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Thread: I'm a complete newbie with DVRs, some questions

  1. #1
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    I'm a complete newbie with DVRs, some questions

    I've been reading up a lot on recording TV shows recently. Right now, I have analogue cable with Comcast, and a ATI TV Wonder VE on my PC. I've tried a little bit of recording, and the quality is pretty crappy. I wanted to figure out a way to capture the video in the highest quality possible, as a method of archiving some television programs.

    I read around in various forums, and from what I understand, in terms of set-top products, the DirecTV/TiVo combination is the best (not to mention most economical). From what I could gather, with this method, the MPEG2 stream that is sent to your satellite is captured by the TiVo without any re-encoding. With standalone TiVo (or ReplayTV) units, you receive the MPEG2 stream, and do another conversion to a new MPEG2 file.

    In any case, if you're using the DirecTiVo way, after you have captured the file, is there a way to bring that file to your computer, and then burn a DVD without doing any further re-encoding, thus ensuring that the file on the DVD has the exact same quality as the original MPEG2 file that was received by your satellite?

    Basically, I'm wondering about the way to capture that will lead to the highest quality. Is there some kind of computer capturing solution or via digital cable instead of satellite that yields results, or this the DirecTivo method the best?

    By the way, I've been reading various posts here, and I've been overwhelmed with some of what's been written on how to move files from the TiVo to the computer. I have sufficient computer software and hardware knowledge, so will it be difficult for me?

    Thanks a lot in advance!

  2. #2
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    Anyone? It's just that I wanted to figure out what the highest quality way to preserve some of my favorite television programs would be. It seems to me that the DirecTivo system archives them on the system in the highest quality way out of any current consumer solution. So is it possible to bring the file from the DirecTivo system to your computer, and then burn to DVD, and then watch the video from the DVD in the exact same quality as the satellite feed? I guess that's what I want to know

  3. #3
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    Tivo or Plesxtor

    I have played a bit with the TiVo Series 1 (find them on eBay), and it's relatively easy to hack it and copy recordings from the TiVo to your PC.

    Another way of doing this (if you don't want to be stuck with DirecTV for example, although I do like their service) is getting the Plextor ConvertX.
    There are 2 models. One (the cheapest one) only does NTSC. The newer model (a few bucks more) does PAL and NTSC as well.
    It has hardware encoding for MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4/DivX ,...

  4. #4
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    Another way of doing this (if you don't want to be stuck with DirecTV for example, although I do like their service) is getting the Plextor ConvertX.
    There are 2 models. One (the cheapest one) only does NTSC. The newer model (a few bucks more) does PAL and NTSC as well.
    It has hardware encoding for MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4/DivX ,...
    I think you might want to explain a bit more about what this item is and what it does because your description does neither.

    Transferring files to your PC boils down to a couple of things, depending on what model Tivo you own. Here's a brief synopsis:

    Hardware

    Series 1 SA and DTivo models - requires a Tivonet (no longer manufactured), Turbonet, cachecard, or Airnet adapter to establish an ethernet connection.

    Series 2 SA & DTivo models - requires a USB-to-ethernet adapter. SA models have the (USB 1.1?) drivers installed at the factory; DTivos need to be hacked to add the drivers. Sleeper's tivoscript installs them during the hacking phase of the program but you have to specify which drivers to install and what IP addresses to use so do your homework before running the program.

    Extraction Software

    TyTools - The most complete all-in-one extraction and processing tool available. Extracts, edits, muxes, and authors with titles and chapter stops. Works on all Tivo models

    TyStudio - Not really being developed anymore and still has lots of bugs. Works on S1 models only. Allows for extraction, editing, and processing of ty files.

    mfs_ftp - The most versatile extraction and transferral tool for recorded shows on a Tivo. Can extract in ty, ty+, or tmf format using a standard FTP program. It can also transfer files to another Tivo or back to the same one it was previously extracted from. Allows for FXP direct Tivo-to-Tivo transfers similar to Tivo's Home Media Option. Works on all Tivo models.

    Tivoweb - When used with the mfs_stream extraction module you can extract shows using a web browser. I haven't tried the latest version of this yet but there are lots of plug-ins for Tivoweb that allow you to do all sorts of neat things. Check out some of them in the FILES section at the top of the main forum page. Works on all Tivo models. There are limitations about transferring files between S1 and S2 models due to differences in the way the audio is recorded. You also cannot extract shows with Dolby Digital audio from a DTivo and restore it to a SA model since they do not support DD playback.

    The method you decide to use depends on what you intend to do with the files. If you intend to archive the files for later return to the Tivo then you'll want to use mfs_ftp and extract in tmf format. Ty format is used by TyTools and can be converted to either mpegs or VOB files for importing into other authoring programs for creating DVDs, SVCDs, or VCDs. TyTools can also do this but with limited menu capability. Unless you plan on creating professional-looking DVDs I'd start with TyTools for your basic needs and then experiment with some of the other methods later on and see what suits you best.
    Last edited by captain_video; 04-12-2004 at 08:57 AM.
    Please don't PM me or any other members looking for personal assistance. You'll do better by posting (after you've exhausted the search feature, of course) and taking advantage of the collective expertise of the membership instead of a single individual that may or may not be able to help you. Thank you and enjoy your stay at DDB!

  5. #5
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    Thanks, this is certainly a great introduction to what needs to be done, and it was very helpful. I'll do some more searches around the forums, and I'll be sure to read up on the various tools. I'm guessing that if I order DirectTV now, I'll get a series 2 device?

    One thing I've found is that people said that DTivo records the MPEG2 stream exactly, giving you the exact quality. And that's what I was wondering about my first post, is it possible to make a DVD with that MPEG2 file without re-encoding the file, thus insuring that the DVD has the exact same quality as the original broadcast?

    I thought that would be neat, because that method would give you extremely high quality recordings, and you could archive them or give them to friends or whatever, and the quality would be the exact same as the broadcast. So is this possible to do, or will re-encoding be required in any way when making a DVD?

    I've looked around at all other solutions, and I'm pretty sure there isn't any other solution that captures the satellite MPEG2 stream, it looks like most other devices (like the ConvertX) captures the MPEG2, and then re-encodes it to a new MPEG2 file. I guess that's what I was wondering about specifically.

  6. #6
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    A DirecTivo records the digital signal from the satellite directly to the drive. While it is an mpeg2 video format it is a non-standard mpeg2 stream. The tools that have been developed to work with ty files were done so with the idea of creating compatible mpeg files from the datastream and have met this criteria quite well. The result is a video format that, while not a DVD-compliant format, is the same resolution as an SVCD disc so any DVD player capable of playing SVCDs should have no problem playing DVDs created from ty files.

    The audio is recorded at 48kHz which is DVD-compliant but it's recorded as an mpeg layer II soundtrack. Again, this is a non-standard audio stream but most current DVD players have no problems with it. Standalone Tivos record the audio at 32kHz and must be transcoded to a 48kHz stream to be compliant. SA Tivos also do not record the video in a DVD-compliant resolution but can be configured to do so. DTivo resolutions are fixed and cannot be altered since it is recording the digital signal directly.

    The bottom line is that ty files extracted and processed from a DTivo will produce a DVD that is exactly like the original DTV signal as long as you don't muck around with it too much by transcoding the signal. There is no other consumer method of recording DVDs that will yield a product of this quality. Set top DVD recorders will provide about the same quality as a SA Tivo since they both have to convert an analog input signal to digital prior to recording on either recordable DVD or hard disk.
    Please don't PM me or any other members looking for personal assistance. You'll do better by posting (after you've exhausted the search feature, of course) and taking advantage of the collective expertise of the membership instead of a single individual that may or may not be able to help you. Thank you and enjoy your stay at DDB!

  7. #7
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    Thanks a lot for the in-depth answer! I was looking around and didn't find anything exact, but you gave me the exact answer of what I'm looking for.

    So if I understand correctly, it's not exactly MPEG2/DVD compliant, but there aren't much problems because most DVD players can work with the slight differences. I know my DVD player has had no problems playing SVCD disks as 480x480.

    Right now, I'm paying $43 a month of analog cable. I could get DirectTV with the Tivo for $40 a month +$5 for the additional receiver +$5 for the Tivo, so it sounds like a pretty good deal. And it looks like the $5 a month DTivo monthly subscription price is better than the $13 a month for a standard ReplayTV or Tivo system.

    I guess my only concern now would be the level of difficulty involved in hacking the system to allow the streaming of video to your computer. I'm comfortable with computers, but it seems like hacking can be challenging. Have a lot of people done it? Is it safe to do, well, I know screw ups can happen, but can you restore the system? I'm guessing what I'm afraid of is buying the DirecTV package, and then not being able to get any video onto my computer.

    But yeah, thanks for all the answers so far, I think they're good enough for a sticky topic because they answered my question exactly, and I've asked the question a few times before where people were unsure.

  8. #8
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    Just bumping this up one more time.. I'm getting close to ordering DirecTV sometime soon.

  9. #9
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    Sorry for bumping this up again, I guess I'm just kind of hesistant to move to satellite until I better learn what's needed to accomplish what I want. Is there anything else I should be aware of? I've heard some people say you need to patch the headers of the DVD for 480x480 to work... That you need Linux to extract the videos... That it is very difficult to re-encode a Tivo file just incase you need to if your DVD player can't play it. Are there any things like this that I need to be aware of? Is it possible to archive some recordings in XVid instead of the native format to save space?

    I'd like satellite, especially for the possibility of archiving. Also, maybe taking screenshots from shows, would I get much better quality wite satellite?

    Ah well, sorry for all the n00b questions, if there are any posts that kind of go into the kinds of questions I'm asking, I would appreciate any links
    Last edited by tgc225; 04-25-2004 at 06:26 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tgc225
    I've heard some people say you need to patch the headers of the DVD for 480x480 to work...
    No. (Some people do this for compatibility with certain authoring software. I've never needed to. It's not difficult, as I understand it.)


    That you need Linux to extract the videos...
    No. (But I do it in Linux.)


    That it is very difficult to re-encode a Tivo file just incase you need to if your DVD player can't play it.
    No, just slow as hell. Don't even consider doing it -- if your DVD player can't handle the DirecTivo streams, just buy a new, sub-$50 player that will. (See the DVD compatibility thread.)


    Are there any things like this that I need to be aware of?
    If there are, they're already well-documented here. Just resign yourself to reading, reading, and reading some more -- and please, stop with the bumping.


    Is it possible to archive some recordings in XVid instead of the native format to save space?
    Of course. But that entails reencoding -- slow, and you lose quality.

    Oh, and no, this isn't the highest quality you can get -- that would be a PC with an HDTV capture card, off the air; or one of the HDTV satellite receivers with a firewire output. (The HD Tivo will join this category, if it's sucessfully hacked.)

  11. #11
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    Alright, thanks a ton for all of the answers, your post was extremely helpful I'm pretty sure my DVD player has no problem with SVCDs based on what I've read on DVDRHelp right now, so that's good.

    As for your last point, is that only regarding channels that are broadcast in HDTV? If I'm just watching a regular channel like History Channel for example, I don't think it's broadcast in HDTV, so would you still get higher quality with an HDTV Tivo or an HDTV capture card?

    Sorry for more questions But I've slowly been learning a lot with this post combined with some other topics I've found using search

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tgc225
    As for your last point, is that only regarding channels that are broadcast in HDTV?
    Yes.

    filler filler filler

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