Originally Posted by Kelson
Read what I wrote above to profhat
about HDMI inputs. If that device is US legal it won't work for you because the HDMI output on your satellite box is almost assuredly HDCP protected.
Kelson, I bought 2 of this cheap HDMI>S-video converter when timtofly tipped us all off to the price reduction on Amazon a couple months ago. I don't know how it gets around the US import restrictions, but I can tell you it does in fact work just fine with my cable box and would likely work just as well with seeker47's DirecTV box. I've had no trouble recording from premium channels or even the "free on demand" channels. The trick to using it is to set things up counterintuitively: if you set your decoder box to output the standard 480i, the converted output is terrible: soft and muddy. But if you set your cable/sat box to output 720 or 1080, the little box converts it to a very usable 16:9 480 s-video signal. Is it perfect? No: its still a bit softer than direct connection to the decoder box. But its worth the compromise to get true 16:9 anamorphic into a DVD recorder.
If you get a good example of this one-piece integrated little Lenco / MonoPrice / Amazon converter (mfr quality control seems variable), its a very cost effective alternative to the very pricey HDfury solutions. The HDfury is ultra high quality, but it carries a commensurate nosebleed pricetag, further spiked by the necessity of adding a top-quality component>s-video converter. We're talking $400 or so, a lot of money for someone who only has occasional use for such a device. Depending on the specific HDfury, one also has to contend with flashing its firmware before use, a process described by its fans as "quick and painless" but detailed on tech boards as being a tricky minefield.
Depending on your personal quality standards and recording needs, the cheap little converter is definitely worth a try at $40. Many of us have cable service video quality that is barely adequate, and thats being charitable: the supposed "degradation" caused by use of the cheap converter amounts to no more than a 10% visible quality loss in many cases. I'm extremely picky about PQ, so if I'm willing to use the thing you can assume its at least passable for occasional use. I can well understand why some power users here turn their nose up at it, but there is also a bit of snobbery involved: blanket condemnation is inappropriate just because its cheap. Someone with a 70" Plasma connected to flawless HD cable may legitimately take issue with it, but that doesn't mean its not perfectly acceptable for average crummy cable output played on a 40" screen.
Don't bother with a converter unless you are forced into using one. They all step on and degrade the video quality and you are still stuck in SD if you are converting down to S-Video -- not to mention that good ones are expensive.
Here I would agree. While it can be very annoying when certain decoder boxes fail to auto-detect SD connections, and difficult to remember needing to switch output resolution every time you want to record to an SD device, its still better than adding a converter to work around it. Good converters are expensive (yet flimsy), cheap converters have potential overheating issues and variable impact on the video. For the moment I'm willing to tolerate 4:3 letterbox recording for most cable programming, as I share my DVDs with family still using 4:3 CRT TVs.
I only use an HDMI>S-video converter when I know in advance I want to record a particular movie in 16:9 rather than the normal letterbox SD output of my cable box. I usually record network broadcast TV series OTA from a roof antenna in 16:9 using a Zenith DTT-901 tuner box, this works great except when I forget to change the channel on it and miss an episode of "Fringe" - when that happens, the cheap HDMI>s-video converter lets me pull that "Fringe" episode in 16:9 off the cable box free-on-demand system, so it will match the other episodes recorded off-air in 16:9.
These days it makes more sense to just record directly in full 16:9 HDTV, with a TiVo or HTPC solution. Those of us still using creaky old DVD/HDD technology are doing so out of habit and because our recorders still work. Old habits die hard, but when my last DVD/HDD recorder croaks I don't intend to blow $500 on a dubious HDMI converter out of Hong Kong: for that money, I'll buy a TiVo and network it to my PC.