I need to watch 9 different channels.
May 1, 2020 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I need 9 TV tuners so I can display 9 different over the air TV channels on 9 separate screens. 9 TVs is not an option. Output resolution is not at all critical. What is the cheapest solution you can come up with?
posted by donpardo to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have never seen any (consumer-grade) TV tuners that allow multiple simultaneous outputs. I feel like your cheapest option would just be to get 9 of these (at $270 total cost) or of these (at $216 total cost).

It's an inelegant solution, but I think that getting 9 of the absolute cheapest consumer-grade tuners you can find is likely to be significantly cheaper than some sort of elegant professional-grade solution.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

What type of screen would you be using? Why is nine TVs not an option?
posted by tman99 at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

The HDHomeRun Connect Quatro (US$150) has four tuners for over-the-air broadcast TV. Its dual-tuner sibling costs US$100. A handful of these would be more expensive than nine cheap tuners, but might be easier to set up and manage, depending on what other equipment you are using.

These devices connect to your router by ethernet cable, and can stream to one or more computers/devices on your network (including via wi-fi). I have the dual-tuner model, which I use as an input to the MythTV DVR software. You can display live TV using any computer, Android device, iPhone/iPad, or various other devices like Amazon Fire TV sticks.

They used to have a three-tuner cable TV model, but it has been discontinued, and the new six-tuner cable TV model they announced has not been released.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

Seconding HDHomeRun. You can fire up 9 VLC windows on a single monitor and watch all 9 streams, or break them out however you want.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:33 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

What type of screen would you be using? Why is nine TVs not an option?
9 TVs is not an option because I may want to vary the size of the display depending on the installation, so I don't want the tuner built-in.

Unfortunately, the HDHomeRun requires more hardware to display the video on each screen.
posted by donpardo at 12:33 PM on May 1, 2020

Somehow I think if you get multiple logins to locast.org you can pull this off.
posted by AugustWest at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do the nine screens need to be in different locations? The more hardware solution could go though OBS or similar and put a 3x3 grid of TV on one big monitor.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:00 PM on May 1, 2020

Do the nine screens need to be in different locations?

No. They are in a 3x3 formation, though there is no need to align the screens precisely. Each screen will be displaying independent live video.

By OBS do you mean Open Broadcast Software?
posted by donpardo at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2020

Yes, OBS is Open Broadcast Software. I've never used it, but it's what all of the Streamers use to mix up multiple video feeds from multiple cameras or games or pictures or desktop screens etc.

I also have never used any sort of TV tuner device. I just know that they exist. I don't use Windows (or Mac) but everybody else does.

And cheap for 9 tuners is a bit out of my box.

Build a computer, throw 2 of those 4 tuner cards and 1 of the 2 tuner cards. Make it work. Configure the tuners to the appropriate channel, try to make them do as much encoding work as possible. You only need the resolution that matches fitting the 3x3 into a HD (or 4k) sized final image. You end up with at least 9 video devices (video1 - video9). Use OBS to arrange those 9 video inputs into the 3x3 and create a new virtual video device (video10). Start up VLC or something to watch the video10 device, make it full-screen. BAM! monitor filled with a 3x3 grid of 9 TV channels.

The cost would be a computer with the slots or USB capability of supporting 9 video streams at the same time and run OBS, the devices needed to capture the 9 streams from the TV, and the monitor. I have no clue what that would cost. It might be a cheap tower with a small CPU and a bit of memory and 3 slots for the cards. It might take more CPU/memory.

On the whole, this is a big Ask where maybe there is a 10 tuner to video stream box out there already, but I doubt it's cheap.

I could totally see throwing in a 4 channel tuner into a computer and building a custom DVR. Then thinking maybe add another 4 channels and see if it works. And then do 4 more just for fun.

Building a 9, I'd probably start expensive (because the computer is my desktop tower and I have cycles/memory to spare) and eventually figure out what the minimum would be for doing the 9 channels at once. There are too many unknowns.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:32 PM on May 2, 2020

I need 9 TV tuners so I can display 9 different over the air TV channels on 9 separate screens.

You may not need 9 tuners for this. If you're receiving digital TV, channels are commonly multiplexed, and you need 1 tuner per mux, rather than 1 tuner per channel, so you would only need 9 tuners if you were unlucky and all the channels you wanted were on separate muxes.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:18 PM on May 3, 2020

It seems that the multiple external tuners is probably the best option. The problem with the other suggested solutions is that they all require additional hardware to actually display the video. This is also the simplest, lowest maintenance solution I've found. Ordering direct from China may be able to cut the cost.

locast.org is the runner up, but only if I can run it on individual low-end RPis. My desktop system (Ryzen 5/1660Ti/32GB RAM) had trouble displaying 2 channels at once.

Thanks for everyone's help. If anyone comes up with another solution, please post it.
posted by donpardo at 10:30 AM on May 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

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