever got
    along without it.

    And there's no "subscription fees" that I'd have with Tivo, I can put as big or
    as many hard drives as I want without having to "hack" a Tivo, I have ready
    access to the recordings to do with what I want... Tivo is far too restrictive
    for me...
    Keith Clark, Mar 3, 2004
  10. Dammit, another thing to buy :)
    Chris Phillipo, Mar 3, 2004
  11. Is there a way to hack it to get the mpeg files out and burn them to
    DVD? My satelite provider also makes a PVR but two reasons I didn't buy
    it are it's only good on their system and there's no ethernet connection
    on it. thee is a way to hack it with both an ethernet connection and a
    decoder for the encrypted files but it involves a lot of soldering best
    left to a Japanese robot.
    Chris Phillipo, Mar 3, 2004
  12. ipso facto

    FLY135 Guest

    Yes you can do this with a TV tuner card and software mentioned by others in
    this thread. I question whether a 900 has enought juice to record MPEG-2 in
    software. My experience with PowerVCR says no. Also don't expect software
    encodes to have as good quality as a dedicated encoder chip. If you are
    doing this for the GeeWiz factor then go for it. But I bought a Lite-On DVD
    recorder and I couldn't be happier with the results. I've got 200 DVD+Rs
    that I bought on sale at OfficeMax for $0.50 each and I can record 4 hours
    on a DVD in better quality than I can get with PowerVCR on my 2500+ Athlon
    with PowerVCR and TV tuner card.

    The problem with making a computer into a DVR is you get sucked in little by
    little buying more stuff, encoder software, faster CPU upgrades, TV cards,
    big hard drives, DVD burner to save recordings, etc... trying to get it
    right. I paid $240 after rebate for my Lite-On standalone DVD recorder and
    it is a solid performer.
    FLY135, Mar 3, 2004
  13. DVD? My satelite provider also makes a PVR but two reasons I didn't
    I think just about all small dish PVR's have at least one S-Video out,
    at least here in the U.S. Are you really wanting to get to the signal
    _before_ it's decoded by the sat receiver? Remember, the video is
    already mpeg encoded before it's broadcast. PVR's store a bit for bit
    copy of the already encoded mpeg video stream so there's no quality loss
    in the recording process or a need for an external decoder.

    I agree with Ken, a dedicated unit is better in almost every respect, at
    least for me. I disliked the Tivo fee so I went with Dish, which had no
    PVR fee at the time. The flexibility in searching and recording with
    these units is phenomenal. If I like a movie well enough to want to
    store it, I transfer it to my computer. I ran a S-Video cable from my
    sat receiver to my capture card, so I can store the video in avi,
    re-encode to DVD format and burn it.
    Chuck U. Farley, Mar 3, 2004
  14. So will "Beyond TV" ( I can even schedule
    recordings when

    This does seem to be a nice piece of s/w. How good is the pause, rewind
    function while you're recording a show? How long a buffer does it hold?
    That's one of the cool things about standalone PVR's from DirectTV and
    Dish. It constantly records whatever show it's tuned to and keeps about
    a one hour buffer. So if you decide halfway into a program that it's
    worth recording, you still have access to the show from the beginning.
    It's also great if you don't hear something, you can always rewind it.

    One other question, can you do data intensive activities on your
    computer at the same time you're recording a show?
    Chuck U. Farley, Mar 3, 2004
  15. ipso facto

    Hactar Guest may be useful ... it was
    to me and I didn't use Linux. I built a PVR on XP, and my page is here: .
    I had a Duron 1100, and it would record fine. Skipped a bit while using what
    ATI calls "TV On Demand", basically playing a few seconds (or more) delayed
    from "live"; if you pause TV to answer the phone or whatever, it enters "TV
    On Demand" mode, where it has to tune, write, read and play at the same time.
    An Athlon 900 should be at least as fast as a Duron 1100.
    The combined card I have (ATI AIW Radeon 8500DV) wpn't let me play and
    record simultaneously; I don't know whether that's common to all video cards
    or just this card (in which case separate tuner/video+TV cards would be
    Video for me at acceptable quality (240x320, 1.75 Mb/s) runs about 910MB/hr.
    Quite fast motion or static (or in general things that make an MPEG big)
    cause the bottom of the screen to pixellate.
    If you need more time.
    Consider the noise the PC makes, and whether it's obnoxious during quiet bits
    in movies. I was thinking about building a lots-of-CPU no-moving-parts PC,
    with a NIC leading to a fileserver elsewhere, but ended up getting some
    grommets and putting the PC behind a wall.

    Also, a fast CD may spin up, and play a movie from CD. During the time the
    movie plays, the CD's playing entirely from its buffer. This goes on so
    long that the drive spins down. So you get not only the jet-engine-like
    whine of a fast CD drive, you get annoying pauses in the playback while the
    drive spins up. A solution is to use a slower drive (8x? 4x?), or use
    something like .
    Hactar, Mar 3, 2004
  16. ipso facto

    Keith Clark Guest

    That's a good question. I don't see it listed on the supported cards page :

    On the other hand, the 350 probably uses a completely different driver anyway. My advice
    is to install the 350 driver and see if you have any issues.

    In my case I suspect the issues I was having may have been due to extreme overclocking.
    I've noticed some other instabilities, such as if I use 100% CPU for a few hours, as
    when rendering. I set the bios back to default values over the weekend and that cleared
    up the other instabilities.

    Keith Clark, Mar 3, 2004
  17. ipso facto

    Keith Clark Guest

    How good is the pause on live TV? Great. It'll pause for up to like 7
    minutes by default, but you can change that (you specify the buffer size to
    use for live TV). And you can easily rewind live TV (I have a teenager
    (constantly ringing phone) and a dog (Jack Russell "Terrorist" ;->) in the
    house so I end up doing that a lot).

    As for multi-tasking :

    Put it this way - I can edit an mpeg-2 file with Ulead Video Studio &
    render to DVD format, transcode an mpeg-2 file to Xvid with Virtual dub,
    and record a show all at the same time with no dropped frames. This is with
    a hyper-threaded P4 running at 2.4 GHz and software encoding using the
    SnapStream "Best" quality mpeg-2 profile.

    So yeah, you can pretty much go about life as usual and record away.

    Of course you ideally would want to use multiple drives as much as possible
    to avoid I/O conflicts with real-time video streams. And keep the OS on a
    separate physical drive if you plan on a lot of intensive multitasking.

    But my best advice after you buy a tuner card, is download as many demo
    versions as you can find (SnapStream, ShowShifter, etc), and see what you
    can and can't do with each, and what interface you like the best, etc.
    Keith Clark, Mar 3, 2004
  18. That would drive me right out of my mind to have all these MPEG files
    sitting in a black box under my TV on a hard drive just like the one in
    my PC but instead copying them direct to my pc via speedy ethernet and
    burning them to DVD I have to recapture them in real time through analog
    to get them onto my PC and then burn the DVD. So 2-3 hours to archive
    each hour of video. I guess if you only have one signal source and
    don't want to do much saving it might be bearable but I switch between
    Expressvu and Dish plus I plan to put together a DVB box to receive
    signals from a dozen different satelites so I really need to be able to
    record from more than one provider. The box I build will not change
    channels of course so I will have to schedule the program on the IRD and
    then set the card's software to record at that same time, I don't think
    it's going to be a major hassle as long as both clocks are synchronized.
    Chris Phillipo, Mar 3, 2004
  19. I should also qualify all that by saying, for me, it's as much about the
    hacking to get there as the getting there. If I could buy a Bell
    5800PVR and I knew it was within my abilities to hack it the way I want,
    I would do that, but people with a lot more knowledge than me have tried
    and failed. And it's a $800 paperweight when you fail.
    Chris Phillipo, Mar 3, 2004
  20. I just copy the CD to disk, and then play from disk.
    Jan Panteltje, Mar 3, 2004
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