Digital TV Recording on your PC

Hands up if you’ve ever watched digital TV? Keep them up if you watch it at home. I thought so.

Well, who knows when the analog TV broadcast signal is due to be turned off? According to Digital Broadcasting Australia it is still due to be turned off in mainland Australia 31December, 2008. That’s right, a little over 3 years away.

It may not happen then, of course. Take up has been so slow that the day when half of the nations tv’s go black may be a way off yet. Think of this – yes, you only have to pay around $100 to get a SD-STB to work with your tv, and most people probably will. But what of those houses that have more than one tv? Do you really want to put a STB on that 20 year old 34cm tv? CSI in High Def Widescreen just isn’t the same if you can’t tell which voice belongs to whom.

Anyway, for a pretty small amount of money, you can build your own Digital TV recorder, using your home computer. You need a reasonably up to date PC – pentium iii or newer, and some hard drive space.

Oh, and this:
VisionPlus DTV card

This is the digital tv card I bought. It is a Visionplus DVB-t PCI card. You can get one for yourself from ARC in Parramatta for $99.

It’s pretty simple to install – insert into a PCI slot, plug into an aerial, and install the drivers.

I would not install the drivers from the cd, though. Grab new 2.6 series ones from their website. The old ones are really buggy and don’t work well.

So, a reboot or two later, you should have a program called TwinhanDTV on your PC. Run it, and scan for channels. Depending on your reception, you should be able to pick up all the digital tv broadcasts in Sydney. If your reception isn’t that great you may not pick up some channels.

One thing to mention about digital television is that you either get no picture and sound, or perfect picture and sound – a 0 or 1 state as digital would imply. Occasionally you’ll get a transition state of pixelation, but it’s rare. DTV is a big step up from analog, with snowy pictures, ghosting, and variable reception with atmospheric conditions.

Once you have your software setup, record a program like any VCR, either by hitting the record button, or by scheduling a program to record, like say, Doctor Who on Saturday nights.

And that’s all there is. Watch the program back on your TV software, or any other media player capable of playing MPEG movies. The SD-DTV signal you’ve likely recorded is in effectively the same format as DVD. So it takes up about 4-5GB for a 2 hour movie. This is a lot of space on your hard drive, if you plan on recording a lot.

So – two options:

  1. Burn it to DVD
  2. Convert it to a smaller media format

Some general notes, though. Use a program like VideoReDo or Mpeg2Schnitt or Womble MPEG2VCR to edit out the commercials.

Burn your video to DVD

Follow this guide on doom9.org.

Use a DVD authoring program like IfoEdit to convert your .mpg to the .vob files needed for a DVD.

If you are putting multiple programs on the one disk, rename them to vob2, vob3 etc. and put in the same directory. Then run DVDFab to create the proper DVD ifo files for the entire disk.

Then burn with your favourite burning software to the VIDEO_TS directory.

Convert your video to DivX or Xvid

Follow this guide on doom9.org.

You can use the DivX Converter or AutoGK if you like, but I find they sometimes make the audio get out of sync with the video. A better solution is to use the full GordianKnot suite, but it takes a little practice.

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