Many people are moving to Cutting The Cord with their Cable TV company but before you do I wanted to talk about ways that you can supplement your entertainment resources by recording Movies and TV Shows on your computer.
In other How Tos we have talked about setting up a TV Tuner to capture Television Programming. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a single tuner PCIe Card or USB Tuner and use Windows Media Center. This means you can record Antenna Based Television easily and free but what if you want a bit more?
Cord Cutting is basically that you are getting rid of the monthly bill for your TV Subscription. For many younger people this means relying on streaming as their sole entertainment source. For me that is just not enough. Additionally you are often paying for a Streaming Subscription and depending on what you buy you can expect the same or even higher costs.
At the very minimum everyone who cancels their Cable TV or Dish Subscription should invest in a way to get Antenna TV. It provides you live shows on Major Networks and also provides you with a source of News and any Emergency Broadcasts like Storm Warnings.
But Antenna TV even when paired with a lower cost Streaming Package might have you missing a lot of content that you use to enjoy.
For this reason it is really worth your investment to build a Media Center DVR and capture as much content as you can. This is totally legal to do. Since the 1970’s people have been using VCRs to record content from TV even before Cable TV was widespread. The technology has changed but the idea is the same. As long as you don’t share your recorded programs with someone or rebroadcast them .. say if you had a restaurant or bar and you recorded last nights game and played it the next day for your customers. Recording TV is legal and it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Multi Tuner Cable Card and Antenna Devices for Recording TV
The problem with recording with a single tuner is the same as recording with a single VCR. You can only record one show at a time and because you have to record the show while it is being broadcast that means you are in a one to one situation. If you wanted to record a week, a month or a years worth of TV it would take that long and actually much longer.
Multi-Tuner Devices that allow you to record Antenna or Cable TV shows can increase the number of simultaneous shows you can record up to 6 shows at a time.
With a Six Tuner CableCard Device that means you can record 6 days worth of TV in a single day… now like I said its not exactly 6 days of content because you won’t be recording on every tuner 24/7 but you could do it if you could find enough shows to record.
What it also means is once those shows are recorded they are yours to keep and rewatch as often as you want. Do you like old TV shows? Maybe you still watch old episodes of Friends, MASH or Bewitched that have all been off the air for many years.
What Hardware Do You Need?
For Cable TV you will need a CableCard Tuner and for Antenna Based TV you will need an ASTC Tuner with Multi Tuners.
CableCards are available from your local cable company. If you have a Cable TV Set Top Devices right now that allows you to get Pay Per View and Video On Demand you might actually be able to see a cablecard inside the device through the heat vent grills. They cost $5 to $10 per month to rent from your cable company but the M Cards which are Multi Stream allow you to record up to 6 shows at a time.
The Over The Air Tuners do not require any outside devices but they may require a Subscription to a TV Guide Service that provides a weekly database of upcoming shows that your tuner needs to prepare for recording. Start and End Times of shows and the Series and Episode Numbers. CableCard Tuners do not normally require a Guide and if your device is Microsoft Media Center ready then you can use the Free Guide from Microsoft. However Microsoft has ended Media Center deployment and you can not get it with Windows 10.
You will also need the tuner device its self. CableCard Tuners are only manufactured by a handful of companies. Ceton, SiliconDust and Haupauge are the three primary providers however things are changing and you may see these devices disappear from the market. If you can you should get one now.
Over The Air Tuners that allow Multi Recording are available from only one manufacturer SiliconDust who also makes the hardware for Simple.tv. There may be other devices such as a TIVO or lesser known brands but at the time of writing the multituner devices from other companies are either many times more expensive or have less features such as the ability to import the shows to your computer easily.
This is another problem … getting the video to your computer.
If you have an internal or directly connected CableCard Tuner then you know it will allow you to save files to your computer that you can easily save for later.
If you have an external source it could use proprietary methods for saving videos and it could be an extreme headache trying to categorize and backup those shows and movies. Simple.tv is this way. It is possible to save the shows but it requires a method that was developed by a end user and not the company.
Storing your DVRs Television Shows
Once you record a number of shows it will be important to back them up to a storage system. Many people are now investing in NAS or Network Accessible Storage devices that can hold one or many hard drives. The other option is to add an External drive to your Computer and either manually or with software backup the files regularly.
Depending on the quality of the video or the Size then you will need more storage to save more shows. Its not that difficult to understand that but it can be difficult to plan for it.
At this time I would suggest that you look for a 5TB Drive because they are the least expensive based on size. You get more for your money and even if you were to buy an external drive you can remove it from its case and install it in your own NAS or Computer.
Once your primary backup is about half full you want to make sure you have a secondary backup. I would suggest you mirror the content completely in case you lose your primary backup.
If you are talking months and many hours of managing your library you don’t want to lose it all so the $125 for a second drive isn’t a bad idea.
Once you get more than 2 backup drives you want to start thinking about a NAS Server that will allow you to backup your library to a RAID storage system. RAID is a method of linking more than one drive into a larger storage area. It also builds in redundancy so if one of the drives dies you only need to replace that drive and then the other drives in the system will copy their backups of the dead drive to the new drive and it will be like nothing ever happened.
Researching your storage method is very important and you should do so not only at shopping sites but also on review sites.
YouRepair.com does not normally review individual products because there are too many out there and they are changing all the time. What products we do talk about are not official endorsements. By telling you there are only a handful of products and listing the manufacturers and their devices we don’t endorse them we are just stating the sad facts. There really should be a dozen or so companies making this stuff because people should use their subscriptions to their fullest and record shows and movies.. but people don’t seem to care or they don’t have the technical knowledge and can’t be bothered to learn it.
Things are changing fast in Cordcutting and the Home DVR systems.
People are moving to streaming without the thought that they will max out their data subscriptions when trying to serve HD TV to more than one TV in the home or the fact that some subscription services won’t even allow you to play your subscribed content on more than one device in your home or on your phone or computer at the same time. If dad is at work watching TV that means no one at home can. It can get difficult.
Do your best to save money.. save your self expense and headaches.. and the way to do this is save all your content.
Save shows and movies and you will have them on your home computer or entertainment network so everyone can watch them.
But be responsible and don’t share them to others on the Internet. It will only cause you hardship if you do and the people who are connecting to your torrent or other share really don’t care about you.. they just want your stuff. They’re like crackheads.