Help me get my DVR recordings onto my computer somehow please!
February 11, 2013 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I want to save my DVR recordings on my computer. The problem is that, from the googling I've done, my DVR model encrypts the files in such a way that I can't transfer the recordings directly onto my computer, even if the USB ports on the DVR did work. I am wondering if maybe I can play the recording on my TV and just "capture" the playback on my computer so I can save it. If there's a way to get the raw recordings unencrypted, that'd be great, but I doubt it's possible. More inside.

Relevant info: I have Time Warner Cable and the dreaded Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD. (Let me state for the record that when I have a Tivo, transferring recordings to my computer was a breeze and a built-in Tivo feature.) I don't have a TV tuner or anything in my desktop PC for TV viewing, although I'm not sure I need that for this. My computer has 8GB of RAM and an i7 processor, so hopefully it can handle whatever it needs to do. Also has an HDMI port.

I need to know what is the simplest, least expensive means of getting the recordings off my DVR and onto my computer and what software, if any, do I need. And I would like to retain HD quality, if possible. Or, if you know a better place to go for questions on doing this, please share. (Also, I don't need to do this regularly -- this is only to save special stuff. And this is just for my own collection - I will not be distributing anything.)

posted by AppleTurnover to Technology (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
unlike Tivo, the other commercial providers of DVRs don't really have a good software option to do what you want... that was intentional to stop piracy and appease the content providers (at least in theory)

what you need is this.

it's a second box that sits between your DVR and your computer. It's pretty low fuss and it works.

yes, it's expensive, but it works. read the user reviews and you will see that people are using it to do what you would like to do and much more.

there are cheaper versions of these, but they are usually terrible and have little to no support offered
posted by bobdow at 9:46 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks -- glad to know there is hardware designed to get around this for future reference if I can't get a Tivo -- but is there a cheaper way to do this for now? Right now I honestly just have two soccer games I want to save -- not worth $200 to me. I'd rather just go a more time-consuming route and pay less if I can.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:00 AM on February 11, 2013

I would just take the HDMI out from the DVR and plug it into the HDMI port on your PC, and record using VLC or some such.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:08 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Let me provide an alternative. *Why* do you want to get video off your tivo yourself?

Anything currently being shown on TV is available on the internet (in torrent form). Someone else has already done the work for you.

Technically this is piracy but realistically the effect is exactly the same. You have access to a show on your cable, you record it to your tivo, you end up with it on your computer.

Years ago I started down the path you're on, got pretty far along it, and then gave up. Why was I breaking my back trying to recreate something that is already available with no improvement whatsoever?
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:54 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, it's live sports. That is somewhat more difficult although torrents probably still exist.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:54 AM on February 11, 2013

You'll need a tv tuner or HDMI capture device, and those might be available for rent. Any HDMI ports on your computer are output-only.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:02 AM on February 11, 2013

Apparently the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD's output is encrypted with HDCP, specifically to prevent what you are doing. It may be possible to get a HDMI capture device that ignores this, or a passthrough box that strips it, but if so, they're not that easily available in the US. Certainly, your basic capture solution will not work for this.
posted by aubilenon at 11:18 AM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: Wait, so the encryption would even prevent me from recording what I see on the screen, like if I used a screen capture method? I thought the encryption only prevented the FILES from being transferred. I was thinking I could hook my computer up to my television MONITOR (not the DVR box) and record that way. Yes?

If I wanted to simply have my computer record a feed of what I see on my TV monitor, how would I do this?

Also: RustyBrooks, you are not answering my question at all. I know about torrents and use them a lot -- enough to know that no one is torrenting women's soccer games. I didn't ask, "How can I get The Office on my computer?" I asked a very specific question, which you are providing zero help with. Also, you might want to try re-reading: I used to have a Tivo and I have an Explorer 8300HD now.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2013

Wait, so the encryption would even prevent me from recording what I see on the screen, like if I used a screen capture method?

Unless I'm misunderstanding my search results about your particular DVR, yes, that is correct.

Apparently the easiest workaround is to convert it to analog and then re-digitize it. But that has some quality loss.
posted by aubilenon at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2013

Wait, so the encryption would even prevent me from recording what I see on the screen, like if I used a screen capture method? I thought the encryption only prevented the FILES from being transferred.

It's both. The box encrypts the files on disk, and uses HDCP to encrypt the signal as it goes down the cable to the TV. It's technically been cracked but you'd have to find "pirate" hardware to save the video and I don't know if it even exists- most people who are willing to spend money on this sort of thing are looking to crack, say, BluRays and people just crack the bluray format itself.

If you have an analog output from your set-top box, you can buy a cheap TV capture card for your PC and get it that way. There might be a fairly large quality dropoff, but it will work.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: Oh wow, there goes my hope to get it in HD, I guess. Would the sort of hardware bobdow suggested in the first reply still work? I see the Walmart sells something similar and if it didn't work, I could just return it to a retail store, which I'd prefer over the responsibility of mailing something back somewhere.

I think I've changed my mind and I now just want to do what is easiest because I find this all very confusing.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2013

The Gaming Edition of The HD PVR 2 can record video if you also purchase their $9.95 program called WinTV v7.2

it's listed in their FAQ
posted by bobdow at 2:29 PM on February 11, 2013

bobdow: That will not record HDCP encrypted video.

If you have component (analog) video outputs, then either of the devices bobdow linked to should work. Quality will be plenty good enough, though technically worse than it could be.
posted by aubilenon at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2013

Here's a thread on a different site where someone asks the same thing. The answer, I'm afraid, is that getting the data off the hard drive's not possible, so it's probably worth trying the analogue route mentioned above.
posted by ambrosen at 3:30 PM on February 11, 2013

In the future, you might consider running your cable into a tuner card on your desktop and using one of the fine pieces of software available there to record the program and archive it. There are myriad options, ranging from Windows Media Center to MythTV.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:34 PM on February 11, 2013

I didn't mean that to be unhelpful, btw, though I guess it doesn't help much with your specific issue.

Sadly, bungadunga's idea of grabbing the component video in SD may be the most practical approach for your existing recordings. I know you were hoping for HD, but that's going to be tough to pull off.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:46 PM on February 11, 2013

Either downloading the content from another source or replacing your DVR with something less moronic is probably going to be more fun than any capture solution you can rig up. Hand recording more than a few files in real-time is going to be a royal pain, as you'll need to monitor the process, start/stop everything at the right times, edit the video files to trim the start/end, label everything with reasonable filenames, etc...
posted by zachlipton at 5:40 PM on February 11, 2013

Use the firewire port. You may have to get some sort of firewire adapter if your computer doesn't have one. When connected, anything that gets played on the screen gets sent out the firewire port as long as you're not on a copy protected channel.

This page may help.
posted by wierdo at 11:28 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not sure if anyone will see this reply, but what if I was able to get something like the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 with a cable card slot and get a cable card from my cable company? Then would I be able to pull the recordings off? As I understand it, the cablecard unlocks the encryption, which is why you need to get a cable card from your ISP if you get a Tivo, for instance. In the future, I could get a TV card tuner with a cable card slot and rent a cable card from my ISP.

Also, people seemed to mention an analog way to pull the recordings off, but no one explained what equipment I would need or how to do that. Googling that was too vague. More specifics, please?

posted by AppleTurnover at 12:59 PM on February 28, 2013

A CableCARD device won't help you get existing recordings off your DVR. It will allow you to capture video on any channel that doesn't have a copy protection flag set, but that set of channels will vary depending on your cable company and city from only over the air channels (which can't legally be encrypted anyway) to everything.

To get your existing recordings in analog SD, you just need an analog TV capture device with a composite or S-Video input (preferably S-Video) and some recording software. Most TV cards come with some software to record. You can do the same thing in HD with component cables, but capture cards that do that are very expensive. (or were last time I looked)

Firewire really is the best way to go here if the content wasn't recorded from a copy protected channel. You can get a card and cable from monoprice for less than $20, including shipping.
posted by wierdo at 4:22 PM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks. I am pretty sure the content was from copy-protected channels. They are soccer games I want to save that torrents don't exist of, and I recorded them from Fox Soccer and NBC Sports.

So if my TV is too new to have an S-video connection, I will need to hook my DVR up to a TV that does have S-video? The TV I wanted to use has VGA, USB, HDMI and that old-school red/yellow/white audio/video thing. So I just need something like this maybe? I've never tried anything like this, so a bit out of my depth.

(After I get these saved recordings off the DVR, I really want to set up a home theater PC that can use Windows Media Center to record or something, or get a Tivo again, and I will just pay $2 to rent a cable card. This is annoying.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:43 PM on February 28, 2013

I'm really curious about the Firewire connection, wierdo. Have you done that before?

AppleTurnover, I think that SIIG device would work for recording SD video from your DVR. S-video is higher quality than composite. You'd hook the video capture device up instead of your TV, so the inputs on your TV aren't really relevant.
posted by Pronoiac at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2013

AppleTurnover, you can check whether the channel is currently copy protected using the diagnostic menu. If it isn't, it would probably be worth trying the firewire thing. Otherwise the product you referenced or something like it is what you'll need to use.

Pronoiac, yes, with a Motorola box. The interface is actually there to connect to DVHS decks and the like. It outputs whatever is playing on your screen minus the interface elements.
posted by wierdo at 9:01 PM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: Anyone ever tried HDFury? Know if it would work in this situation? Just learned about it now, not sure how it works exactly, haha. Been googling and will continue to do so, but thought I'd ask.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:50 PM on March 3, 2013

Response by poster: Actually, it's really expensive. I would need the HD Fury 4, which costs $400. Analog is my best bet. Thank you everyone.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2013

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