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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals Apps
This hint is an update to this rather old hint which explains how to record HDTV signals from a FireWire capable box.

For the most part, everything is the same as in the original guide, however there are a few differences.

First, with the rise of FireWire 800, you should note that cable boxes supplied by your provider will have FireWire 400, so if you only have FW800 cables, you'll need to get a 400-800 cable or adaptor.

Second, Apple's Firewire SDK is rather old, and its contained applications, like VirtualDVHS, are designed for Tiger, and are rather buggy and difficult to use. A better choice is FireRecord, a simple app that does most of the work for you, including detecting which channel to stream from, which can be frustrating to do manually. (63, 0, and 1 are the common channels).

Third, while the file format (MPEG 2 transport stream) results in large files, with today's hard drives, they aren't all that large, and your startup volume will almost definitely be in HFS+, so you won't need to worry about reformatting. You can use VLC and a few other apps to playback the files, and there are a variety of apps which can convert the files.

With these differences noted, here's a step by step guide:
  • If you do not already have a FireWire enabled cable box, contact your provider and ask for a FireWire or IEEE 1394 enabled cable box. It does not matter if your TV cannot receive the HD signals, your Mac still can.
  • Download FireRecord to record the signals.
  • Record the signals. Not difficult at all; connect your Mac to the box, launch FireRecord, and the intuitive UI makes it easy to record the signals.
One last note on encryption: The old hint says that it's illegal for providers to encrypt HD broadcast stations (NBC, CBS, ABC, WB, UPN, and PBS) however I found that mine had encrypted ABC-HD, so regulations may have changed by now. Providers are free to encrypt all other HD streams, however I found that my provider (Comcast) had not encrypted many. You will be unable to playback encrypted streams.

Finally, all this applies mainly to the U.S., so if you live in another country, you may find this helpful, however many things are different, so research local standards, regulations, etc.

[crarko adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: Beorn on Aug 31, '10 08:13:28AM

Just a clarification on the encryption issues mentioned in the article. In the US, the FCC does indeed have a mandate against service providers encrypting the over-the-air channels. However, some of the broadcast companies (like CBS or ABC) do set a "copy once" flag on their media, which in theory shouldn't prevent you from transferring the shows to your Mac via FireWire. Unfortunately, Motorola set-top boxes see this flag and subsequently encrypt the stream before sending it out over FireWire. In theory, the box should only encrypt things set with the "copy never" flag, but this appears to not be the case.

The original stream from the provider is not encrypted, it just has a bit set in the data stream that triggers Motorola to incorrectly encrypt the stream on-the-fly before sending it out over FireWire. I ran into this a year or so back, and ended up switching to a TiVo with its "TivoToGo" and the iTiVo application because I got so fed up with the lame Motorola box that Comcast gave me.



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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: bluehz on Aug 31, '10 08:48:31AM

I have never had any luck with Comcast boxes - while it may be true that cable providers may not encrypt certain channels - there is no law that prevents them from disabling the firewire ports on their cable boxes - which is what I always see. In my area I have yet to see a single Comcast box (over many years) that didn't have firewire port disabled.



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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: fracai on Aug 31, '10 11:25:27AM
As of April 2004 they're required to provide a FireWire enabled box if you request it.
http://gizmodo.com/009313/fcc-requires-firewire-on-all-cable-boxes
---
i am jack's amusing sig file


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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: rab777hp on Aug 31, '10 09:30:37AM

I have a Motorola box from Comcast, most channels work, so far the only trouble I had was with ABC-HD



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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: rab777hp on Aug 31, '10 12:03:08PM

Crarko- Looks like I wasn't logged in for this one, I actually submitted this hint, I guess I wasn't logged in- is there any way you can link it back to my account? You can check IP addresses if you like...

thanks



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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: crarko on Aug 31, '10 12:43:17PM

Got it.

Craig A.



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An updated guide to recording HDTV signals
Authored by: rab777hp on Aug 31, '10 12:45:25PM

thanks man



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Bad quality when I've tried this
Authored by: rlinsurf on Sep 01, '10 06:26:45AM
As far as I could tell, this doesn't record anywhere close to 1080i much less 1080p. I think it's at best about 12Mbps, which would be about half or less the rate you would need to retain full quality.

BTW, the latest version of FireRecord was posted May, 2008.

---
Jeffrey
Edited on Sep 01, '10 06:30:36AM by rlinsurf


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Bad quality when I've tried this
Authored by: rab777hp on Sep 01, '10 07:43:05AM

FireRecord still works just fine though, so I'm not complaining, also you do get it at 1080p, I've actually done it.



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Bad quality when I've tried this
Authored by: rlinsurf on Sep 01, '10 08:42:32AM

Really? I'll need to try it. I had only used the SDK tools. Did you do anything special to get that as your output?

---
Jeffrey



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Bad quality when I've tried this
Authored by: rab777hp on Sep 01, '10 08:45:48AM

not at all



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Works like a charm...
Authored by: edzworld on Sep 03, '10 07:32:07AM

Have a Motorola box on FiOS and works great - HD looks awesome and the process is dead simple. Thanks for the post.



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FireRecord only works once...
Authored by: gabester on Oct 24, '10 07:46:25AM

A couple years ago I had success setting this up with a Scientific Atlanta 8300HDC on my old Mac mini. After playing with the steps from the previous guide I succeeded in getting a nice 3 minute capture from something that was playing. Great! I went to bed. A couple days later I tried to record something else; no dice - FireRecord reported "No Device - There are no available devices." This despite the DVR showing up in System Profiler.

I just got around to trying this again with my MacBook and was successful on the first try. Second attempt, nothing. Disconnected, reconnected DVR, same error message. Incidentally, FireRecord shows the DVR in its preferences whether it's connected or not!

Anyone else experience this? I'm not going to reboot the cable box or my computer every time I want to record something, and that doesn't seem to resolve the problem anyway.

It seems so easy - but only works once per computer for me (or perhaps per OS load... I haven't tried it on a clean machine I could just reinstall yet.)



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