Computer-based media clipping service?
October 7, 2006 10:07 PM   Subscribe

How easy would it be to set up some PCs to record the local news on several channels for purposes of offering a media clipping service?

I don't know what the industry term is for this service, or how it's handled in other markets, but there is a company in my town that basically pays college kids to run a rack of basic VHS VCRs at home to record the evening news on four local network affiliates, cycle the tapes, and hold 'em for about a week in case a client wants a copy of a story that featured their product, a competitors product, a spouse, friend, etc.

Basically, the local stations don't have the patience or time to answer calls from the public who want a tape of their uncle, caught on camera expressing shock at a neighborhood fire, and direct people to call this company instead. It's obviously not a very profitable niche, but it's worth a few bucks to someone, and so far I guess the VCRs, tapes, and basic tracking is simple enough to sustain. But it still sounds like a lot of hassle.

So I was thinking. I've got a coaxial cable coming into my computer room, and four unused Dells, one of which has a video capture card. I presume I could get a coaxial splitter, a few more video cards, install some software, and basically have machines quietly recording the news on these four stations every night. Each would store {x} nights' worth of broadcasts, then dump 'em. Since I'm not messing with tapes, I could have an archive stretching further back than a week, and I imagine I wouldn't even have to think about it at all until someone wanted a specific segment. Then, I'd just copy the recorded video to the machine with a DVD burner, burn it, and hand it over.

Could this really be that simple? Or is there a reason cheap VCRs and cheap tapes are the way things are done now?

Do you have recommendations or warnings on the distribution of video capture cards and hard drives to get four evening news broadcasts simultaneously? How would you configure these relatively mindless recording workstations? What's the most reasonably priced basic video capture cards? Simple recording/scheduling software? Easiest way, when needed, to snip out a bit and burn it to DVD?

Thanks in advance! And if this turns out to be a viable side business for anyone else, you're welcome!
posted by pzarquon to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ah. Media monitors. As in, the International Association of Broadcast Monitors. But I'd rather get advice from y'all, anyway.
posted by pzarquon at 10:15 PM on October 7, 2006

This is the kind of thing that you could make mythTV do fairly easily. Set each machine up as a backend and tell it when/what to record. Copy the files to a central fileserver if you so desire... slice and dice segments at will.

There are plenty of utilities that take the MythTV format and get it DVD or VideoCD-ready, too, for ease of burning.
posted by toxic at 10:26 PM on October 7, 2006

Hmm. And KnoppMyth would make getting started a cinch, and apparently some have gotten dual tuner cards to work, so maybe I'd need only two computers to cover four stations (though I imagine it'd require some horsepower on the CPU). That's definitely a way to go... thanks!

If anyone has other config ideas, or MythTV experience, I'd still love to hear from you.
posted by pzarquon at 10:52 PM on October 7, 2006

They do it. Recently bought by Bacon's. It's a perfectly viable business, and they even map the closed caption text to the broadcasts so that you can search and for keywords and queue relavant clips. As far as I know, legally, they take advantage of some loophole which allows them to rebroadcast the recordings, a loophole which is dangerously teetering on brink of illegality.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 10:58 PM on October 7, 2006

Actually you could stick a couple dual tuner cards into one machine and set it up with mythtv. The better cards use their own hardware instead of the cpu so the cpu does very little work. I'd recommend the Hauppage pvr-500, although it's been a while since I've looked into this stuff so there may be better cards at this point.

Good luck!
posted by meta87 at 11:34 PM on October 7, 2006

I run a DVR now with 2 dual tuner capture cards. Storage is ridiculously cheap so I have 1TB. Pretty much record whatever I want. I use SageTV, but MythTV is pretty great too.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:53 PM on October 7, 2006


Forgot to include that those dual-tuner cards are the aforementioned Hauppage pvr-500. Hardware-encoding is highly recommended.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:54 PM on October 7, 2006

The PVR500 looks like a winner, and I've found threads discussing its functionality with MythTV. The Dell PCs I have that are currently just doorstops seem to have more than enough horsepower for a MythTV setup, especially if the video card does its own encoding.

One feature that some PVR setups have that doesn't seem to come with KnoppMyth by default is extracting and archiving closed captioning. Does anyone know if this is hard to implement? It'd definitely boost the value of the archived content.

This is very interesting stuff. At worst a geeky experiment, at best a decent side job. Though I suspect some kind of pseudo-formal interaction with the local stations is a good idea (though as I mentioned, they do refer footage requests to outside companies, and as far as I can tell there's no formal arrangement).
posted by pzarquon at 1:23 AM on October 8, 2006

The people who made OutFoxed did exactly this, on an industrial scale, hooking up PC's to grab thousands of hours of off-air broadcast, and search it all (via close captioning text search, time codes, and program listings) for edit points to feed their editors. You might want to try looking them up for technical advice.
posted by paulsc at 1:40 PM on October 8, 2006

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