How to record digitally broadcast television
November 16, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to record antenna-based broadcast TV?

I have a television with a digital tuner and I receive signals via antenna, but the television only has an audio output, with no video (seemingly making it impossible to export to a VCR or other recording device).

What's the best way to record broadcast television signals received via antenna? I am open to connecting a computer with TV tuner and/or using another device. Mostly, I want to be able to record televised sports games and watch them later.

Previously, but not specific to my situation.
posted by mrgrimm to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
pick up a used Tivo. Route your antenna through the Tivo and then manually set up your record times. See this previous askme for details. Easier than messing with a VCR, and you can pick up used 2nd gen non-HD tivos dirt cheap.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Investigate ATSC DVRs. Here's an example you can buy now.
posted by NortonDC at 11:07 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're thinking about this the wrong way:

You want to do:
Antenna --> TV --> VCR/DVD-R/DVR
(But you can't because there's no output on your TV, which is pretty common these days)

However, you can do:
Antenna --> VCR/DVD-R/DVR --> TV

You just need a VCR/DVD-R/DVR with a built-in ATSC tuner. If those are too expensive or hard to find, you could also do:

Antenna --> Tuner --> VCR/DVD-R/DVR --> TV
posted by schmod at 11:19 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you are open to connecting a PC with TV tuner (a Home Theater PC or HTPC for short), then you have a few options as far as software is concerned. I'd recommend this setup over buying an expensive TiVo HD and paying subscription fees every month.

1. You can use Windows Media Center's (Vista or 7) DVR functionality. It includes a TV Guide that requires no subscription. See here and here.

2. Cheaper (free) software option would be Linux-based, such as Mythbuntu. I would not try this unless you have some linux know-how or are willing to spend some time learning the ropes.

3. This older article describes other DVR software (SageTV etc) for a media center setup.

P.S. I use option 1. It works well.
posted by thewildgreen at 11:22 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not trying to threadjack, but piggybacking off of what thewildgreen said, the card that the LH post recommends is a Hauppage PVR-150, but those don't seem to be available any longer.

What card out there now would work well as a good/affordable equivalent?
posted by mrhaydel at 11:55 AM on November 16, 2010

posted by WizKid at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2010

Response by poster: All great answers so far. Thanks for the info. Very much appreciated.

> NortonDC - Interesting to keep an eye on, but generally too expensive for me. (I'm the one not willing to pay $X/mo. for cable TV.)

> schmod: You just need a VCR/DVD-R/DVR with a built-in ATSC tuner. If those are too expensive or hard to find, you could also do:

Antenna --> Tuner --> VCR/DVD-R/DVR --> TV

Your latter solution is what I did before I had a TV with a built-in tuner, and it worked *OK* - my biggest problem was with the shoddiness of my tuner (it was a gift) ... which is why I got a digital TV.

Your former solution is a possible cheap option, I'm thinking (though on initial investigation, the sub $100 vcrs look like they are made of cardboard.)

> thewildgreen. Thanks for the three-headed breakdown on computer setups. I think you mostly hit the nail on the head for me. I actually have an available Win7/Ubuntu machine that I might want to use with the TV. And a capture card is likely going to be cheaper than a similar quality VCR with digital tuner. I can always burn the video to DVD if I wanted (as opposed to VHS recording).

It would also be pretty sweet to record a game one night, then watch it the next day at work. :D

If anyone has any TV tuner recommendations (USB sticks or cards or whatever), I'd love to have them.

> Old Tivo box is a great tip too. Thanks!

On preview, yeah, what mrhaydel said. How about the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 (or Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q?)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2010

For a tuner, check out the Silicondust HDHomeRun. It has two atsc tuners and sits on an ethernet connection. It's so easy to set up and works great with any of the software previously mentioned. I use MediaPortal on win7 myself. Since it is separate from the machine a lot of driver issues are eliminated.
posted by hey you over in the corner at 1:02 PM on November 16, 2010

The easiest is obviously the TiVo Series 3, TiVo HD, or TiVo Premiere. It's also the most expensive option. Used HDHomeRuns are very cheap and work well with MythTV, Windows Media Center, and plenty of other PVR software.

There are also a lot of PCI and USB based ATSC tuners that you might be able to find more cheaply than the HDHR. I've had good luck with the WinTV line in the past, but that was all pre-ATSC. Literally the only ATSC tuner that has anything to do with a computer is the HDHR.

The single tuner is available super-cheap on eBay. A single tuner will be better than the original revision of the dual tuner model, as it uses a newer demodulation chip that does a lot better with multipath and other signal issues than the first revision. (I use it for cable, so they all work fine for my needs)
posted by wierdo at 3:54 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

mrgrimm: If anyone has any TV tuner recommendations (USB sticks or cards or whatever), I'd love to have them.

I have this Hauppauge dual-tuner card. It works well. I've heard great things about the HDHRs as well.

wierdo -- I didn't know that the newer HDHRs had better reception. That's good info. Thanks. I am considering a third tuner, so I might go this route.
posted by thewildgreen at 12:36 PM on November 17, 2010

Hauppauge is most people's go-to brand for both tuner cards and USB tuner sticks. If you're using Windows Vista/7 and most linux distros, you don't need the Hauppauge DVR software at all, just the drivers for the card/stick.

Elgato EyeTV would be brand #2 for tuner hardware; they're mostly Mac-focused, but most of their their newer stuff has a Win7 badge on it, so it should work.

I kinda like the included Win7 Media Center; its '10-foot' interface looks really nice (if you like blue) and is pretty intuitive and usable. Linux media centers like MythTV are very cool, but can turn into a project (see last para below).

If you've got an Xbox 360 and link your Windows Media Center machine to it, you can launch and stream the entire Media Center contents and interface straight through the Xbox; the PC just has to be turned on and on the network somewhere in the house. Bonus!

But just as a note, NOTHING does TV as well as TiVo. Yes, the hardware is pricey, and you have to pay an annual subscription. But it doesn't crash, has an easy interface, and is purpose-built and optimized for TV. It also has some other goodies like Netflix/Amazon video streaming, Pandora and other internet radio/podcasts, etc. I was like 30 hours into a complicated do-everything HTPC build when I got fed up and just spent $200 on a TiVo that did 75% of what I wanted right out of the box. Just sayin'.
posted by bartleby at 5:52 PM on November 17, 2010

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