Whether you just cut the cord and you are on an Antenna or if you are still on Cable and you want to create an archive of shows for later watching there are some good, better and best ways to create your archive and play it back on your devices.
For Cable subscribers you will have to get a device that can use a CableCard. It is a credit card sized card that your cable tv company programs to allow your device to unscramble their broadcasts. There are only a few companies that make cablecard tuners today. The most popular might be SiliconDust and their tuner can be used over your network connected to a computer that will actually do the recording. Ceton is another brand as are Tivo and a few others. Each have their own features and problems. The software to record the television shows varies too and the best right now is Microsoft MediaCenter because it comes with a free TV Guide and it can record and save your shows for free. Other software packages like Plex or Kodi will require a monthly subscription of about $10 which is not a lot but all you are getting is the TV Guide information which really should be free.
Recording Antenna TV
For Antenna Users you have a few more hardware options. You can go with a $15 single tv tuner card in your computer all the way up to a Network TV Tuner that will work off of your home network and be available to TVs for live viewing or to a DVR or Computer for recording. Again software at this time is about the same there is Microsoft MediaCenter which is free to use or you can go with paid packages like Plex or MediaPortal or if you buy a SiliconDust tuner you can use their DVR software for a price.
Other options are buying a DVR Tuner for $50 or less that has the ability to record TV. If you are going with this method you will need the device and you will need a USB Stick to store the files. You will then need to manually transfer those shows over to your computer for processing. The files are normally in MP4 format and are often very large. The name of the files also won’t normally be recognizable it might be a date time stamp like 02-24-2018-0900-SX93X234554.mp4 and you will have to manually rename them to the show name and episode number. Its not that difficult if you only record a few shows a week.
Converting Your TV Video Files
Once you have your raw television files on your computer you will notice that they are very large. They can range from 1GB to 10GB or even larger depending if you are recording a long movie.
You should use a program like HandBrake for Windows to convert these files to a much smaller file size that still preserves most of the quality.
I personally save my recorded TV in h.265 format in mp4 files. I also reduce full sized 1080p video down to 720p video to save even more file space. My resulting files scale pretty well to full TV Size and the quality is good because I increase the settings which improves sharpness. I would not take a 720p video and reduce its file size using compression and keep it the same size because by starting with HD 1080p there is much more detail. Now some TV stations broadcast in 720p or even less today on the sub channels on antenna so you have to do what you can to get the best quality but for me I always record at the highest original resolution and use Handbrake to reduce the size.
Storing Your Recorded TV Shows and Movies
If you are only recording a few shows a week you can save those files on your internal hard drive. If you are recording for the reason of creating an archive and you are on Cable then you may be recording dozens of shows a day.
I record as much as I possibly can because even on Cable they don’t show all of the movies you might want to see when you want to see them and our family does not make use of On Demand or other pay services.
If you want your files to be accessible to your computer network so you can use a TV box to view them off your storage directly then you have two choices.
You can place an external hard drive on your wifi router and store the files there or you can setup a NAS Server which is a small box with a few drives in it which also has a network card so it can attach to your local network.
Cost is an issue but if you are creating an archive so you don’t have to subscribe to services like Netflix or because you want access to your shows all of the time then you will have to decide what you are willing to pay.
Everyone’s setup is different but there are better ways to go about recording shows if you want to watch them later.
If you are not interested in creating an archive but just want to watch the 6pm news when you get off work at 7pm then a local $50 device is all that you need. You can schedule your box like a VCR and it will record every day or every weekday or just on thursdays at 6 to 7pm or whenever you tell it to record. When you get home you just use your menu to watch the show.
If you are recording because you are creating an archive then you should look into using tools and software the give you the most bang for the buck. CableCard Tuners can record on 6 stations at a time all day long and if you get a 6 month subscription to cable you can easily fill your hard drive and many hard drives with thousands and thousands of shows and movies. At that point you only need internet and an Antenna and you can save yourself a ton of money by not needing to subscribe to pay services like netflix.
The choice is yours and the effort to do all of this will pay off based on the time you put into it but consider that you will save maybe $1000 or more in your first year of cutting the cord its a good investment.