Thursday, May 17, 2007

Intelligent Television Viewing - My PVR setup


I am paying monthly for my TataSky Satellite TV connection (brought in India by a joint venture between Tata and Sky) and am also paying for my monthly dose of broadband. I miss a lot of broadcasted satellite programming, unfortunately or fortunately because I have a day job, and need to go to office daily to keep these bills rolling. I miss movies, premiers, comedy serials and a lot of extra stuff. Can I do something to make my investment more value for money? You bet!

I decided to build my own home Personal Video Recorder(PVR) setup using my laptop, which would be intelligent enough to do some work behind my back.

This is what now my setup does, or can do with a little more tweaking:
  • Pause live TV (so that I can answer the phone without missing the movie climax or the sport event)
  • Do OTR (one touch recording), so that if suddenly my friends come to call me for an outing, I can record the rest of the program for later viewing
  • Do scheduled programming. This will automatically turn on my satellite box, change channel and record a program, then make the computer go back to sleep.
  • Automatically record the next telecast of a movie I recently missed on HBO etc. It can search by itself for the next telecast and schedule it for recording!
  • Automatically record a series, such as a weekly comedy show
  • Not to mention that all recording is in superb quality!

What all I needed


  • My Laptop
  • TataSky satellite TV connection for the best quality I can get at the moment in India
  • A hardware based TV Tuner . I used Hauppauge WinTV PVR USB2 PVR. Remember that it now comes with a free IR blaster! I bought the MCE edition so got a bundled remote too for my laptop.
  • A IR(infrared) transceiver. This is required because you need a way to change channels on your satellite box behind your back, so that the correct channel can be recorded by the computer. The IR blaster works like an actual remote control, only that it’s controlled by a computer. I am using the great and time proven USB UIRT.
  • A PVR software. I am using the free, but feature packed GBPVR.
  • Lots of storage! I am using external Western Digital 250 GB firewire drive, but you may use your laptop if you have enough storage there. Remember that a 1 hour recording can take 4 GB space, straight out of a hardware encoder and uncompressed. For archival I use xvid compression which compresses a 1 hour recording to about 800 MB.
  • Some way to fetch weekly TV guide/listing details into the PVR software. I use TVxB to get listing of my favorite channels such as Star Movies, Star World, HBO, Sony, SAB TV, Star Plus, Star One, Sony Pix, Zee movies etc.
  • A hardware splitter, if you want an easy way to switch TV input between your television and the TV Tuner.
  • Time and DIY attitude to set it all up!
  • Microsoft Vista – No, this is not mandatory at all, but Vista does simply superb power management. If you are away from home, and your PC/laptop is ON the whole day, then you would want to make it save power and hence extend its life when not in use. Visa allows your PC/laptop to go into a special S3 power saving mode when not in use, and can wake the PC back into action within a few seconds. Windows XP can’t do that easily and out of the box. As an example, I can leave my laptop on suspend mode, the whole day – without AC and on battery, and still find my battery at more than 90% at the end of day!!

How to go about it


Setup is simple. Configuration takes some time.
  1. Connect the satellite TV output to the TV Tuner input. Use the best available interconnection option. For TataSky use the coaxial audio/video instead of the RF cable option.
  2. Connect the TV tuner to your computer
  3. Connect the IR blaster(transceiver) to your laptop and point it to the satellite box. USB UIRT, at least, is quite powerful and you don’t need to pin point it to the satellite box. It works even its roughly pointed towards the box. Even +/- 45 degrees or a bit of vertical miss-alignment works perfectly.
  4. Install TVxB and configure it to fetch your favourite TV channel’s guide. The result is stored in an international standard XML format called XMLTV. Schedule it via Windows scheduler to run weekly
  5. Install the PVR software, which in my case if GBPVR.
  6. Point GBPVR to take the TV guide input from TVxB output file, and update automatically weekly
  7. Set your IR blaster type in GBPVR, so that it can send the correct IR signal to the satellite box before starting a new recording. I had a including that because TataSky is a joint venture with Sky+ of UK, they might be using their technology and hardware, so I chose the Sky+ type for the remote. It worked!
By the way, for later archival encoding the video in XVID formating by an almost fully automated and free tool like AutoGK works great for me!

Total cost of project, if we take into account the fact that I already owned my computer and satellite TV connection, was about $290 or about Rs. 12,700

If you have more suggestions, specially pertaining to a setup in India, then do share it the comments below.

31 comments:

Dimu said...

Very helpful. Thanks

Muralidhar said...

Nice post.. Where do you get the channel guide??

waveking said...

I fetched my channel guide using the free TVxB utility. It can go to individual channel websites and retrieve the channel guides from them. It then stores them in a ready to use format by your PVR software.

Tarun said...

Good article there. I have a doubt. I am having a similar setup as yours with a difference of the PVR card. I have a Hauppauge PVR-150 card. It comes with IR blaster. I am not able to configure the ir blaster of my hauppauge card with the humax stb. I have tried many codesets but still humax box doesn't respond to those. Any idea about the codeset for humax STB?

waveking said...

Thanks for the good words people. Tarun, I myself was skeptic that my Thomson set top box might not respond to international profiles, but the Sky Digibox(UK) profile of GBPVR worked like a charm out of the box!

Else, i guess you would need a transceiver like USB UIRT so that you can make your system learn the codes of your remote. In that case, do share the code set!

Sanjay said...

Thanks for that wonderful guide, it will come in handy for a lot of folks like us.

BTW do you mind letting me know where you bought the usb uirt from?

Thanks

waveking said...

Thanks for appreciating the article Sanjay. I purchased by USB UIRT directly from http://www.usbuirt.com/.to get the original thing.

Hari said...

Saurabh,

Nice post. Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for since installing a dish antenna is not gonna work for my home. It is not very clear from your post whether you have this setup in the US or India. Can you please clarify that. Since this is IPTV, I am guessing it should work just fine from any corner of the globe. But, heyy what do you know? There is always Mr. Murphy!

Thanks
-- Hari

waveking said...

Thanks for stopping by Hari. The setup is in India itself :)...In fact in Indore, M.P. to be precise.

algoogle said...

My Card is Internal Pinnacle PCTV 110i TV tuner card and TAta Sky...and I use WinDVR software ...
Can I get a IR blaster like USB UIRT work with this card as it has a remote control ????

I thank you so much for ure lovely article..
Look forward to hear from u

Stanley Lyndon said...

OMG. I am looking to get the exact same setup. I have Vista 64-bit Ultimate. But, where on earth (India) do you get the Hauppauge WinTV PVR USB2? I am worried about importing from US since it might just not accept PAL-B reception. Also, is your model 24XXX or 29XXX?

waveking said...

My WinTV is unfortunately the NTSC version, as in US the PAL version is not immediately available. It needs to be shipped from UK, which incurrs an additional cost. This is real sad, as this month I am planning to buy one more.

Vivek said...

Good article. I am using external phillips hard disk recorder with analog cable, before switching to tata sky. Now it limits recording to one channel at a time, whichever is selected manually. Not ideal, but works. The advantage is that it is all remote control based, so no need to start/stop a PC, which I had done earlier with PC TV 110i PCI card.

Probably will do a laptop based DVR setup later. This has opened up the game now!

Ramki said...

Great article. thanks. I am trying to set something up on ubuntu linux and myth tv. Just starting and this atricle was very helpful. I have the same question as Stanley. where in India can you get Hauppauge WinTV PVR USB2?

Srinivas said...

I'm using VISTA Ultimate with PVR500(Twin tuner card/Handy for background recording). Please help me in configuring the Guide. How do I configure Vista to take the output of TVxB?

sk said...

very informative. was curious - are you able to watch a channel while simultaneously record another.

I presume you would need a dual tuner card - but then, does it work with tata sky?

Srinivas said...

ttrbbfI've dual RCA Inputs to PVR-500. It shall work with TataSky. You need to split Yello video feed into 2. 1Y->2Y.

sk said...

srinivas, amazing if that works. because i reasoned that if you split the colour into, both the splits would still carry the same channel. thus, if you are recording say ESPN and swith channel to watch Zee, then both the tv and PVR would be on Zee.

anyways, were you able to upload the guide?

Anonymous said...

*No time to create an id, However i wud like to have this kind of id for this kind of writing - justice needed*
This is exactly wat i was looking for. Hmm prior to reaching this blog i visited many web sites including onida, sony to check features and price of a DVR. Later i came to know that one cannot use the DVR boxes effectively with tata sky settop box to record TV. Like either picutre quality is not good or we cannot view another channel while recording one channel. I feel its not worthy buying such costly DVR boxes while the basic above mentioned facility itself is not possible. THE ONLY KIND OF SETUP WHICH PEOPLE HAD NO PERFORMANCE ISSUES IS THE ONE MENTIONED BY SAURABH IN THIS ARTICLE. Which also costs around 12000/- as said in this article. FIRST POINT IS WHY THE HELL DO WE HAVE TO STRUGGLE SO MUCH TO RECORD TV FROM TATA SKY OR ANY OTHER SUCH KIND OF PROVIDER. BECAUSE IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT WHEN WE ARE PAYING THE SUBSCRIPTION FEE TO VIEW A SET OF CHANNELS, WE CANNOT VIEW MORE THAN ONE CHANNEL AT A GIVEN POINT OF TIME. SO IT IS DIRECTLY CHEATING CONSUMERS. FOR EX. THERE IS A FAMOUS SERIAL BEING TELECAST ON 'A' CHANNEL AND THERE IS IMPORTANT NEWS COMING UP ON 'B' CHANNEL, THEN IT IS OBVIOUS THAT ONE WOULD PREFER TO VIEW THE CURRENT EVETNS FROM THE NEWS RATHER THAN WATCHING THE SERIAL. BUT IAM PAYING FOR THE OTHER CHANNEL WHICH IS BROADCASTING THAT FAMOUS SERIAL. SO THE CONSUMER MUST BE PROVIDED WITH EITHER THE FACILITY TO WATCH THE OTHER PROGRAMS WHENEVER THEY WANT OR MUST BE PROVIDED THE FACILITY TO RECORD THEM WITH EAASE AT NO EXTRA COST AS WE ARE ALREADY PAYING FOR THAT. INFACT THE CHANNELS THAT HAVE COPYRIGHT PROTECTION IF ANY SOULD BE IN A SEPARATE PACKAGE AS WE WUD GO FOR IT IF WE NEED IT. THOSE CHANNELS MUST NOT BE COMBINED WITH THE CHANNELS THAT DO NOT HAVE COPYRIGHT PROTECTION. BY USING THE WORD COPYRIGHT PROTECTION I MEAN THAT THE CHANNELS THAT DONT ALLOW CONSUMERS TO RECORD TV CHANNEL. WAT IS GOING ON NOW IS ABSOLUTELY UNFAIR. Let there be no more extra costs for the consumer. If you feel this is correct please pass it on to ur frs.

Srinivas said...

SK, what you said is correct. I can't record another channel though I've a twin tuner card.
guess TataSky wants to make money for every new feed. This what providers like Comcast in US so. They are charging Rs100 pm fora each of the additional Settop box(Another 3K for the Box!)

sk said...

thanks srinivas

Srikanth said...

For all those of you who are wondering where to get the PVR 150 from: you can email jenny@hauppauge.com.sg or alternately look for sales contact on www.hauppauge.com.sg.

For some products they have distributors in India and some they sell directly from Singapore. I got my PVR-350 from them about two years ago. It would cost you DHL courier charges + Customs (roughtly Rs. 1000 + Customs Clearance service charge by DHL (roughly Rs. 1000)

Srikanth said...

Saurabh,

Is there anyway of scrapping www.zipazap.com for channel guide?

waveking said...

Srikanth, yes, you may try tools such as tvxb for that and similar sites. Please check the policy of the channel guide website first though.

Ekhlaque said...

Hi
Where did you buy the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 from? I want to buy the MCE edition as well.

Cheers
Ekhlaque

Kuldeep said...

Great Setup. I Was looking for a similar thing. Were you able to watch the recorded media on TV or only on the Laptop screen?

--Thanks
Kuldeep

Suneet said...

Saurabh,
I have VMC set up with a hathaway digital box. I am able to control the set top box etc . However, I am unable to download the guide listings. It says the listings for postcode is not available. I have tried using 560001, 110019, 560034, 110001. Nothing seems to work.

Any help on how to get this done?

Srikanth said...

Suneet,

Are you the same person who asked a similar question on epgstream.net? If so, I have already sent you a PM.

Sagar Mangla said...

Hi Saurabh,
Nce Work. I would like to know where can i get the tv tuner card (Hauppauge) and how much does it cost.

Also i recently bought a Sony Dvd recorder from USA bt as it is in NTSC format i am unable to connect it to my tv. Can u please help me with tht.

Thanks a lot..

anish said...

is there something by which i can trsnsfer recorded data in tata sky plus to my pc. i want this. plz help me out......

Srikanth said...

anish,

Look up support forums on UK SKY boxes.

Example: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?p=1995414