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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We don't have to wait for writeable Blu-Ray or HD-DVD drives for PCs, it's possible today to record OTA HDTV to DVD and play it back in a HTPC. I've been playing with a simple method of recording HDTV to DVD+R. The recording method is a straight-forward though multi-step process and the disks are playable when done without having to copy down to hard drive. Having found a recipe that works, I'm publishing this thread in hopes that other people will report their own results.


Yes, I'm well aware that ATSC HDTV is not part of any present DVD standard. We are taking advantage of the fact that DATA files (not VIDEO files) can be read back from fast UDMA devices at a rate capable of sustaining the ATSC transport stream.


I describe the process for the MyHD MDP-100 tuner board, for other HDTV products you are on your own, as I am not a user of any other card. Only a modest HTPC configuration is required, here's what I used:


HARDWARE:


Intel D815EEA2 ATX motherboard with 1.4Ghz Celeron

100Mhz FSB and 320MB of PC-100 memory

Motherboard graphics and sound driving NEC VT-540 projector and Onkyo 5.1 A/V receiver

160GB Maxtor 6Y160PD (Drive C) and 120GB Western Digital WD1200JB (Drive D)

BTC BVD316E DVD-ROM with 16X DVD+R playback (Drive E)

HP DVD-630i DVD burner with 16X DVD+R playback and Double Layer burn capability (Drive F)

MyHD MDP-100 HDTV Tuner attached to Winegard high-gain PR-9032 antenna

Airboard IR keyboard/mouse and iMON Remote Control

(And a WinTV board and an old Hollywood+, which are not required for this application. The MyHD passthrough cable is used to drive the projector.)


SOFTWARE:

Windows XP Pro with SP1

Intel UDMA drivers from motherboard driver CD

MyHD driver and application version 1.63 (non-Beta software)

Sonic Record Now! version 7.22 burner software


CREATING DISKS:


1) Capture your program to hard disk using the MyHD application and specifying TRANSPORT STREAM capture. I use and reccomend a custom filesize of 286,720,000 bytes (280MB) for reasons soon to be clear. This gives you a file for every 2 minutes of video.


2) (Optional) Sort through the 2-minute .TP files and delete any that contain only commercials to save space. You could edit the .TP files to eliminate the commercials entirely if you are determined - but IMHO there is no easy-to-use consumer video editor for .TP/.TS files, therefore I fast forward through commercials during playback.


3) Decide how many pieces of DVD+R media are required for uninterrupted ATSC video:

- 30 minutes will fit on one single-layer DVD+R.

- 60 Minutes will fit on two single-layer or one double-layer DVD+R.

- 120 minutes of movie will require two double-layer DVD+R's.

Greater than 120 minutes of programming cannot be played back unintterupted with this technique, unless you can cram more than two playback drives in your case.


4) Burn your DVD+R's in DATA MODE with your burner software. I simply add the 280MB, 2-minute .TP files sequentially to the DVD image until no more will fit. The file size will leave just enough room on either single or double layer disk to fit the small .mpl playlist file last of all.


5) Edit the .mpl filelist created by the MyHD application before burning the first disk to change the drive letters from whatever hard drive you captured your HD video on to your two playback devices (E: and F: on my machine above). LABEL THE DISCS WITH THE SAME DRIVE LETTER IN THE .MPL FILE.


PLAYING DISKS:


1) Insert the disks in the correct drives, according to the drive letters written on the disk. Explore the disk with the .mpl file and double-click the file to start MyHD playback.


2) Playback will continue sequentially according to the .mpl file sequence until complete. When the filelist switches from one DVD playback device to the next, it will take 3 seconds or so for the second drive to spin up, the sound and picture will momentarily stop.


COMMENTS:


1) The principle determining factor of whether playback is stutter-free with this technique appears to be the individual DVD playback device. I own three DVD-ROMs plus the burner and got these results (all four drives function normally in DVD-Video playback):


Pioneer A103 (4X DVD-ROM from '99) is not fast enough for ATSC playback, continuous stutters.


BTC 16X and 8X DVD-ROMs (June '04 and March '00) work flawlessly, niether will stutter.


HP 16X DVD630i will stutter with decreasing frequency after the drive letter switch, and not at all after the first two (innermost) .tp files on the disk. It's trying to read disks it created! It does burn double layer and all formats of single layer DVDs flawlessly. However, when I popped the case and substituted the BTC 8X, the stutter disappeared, so the technique works. I'll be troubleshooting this later, including substituting the standard Windows XP UDMA drivers for the Intel drivers (they date from 2001). Meanwhile I'd love to hear of another 16X DL burner drive without issues.


2) Make sure DMA is checked for both playback devices. I also tried an external USB2-attached drive case but none of the devices (nor a couple of hard drives) would sustain the ATSC data rate when connected this way. (If XP has any tweek equivalent to DMA for USB devices, I guess I don't know it.)


3) In high speed data mode DVD+R playback, the devices make more noise than during conventional DVD-Video playback. The 4X Pioneer is a slot-load device, and it screamed loudly while failing to keep up. The 16X BTC was quietest (it was $20 at Fry's this week.)


4) DVD+R Double Layer media still has layer change problems. Both BTC DVD-ROM devices and the burner itself lose playback for a couple of seconds - the sound stops and the picture freezes in a pixelated mess, and then unfreezes and the sound resumes, having skipped some frames. DVD Video format disks are just as bad, the layer change is just not as smooth as commercial DVDs, even in a standalone DVD player. The media is too costly to use for most purposes, I intend to use two single layer DVD+R disks for the normal 1-hour ATSC network program.


4) If you didn't follow the discussion of .mpl files, here is an (edited with Notepad) sample file for my double-disk recording of last night's episode of "Lost" (Files _02, _15, and _21 were all commercials and deleted, the drive switch is between files _16 and _17):


MYHDPLIST1

 

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Gary,


That's a good tutorial for folks getting into the HD-HTPC world. Thanks for your efforts.


My experience is slightly different than yours though. I always record the program as one large .tp file. Then I bring it into HDTV2MPEG to edit commercials, which is a great proggy for simple editing. I then process it for 4450MB .ts files and burn to DVD. Playback directly from the dvd in the MyHD app is fine as long as the dvd device does 16X reading. I do get stuttering upon starting playback when I use a 12X read dvd device, but it plays fine after about 20 secs.


Now, if I have multiple files (ie 250MB files), I get a nice long hiccup between files, approximately 2-3 secs between files. As long as it is one large file, there are no problems. The reason for this is because HDTV2MPEG saves the files as .ts files and changes the sequence naming scheme. If I manually go back and rename the files to the proper sequence scheme and to .tp extensions, the MyHD app playsback continously just fine.


For me, it's just easier to have one large file.


Again, thanks for the post, as this SHOULD cut back on some of the same questions being asked.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The 16X and 12X figure actually is the nominal DVD+R write speed when you discuss DVD burners, and it's not directly related to the sustained data output while reading various media. This is why for example my 8X DVD-ROM drive can read data faster than my 16X DVD+R burner drive.


The other factors that effect playback performance include drive spin-up time. The DVD630i is actually rated at 6 seconds spinup - but it begins spewing data at a slower data rate well before the 6 seconds pass.


It's a new device and I expect the DVD+R read performance will get improved by new firmware soon. HP is pretty good about notifying early product adopters about such improvements. I was tempted to take it back and try another vendor but I can honestly say I don't believe it's broke.


I'll look into HDTVtoMPEG2. I was aware of it but under the impression that it's purpose was to produce standard def video DVDs from HDTV files. I have zero interest in that - I just want to archive broadcast HDTV in bit-perfect HD resolution, and play it back on the same PC. I did read that lengthy thread about HDTVtoMPEG2 and I did not gain any sense that this tool was easy to learn or use.


Frankly if it gets too complex or requires too much knowledge of the guts of the transport streams, I probably will not bother - the DVD storage is cheap and the Fast-Forward through commercials is dead easy.


Gary
 

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Gary,


Thanks for the post.


I have been doing much the same thing where I have been archiving .tp files for almost two years and have ~1TB worth of data now. I have been using a HiDTV tuner card (just added a MyHD-120 to my other computer) and use DVD-R media for archiving. Until recently I have been chopping out the commercials with the editor which came with my HiDTV card. This editor allows the user to specify starting time and duration for the data clips so it is necessary to play the orginal recording and note the start and end time of each commercial before doing the actual editing. This editing is tedious and time comsuming and not very accurate since the editor provides only 1 second granularity.


I just discovered HDTVtoMPEG2 and highly recommend it. It works so well, and so fast that I am actually editing out commercials now for recordings I have not watched yet and where I have not even decided that I will be archiving the recording! HDTVtoMPEG2 allows you to specify output file size so you can set the file size to exactly fill a DVD. That way, you can get the full 32 minutes and 19 seconds of recording time per DVD. Now I can easily save 3 one-hour episodes of Smallville (~43min per episode after editing) on 4 DVDs. :)


DonP
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Update: I resolved the stutter with playback on the 16X DVD burner. I noticed that my Intel motherboard had autodetected Drive E as a PIO Mode 4 device with an 80-pin cable, and had autodetected a 40-pin cable and restricted Drive F to slower PIO Mode 2 operation. This was obviously wrong since both the devices shared the same 80-pin round cable and the same IDE channel.


I examined the optical drives and discovered that that round IDE cable could not quite cope with the 2" depth difference between the DVD-ROM and the DVD burner. After a few minutes of operation, the cable connector was backing off the drive connector due to the tension from the cable. I replaced the round cable with the 80-pin ribbon cable that came with the motherboard. The BIOS then detected both devices as PIO Mode 4 capable with 80-pin cable. I was able to crease the ribbon cable to eliminate any tension on the connector.


During HDTV playback I still get a full stop to sound and picture as the F: drive spins up. Then there are two seconds or so of stutter (presumably until the buffer fills) and then playback is perfect for the remainder of the second DVD disk. This is a considerable improvement over the 4 minutes of stutter I had under the PIO Mode 2 operation.


Anybody know of a way to get the second DVD drive spinning and reading data just before the drive switch? This would be a neat enhancement. Somebody told me that the Theater Tek DVD player does this, but I don't own that software.


Gary
 

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Im using a really old (1998-ish I guess) Creative 5x DVD drive in my HTPC to play back HDTV .ts files without problem. I burn them onto DVD+R discs with a Pioneer 108 with a modified BIOS that sets to book type to CD-ROM - perhaps the key?


This is the drive
http://www.fujitsu-siemens.co.uk/rl/....html#Creative


I was going to upgrade my HTPC to another 108 but since this works there doesnt seem to be any point. Its also really quiet because it doesnt spin up to high speeds.


just my 2p/2c worth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for your input. The entire purpose of a second playback drive is to allow unintterupted playback of more video than will fit on a single disk, of course. If you were somehow able to get four optical drives in your case, you should be able to split the filelist across the four and playback a two hour movie from four single-side disks, or a 4-hour miniseries on four double-layer disks, without having to stop to flip disks.


I doubt if I will ever use more than two drives myself. I lack the bladder capacity to need any more!


I'm still looking for a way to spin the second drive up to avoid the brief stutter right after the drive switch, if anybody has any ideas I'd appreciate it. I am basicly happy with this technique, and I'm acheiving consistent behavior aside from the occasional hiccup from improperly-formatted transport streams. This seems to be the biggest problem remaining with HDTV today, we have the technology but cannot use it consistently.


Gary
 

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I archive to DVD-r also but I use HDTVtoMPEG2 to edit the commercials and I use DVHStool with graphedit to strip the null packets out. Most of my movies fit on 3 dvd-r and some actually fit on 2 after the null packets are striped.
 
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