AVS Special Member
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: About 2 feet in front of the monitor.
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Nice to see some interest. First, I have to say we are not far behind the Macs. Pioneer's DVD recorder for the PC market can be found for under 500 $ now. HP has one in that price range as do a couple other manufacturers.
But the media. (IMO) opinion is the deal killer. Even if you buy in bulk it's going to cost about 8 bucks a disc. I'm sure they will fall in price as the sales increase. I've been burning all kinds of "digital" media for some time now. VCD, SVCD, DVD content on CDR discs and even some tape.
Way back I started doing VCD. Did every episode of the original Star Trek, with menus, and interviews with actors, writers and directors. Was able to fit it all on one 650 MB CDR. The quality was good enough to be able to sit back and enjoy the shows on my TV.
Then came SVCD and now I'm playing with "mini-dvds" More on that later.
On to the nitty - gritty. The 2000 and 3000 ReplayTV Mpeg had three frame sizes of Mpeg-2 variable video bit rate and all had 32 kHz of audio. The three frames were (low) 352x480 (1/2 D1) at 1.8 M/bs nominal video bit rate. (Medium) 720x480 at 4 Mb/s and High which was 720x480 at 8 Mb/s
The new 4000 series have the same frame sizes and bit rates, BUT they now have 48 kHz audio which is what you need if you want to author DVD of any type.
I've found the lowest quality to be a good trade off when balancing quality vs size if you are limited to CDR discs. After editing out commercials, you'll end up with 43 minutes mpeg. The RPTV at it's low setting will end up around 600 Mb total. And the quality when viewed on a TV (played back via a stand alone DVD player) is surprizingly good. At least as good as a decent SVCD.
I have several hundred archived shows, mostly Sci-Fi series and some movies. I've been at this for a while. For me this whole process has to be quick, inexpensive and of a quality that I can enjoy on a 32 in TV. I've got the full deal down to under 20 minutes per episode. That's from the minute I sit down at the computer to when I get up, with a "mini-dvd", burned and labeled, and ready to stick in the DVD player.
A word of warning .. Not many stand alone DVD players will play DVD Title Sets burned to CDR media. But the list of ones that can is growing daily. I have a Sampo 620 that does a decent job playing back any kind of mpeg burned to CDR. I've tested it with 8 Mb/s DVD D1 frames. No problem. Except that at those parameters I have to stick a new disc in every 12 minutes. <grin> That's why I'm doing the low quality. One episode per disc.
So ... here's what I do. For the old 2/3000 series, I have it's hard drive mounted in a removable drive rack that matches a similer setup in my computer. I pull the mpegs off using the Extract_RTV program. I've never needed to do anything other than re-encode the Audio. I do have the latest Womble editor (version 3.11 ... the November 2001 version). That one will re-encode the audio to 48 khz while it's assemblying the editied mpeg without have to de-multiplex the two into elementary streams so you can re-encode the audio. It's all one step now. Pulling the mpeg off the drive takes a couple minutes. Editing and saving with Womble takes about 10 to 12 minutes. I use SpruceUp DVD authoring with custom templates all set for each series I'm doing. So it only takes a few minutes to have it compile the mpeg and save to a title set. Then Nero burns the Title Set to a CDR in about 5 minutes. Having the Womble editor re-encode the audio adds a few minutes to the time. I'm working with some pretty quick equipment. 2 gHz computer, 4 disc RAID array, 16 and 20 x CDR burners. I use Nero as it has the ability to burn to multiple CDR burners at the same time. I usually burn all these in multiple sets for a couple friends who can't get the cable TV coverage I have.
Now with the 4000 series, it's even easier. No need to putz with the audio. The 4K units are already 48 kHz. There's also no need for any patching or fixing of the mpeg out of the ReplayTV. Not with the 4K units. I've burned the raw mpeg straight to the CDR without editng and it worked just fine. There's a couple things I've found however. One drove me crazy the last couple days, which is what prompted me to start this thread. Every mpeg I pulled off the 4K unit was being rejected at one point or another from my authoring software. I have since found out two interesting things. First my video card was actually causing a problem. I was getting macro-blocks showing up at random and some artifacts. I also was having trouble with my computer often not recognising the AGP video card and trying to install "new hardware" in the form of a standard PCI video card. That prompted me to swap out the video card. Guess what ? The raw ReplayTV mpge was once again perfect.
That brought up problem number two. The mpeg as checked out of the replay was fine. But I do a lot of testing and other work with my computer so I often use different operating systems from time to time. To make a long story short, I found that Windows XP was creating several problems with my ReplayTV mpeg. All my system and data discs in the NLE machine are NTFS. Normally I use Windows 2000 for video editing. I became suspicious when I switched to XP and started having trouble again with my SpruceUp not accepting the mpeg. I found two problems .. one was that the mpeg was getting glitched during the download. I noticed while watching the KB counter going as it downloaded, that every once in a while the counter would stop. In Win2K it was just a steady flow, from start to finish. Something was interupting the flow. It was not the replay. Oh by the way, you don't want to be extracting a high quality Replay Mpeg if the Replay is in the middle of (or about to) do a recording. That also caused me problems.
So I've gone back to Windows 2K for all the work .. downloading and editing. And never had a problem again. Last tip .. Womble doesn't work well in XP. Put a perfectly good Replay Mpeg in, do some edits, and the final file is quite a mess. Of course all this could be "system specific" to my weird computer setup. But if you are having trouble, and are using software or equipment like mine .. this may help.
Because of the time savings I'm seeing with the new ReplayTV 4000 series, I've started archiving some of my more favorite shows in medium quality. Using 830 Mb discs (with Nero's and my burner's over-burning capabilites) I can generally fit the 43 minutes onto two discs. And the playback is pretty impressive.
So now my quest is to find a "multiple disc" player that CAN decode DVD title sets burned to CDR. That'll keep me happy until the DVD-R media comes down to a couple bucks a disc.
FWIW I've found what works best for me is SpruceUp DVD authoring. Very fast .. decent features, but unfortunately was bought out by Apple and is no longer being sold in the PC market. If you look around you might find it somewhere yet. Womble is my editor of choice for all my mpeg work. And their web site is incorrect. The August date release they note on their web site is most likely for the Mpeg-1 only editor and not the Mpeg2vcr. The big editor has an updated version dated November 2001. (look in the top title bar in the GUI and you'll see the date) There's been some enhancements and bug fixes between August and November. One was that they fixed a "post edit sync problem" they were having with the ATI capture card generated Mpeg-2. The other was to enable the "saving" of the edited mpeg where you could change the audio and not have to re-encode or touch the video OR de-multicplex the streams to do the audio edit separate.
Oh .. one last bit of information. If you are going to go the "mini-dvd" route and split up the movie into two parts .. have fun. You'll find it's not easy to make the "split" where it won't destroy the "flow" of the show. It just seems that the darn commercial breaks (an obvious good spot to cut) are never at JUST the right place. So you end up with something like 480 MB on one side and 780 on the other. If you try to move the spit to the next commercial break so as to balance the amount on each CD .. you sometimes can't. It's feast or famine for one of the discs. Of course it gets a lot worse if you are only working with 650 meg discs. There's not enough "extra" space to move that break point around. If you have a good burner and good burning software that'll over burn .. then the 700 and 800 and even 830 Mb discs make things a little easier. But make sure you test them first on your DVD player. Not only can many burners NOT over-burn, but many players also can't handle the over-burn during playback. I have a couple decent Plextor SCSI CDRW's and they are one of the best, BUT not that great for serious over-burning. I picked up an "LG" 16x10x IDE with burn proof technology (I did a lot of research and this one was highly touted for it's over-burning abilty) It has no trouble hitting 800 Mb (on 830 mb discs). By the way .. you can get those 830 Mb 99 minute discs at "CompuUSA". Unfortunately they come in 10 packs with jewel cases, for around 15 bucks or even less on sale. I have no need for the cases and would rather buy in bulk a save a few pennies. So far I've gone as far as 800 mb without a problem. Haven't had the need to go further yet.