How an HTPC and Video Redo have improved my television viewing experience
While I have dabbled with Over-the-Air (OTA) television for years I never really spent much time exploring it because I was either subscribing to Rogers Cable or Bell ExpressVu (now called Bell Satellite TV) for my television service.
As one of Canada’s first personal video recorder (PVR ) users, I was content for many years to simple call up the cable or satellite company’s Electronic Program guide and press record and watch my shows at a later date.
This was great in the pre-Smartphone and pre-tablet days but after several crashes of my Bell Satellite external hard drive led me to losing over 150 hours of mostly unwatched television programming, I got fed up and decided to begin recording many of my favourite shows OTA.
My experiment began in earnest several months ago after I built a Windows 7 Home theatre personal computer (HTPC) and equipped it with a Hauppauge ATSC Internal Digital TV tuner. Since then I have been recording about ten television shows a week on my HTPC.
For the last decade, having a PVR from Rogers or Bell was great for recording shows and playing them back on your TV, but in today’s high definition, smartphone era, a cable or satellite company PVR has some serious drawbacks including:
- Expense – Rogers and Bell charge around $500 for a PVR plus several hundred dollars for add-on storage. For that price I built a fully equipped HTPC that acts as a PVR, Blu-ray player, iTunes music server, web browser, video editor and more.
- Energy Hogs – Current PVR’s from Canada’s cable companies draw ridiculous amounts of electricity (some over 30 watts in standby!) which is expensive to operate and harmful for the environment.
- Limited Storage – a Rogers or Bell PVR only has even storage for about 25 or 30 hours of HD storage. Yes you can buy external drives but they are a hassle, cost more money and, as I learned with Bell, can be unreliable.
- Recordings can’t be backed up – if your PVR or external hard drive crashes then say goodbye to all your recordings.
- Can’t transfer to a portable device – In the smartphone/tablet era, who watches all their video on the TV anymore. I like to watch programs while I work out via my WDTV live hub or on my iPad when I’m waiting for my son at hockey practice. Rogers and Bell won’t let me transfer recordings to media extenders or my iPad.
- Significant HD compression – Bell and Rogers typically stream their HD shows at 8 to 12 Mbps versus over 16 Mbps for Canadian OTA signals. OTA HD signals simply look better.
After a month of recording OTA broadcasts using Windows Media Center on my HTPC, I was confident that I possessed a super solution to recording shows with a cable or satellite PVR but, as a consumers electronics and computer junkie, I knew I could do better.
Rather than fast forwarding through commercials, I wanted the ads gone. In addition, and I wanted the ability to transcode all of the shows into a format that I could use with my WDTV Live Hub Media Streamer or my iPad2.
In consultation with my Digital Forum members and after a considerable number of Google searches, I decided to try out a program called VideoReDo TVSuite H.264.
VideoRedo is commercial software which allows users to trim the .wtv files created by Windows Media Center, remove unnecessary commercials and resave the shortened files as .wtv files for use in Media Center. In addition, the software can be used to convert your .wtv recordings into other file formats such as .mp4 for viewing on a portable media player or tablet.
At $95.99 USD, VideoReDo is not cheap therefore the company offers a 15 day trial so you can try out the software and see for yourself if you think it’s worth the money.
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