This question comes up frequently, so I’ve prepared the following summary:
This FAQ discusses legal HD recording. Hacking is not discussed on this forum.
HD programmes may
come with three possible “flags”. The flag indicates what you can do with that programme, from a recording standpoint. (this is in line with "fair use".)
1. Record Freely:
This self-evident flag means that the programme may be recorded in HD on any device, as much as you want. This flag appears on OTA-type station programming. (5C setting = 0)
2. Record Once:
This flag will allow you to record the programme once, but you cannot then make a copy of this programme. Since PCs are not “copy compliant” devices, you cannot record these programmes onto a PC – even once. The flag appears on “premium” cable or satellite programming. (5C setting = 1)
3. Record Never:
This self-evident flag means that the programme cannot be recorded at all. This flag appears on PPV programming. A "buffer" of 1 hour or so may be allowed, but no recording/keeping. (5C setting = 2)
The broadcast flag is set by the broadcaster, the 5C setting is set on the STB, usually by the service provider. They accomplish similar tasks.
There are several types of recording equipment, discussed below:
A. Integrated STBs:
These STBs are “integrated” devices that contain Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and a Tuner (Cable or Satellite). The most common are HD DVRs available from Cable or Satellite companies. These include devices like the Scientific Atlanta SA8300HD, Cisco 8642HD, 9865, Motorola 6208/6412/6416/3416 Pace Aspen/Tahoe and the Dish 921, BEV92XX, 9400, 6131 with eHDD, 6141 with eHDD. These devices will record all programming except the “record never” type onto their HDDs.
B. D-VHS Tape Recorders:
There are a couple of D-VHS HD Recorders – by JVC and Mitsubishi. The JVC recorder can “receive” signals from a firewire-equipped STB or TV and record allowable programming. The Mits HD recorder must be connected to an appropriate Mitsubishi integrated HDTV, with firewire out. I’m not sure if the Mits D-VHS works on any other equipment. This is old technology and not used much today.
C. TiVo HDD Recorder:
This unit is similar to the SD recorder, but it records HD in addition to SD. It only works with DirecTV. The new Series 3 TiVo has several tuners to work with OTA and cable, but CableCARD is required (only available in the US)
You can record “Record Freely” flagged programmes via a firewire connection from a STB. You cannot legally record any other HD programming to your PC. PC cards can be used for OTA (ATSC) recording, but Canadian Cable QAM is usually encrypted, so PC Cards are no use for cable TV recording.
In early 2008, several devices using the "analogue hole" (component video connection) and HDMI inputs have been announced. These Hauppauge units have been used by many people with HTPCs. Here are two threads:
The recordings on Service Provider PVRs are encrypted and there's no way to "copy" these onto an HTPC. You can "play" (5C=0 programming) via firewire or (any programme) to the Hauppauge discussed earlier.
FCC and Firewire:
Some of the Canadian STBs have firewire, however, these connections are not always activated/available. Motorola STBs seem to work well, however the 5C restrictions come into play. Rogers and Videotron have some SA/Cisco STBs with firewire enabled, however the recording process has been hit & miss (often miss). See the firewire threads in Rogers and Videotron
DVI, HDMI, Component Video, etc:
There are no DVI, HDMI or Component Video HD inputs
on any consumer recording devices (Other than Hauppauge, already discussed). Therefore you cannot
record HD via DVI, HDMI.
If a consumer recording device/card has component inputs, they are always limited to 480i. If a "pro" recording device/card has CV inputs, the device/card is usually very expensive (US$1k+) and also typically doesn't record digital audio.
Cisco 8000HD/8300HD/8642HD/9865HD – Two Tuner DVRs, with SATA connectivity for external HDDs (all encrypted).
Mot 6208 – One Tuner, 80 GB HDD HD DVR
Mot 6408 – Two Tuner 80 GB HDD
Mot 6412 – Two Tuner 120 GB HDD
Mot 6416 – Two Tuner 160 GB HDD
Mot 3416 - Same as above, but digital only.
Pace Tahoe, Aspen, Summit - have connectivity for eHDDs.
Shaw Direct (formerly Starchoice) DSR530/630 (I believe with two tuners and 160 GB HDD.)
Dish 921 – Three Tuner (2 Sat, 1 OTA), 250 GB HDD HD DVR.
Bell has the 9242/9241/9400, similar specs to Dish above.
Bell recently introduced the 6141, 6131 with USB2.0 for external HDD connectivity.
LG now has an OTA STB that can record HD
Various other providers now also have integrated PVRs that are getting too numerous to list here.
“Expansion HDDs” are available for some of the above STBs. You will be able to expand the HDD size by adding a firewire, USB or SATA HDD. These HDD will be “special” and the information recorded onto them from the STB will be “encrypted” to prevent copying to another device.
Some people have removed the internal drive and substituted a larger drive in their PVRs. The amount you can "expand" depends on the firmware and the STB. There are usually threads in the service provider's forum discussing these.
One more thing, we get a lot of questions about recording HD to DVD on DVD recorders. DVDs are 480i and are not HD. You can record the original HDTV files (.ts), but less than an hour of HDTV will fit on a DVD-R, and it will only be playable on an HTPC.
For those people with the appropriate satellite and lots of money... (not sure if these work any more since BTV went MPEG4)
for a little less money.
BTV Rip Thread.
For those people with Motorola STBs...
Rogers Firewire Discussion
Connecting a PVR's HDD to computer?
The recorded information on the integrated PVR's HDD is encrypted, therefore you cannot connect the drive (internal or external) directly to a computer and "see" any of the recordings.
Please send me a PM if you have comments or suggestions.