Tivo and Video Streaming
October 19, 2011 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Tivo and streaming local video files?

I'm looking at replacing our current DVR with a Tivo, and I'm trying to get a feel for how well Tivos are able to stream video files off a local network.

I have ripped all my movie DVDs and several TV shows into iTunes (on Windows) as mp4 formatted files. I understand that Tivo should be able to play these via a file share but I can't get a feel for how well this works.

When I search Google, the answers I get are all usually from 2008 and earlier. Some refer to the Streambaby software, which I've looked at and seems easy enough to configure, but I can't get any indication what this would look like on the Tivo interface.

Has anyone done this with Tivo? What does the interface actually look like, ie does it show cover art or is it just a file listing?
posted by Eddie Mars to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Tivo Desktop
will sorta kinda do what you're asking.

There is some issue of file types and quality, but when we used to do alot of it, it worked OK.

Honestly, since we got he Tivo Premiere with Netflix and Amazon unbox, we don't download and watch shows from other sources nearly as much anymore. It's been well over a year since I've bothered with it.

My wife does use the Tivo Desktop to put recorded shows on her Archos video player for use at the gym, and that works well.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:28 PM on October 19, 2011

pyTivo or streambaby. They work a little differently, but both well. (Tivo Premeire and and fairly recent server/computer)

TivoDesktop Plus if you want to pay Tivo.
posted by tayknight at 2:34 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use PyTivo. You install it on a windows machine and point it at the folder with your videos. They then appear in a folder just like all your other recordings. However, when you select a recording, it then transfers it to the Tivo. You can start playing it before the transfer completes, so it is sort of like streaming. For me, it works better than actual streaming as once it is transferred the trick play features of the Tivo all work well (unlike trying to play netflix). Transcoding is automatic.
posted by cosmac at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2011

I use both pyTivo and streambaby on our TiVo HD: I'll go with pyTivo if I can remember to start a transfer a little bit in advance, as the transfer/transcoding rate isn't real-time, even with a modernish desktop machine doing the encoding; streambaby's got some nice features (the in-picture preview for rapid seeking forward and back) but its biggest weakness is that it runs into the TiVo buffer limit, which means that longish shows will only buffer so far, then stop, and when you hit that point there's a pause as it starts transferring again.

Integration with the TiVo interface is pretty much seamless, but it's just a file listing, as remote media doesn't carry any of the metadata of native recordings, unless you have tools to put it there: if you've ever mapped a remote shared Music folder, it's very similar to that.
posted by holgate at 2:47 PM on October 19, 2011

pyTivo has been working stably for me for over a year. Be aware that you might need a machine with some juice to do the video transcoding involved. The interface is not fancy: bog standard Tivo fonts displaying filenames. I have never bothered trying to get any fancier than that, although I understand it can do more. You might want to look into a dedicated Medica center PC at this point: something that will do Netflix, Amazon streaming, etc in addition to network video.
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:48 PM on October 19, 2011

Best answer: I have a pair of Tivo Premieres and a Linux pyTivo server on the backend. It's not perfect, but I have yet to see a better DVR + media solution.

I like the all-in-one aspect of the Tivo. One remote manages your live TV, recordings, network media, and streaming services like Netflix. I don't even have a DVD player hooked up to the TV at this point, I just rip directly to the media directory on my server. I rip my DVDs to the Tivo native format of MPEG-2 as it doesn't require transcoding and disk is cheap. On the other hand, pyTivo seems able to convert just about any format you throw at it so I wouldn't worry about re-encoding any existing media you have. My server is an old Athlon 64 X2 with 2 GB of RAM and is still able to transcode high def video fast enough to watch while it transfers.

The pyTivo shares act just like folders and show up at the bottom of your "My Shows" menu as little server icons. You can do as much nesting of folders as you like. Ex: TV Shows > Show Name > Season # > Episodes. As holgate said, there are tools to add metadata. It's a pretty simple text file that sits alongside your media file.

If you do buy a Tivo, I highly recommend the lifetime service plan. It is tied to the Tivo box and not your account so if you ever decide to sell it you can get most of your money back.
posted by Max Camber at 10:19 PM on October 19, 2011

I have a dedicated Boxee box for this and it is amazing. Almost zero setup and effort, and can stream anything up to 20Gb 1080p rips if your network is fast enough (or you can connect a usb hard drive and toss videos there over your network).
posted by mathowie at 7:52 AM on October 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers. I've picked up a Tivo and have pyTivo running.
Matt, I'd have loved a Boxee box (I've run their software since the earliest releases) but I wanted something with a tuner.
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:51 PM on October 24, 2011

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