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Comcast digital cable/VCR question


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12 replies to this topic

#1 of 13 OFFLINE   catlover0908

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Posted May 29 2009 - 01:20 AM

My area is converting most all analog stations to digital. I will be receiving a set top box and a couple dta's for my tv's. My question is...if I hook up the STB to my tv, and a DTA to my VCR, can I tape one digital channel and watch another digital channel using a splitter?

#2 of 13 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted May 29 2009 - 01:42 AM

Everywhere in the U.S. is switching from analog to digital broadcast on June 12th. (Unless the FCC pushes the deadline back again.) Just want to make sure I understand - you're getting a cable box (STB) from Comcast and buying some "DTAs" (Digital Television Antennas?) Or are you getting a non-Comcast STB to pick up broadcast TV on your old analog TVs? If you're a Comcast subscriber, you shouldn't need to make any changes, because the switch only affects people who currently receive TV via over-the-air (OTA) antennas.

1) There is no such thing as "digital television antenna", so don't overpay for one. Any TV antenna will do.

2) The antennas will let you receive digital signals off the air and therefore by-pass the cable box entirely. But they will only work with TVs that already have built-in digital tuners. If your TVs don't, you'll also need a broadcast STB to go with each antenna. The STB becomes the tuner, and only the station it is on will be sent to its output. So no, you can't split the output of the STB and watch one channel on the TV while recording another on the VCR. If the TV has a digital tuner you may be able to split the antenna feed (or the cable feed, I'm still not sure where we are here) and send one wire to the TV's built-in tuner and the other to the STB and then to the VCR.

If one of your TVs has a digital tuner, you could connect your Comcast box to the VCR and then the VCR to your TV, and also connect an OTA antenna to the TV. That would let you record one show (from the Comcast box) on the VCR, while watching an OTA digital show through the TV's antenna.

For more specific advice, it would really help if you listed the make and model of each TV and VCR you have, plus those of any STBs you or Comcast will be providing. Is all of your stuff analog and standard def, or is some of it digital and/or HD ready?

(BTW, have you considered getting a digital video recorder from Comcast?)

Regards,

Joe

#3 of 13 OFFLINE   catlover0908

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Posted May 29 2009 - 01:57 AM

I understand the broadcast conversion, I'm all set for that. I don't have an antenna.

I'm referring to Comcast switching over most all cable channels over channel 30 to digital. I have an analog tv, and a vcr that's only a few years old. Because this is mandatory for extended basic cable customers, they are supplying me with one set top box and 2 dta's for free.

So with one box connected to my tv, and one to my vcr, will I be able to record a digital channel while watching another? I wouldn't pay extra for additional boxes, but if I'm provided with them for free...

#4 of 13 OFFLINE   catlover0908

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Posted May 29 2009 - 02:02 AM

I understand about the broadcast conversion, I'm all set for that. I don't have any tv's with antenna.

I have an analog tv, and a vcr that's only a few years old with tuner. So if I hook up a dta to 1) the tv and 2) the vcr can I record a digital channel while watching a digital channel? Since this is mandatory from Comcast, channels over 30 migrating to digital, they are giving me more than one dta.

And even with a digital tuner in the tv, I don't believe that matters, because Comcast encrypts channels so you have to have their box.

#5 of 13 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted May 29 2009 - 05:56 AM

What is a DTA?

#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Brian^K

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Posted May 29 2009 - 06:06 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by catlover0908
My area is converting most all analog stations to digital. I will be receiving a set top box and a couple dta's for my tv's. My question is...if I hook up the STB to my tv, and a DTA to my VCR, can I tape one digital channel and watch another digital channel using a splitter?
Yes, that's correct. Do keep in mind that if you split your cable too many times, you'll start losing signal integrity. Generally, service providers provide you enough power for six or seven splits including the ones that are in your walls. For example, Comcast runs their cable into an adapter in the basement. There, there is a 1-to-3 splitter my builder put in. That counts as two splits. I used to have a split on one of those lines, so one of them could feed both the second bedroom and the loft. I replaced that splitter with a connector -- that still counts as half of a split. Then, in my loft, once the cable comes out of the wall, I split it again, so I can feed both my DVR and my television separately. So basically, I've split my cable about 3 1/2 times, so I'm okay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino
Everywhere in the U.S. is switching from analog to digital broadcast on June 12th. (Unless the FCC pushes the deadline back again.)
I believe it is already too late for the Senate to begin consideration of a bill to extend the transition again, such that it could have a chance of being passed into law before the transition takes place. Beyond that, there is simply no will, within Congress, the administration, or the FCC, to pursue another delay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino
Just want to make sure I understand - you're getting a cable box (STB) from Comcast and buying some "DTAs" (Digital Television Antennas?)
Depending on who you ask, a DTA is either a "Digital-To-Analog converter" or a "Digital Transport Adapter". Either way: DTAs convert QAM modulated (digital cable) signals into analog RF (channel 3 or 4).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino
If you're a Comcast subscriber, you shouldn't need to make any changes, because the switch only affects people who currently receive TV via over-the-air (OTA) antennas.
To avoid confusion between the OTA/broadcast analog to digital transition, originally scheduled for February 17, and the on-going cable television analog to digital transition, which started years ago and will continue at least through 2012 and perhaps beyond, terrestrial subscription television services pledged to the government to observe a moratorium on converting communities to "all-digital" service (which isn't really "all" digital, but more on that later), from January 1 to March 31. Since the moratorium is now over, cable companies have gone back to implementing their planned analog to digital transitions, community-by-community.

[Omitted bits that were due to Joseph's misunderstanding of DTAs.]

Quote:
Originally Posted by catlover0908
I'm referring to Comcast switching over most all cable channels over channel 30 to digital. I have an analog tv, and a vcr that's only a few years old. Because this is mandatory for extended basic cable customers, they are supplying me with one set top box and 2 dta's for free. So with one box connected to my tv, and one to my vcr, will I be able to record a digital channel while watching another? I wouldn't pay extra for additional boxes, but if I'm provided with them for free...
Again, yes, you can do that. I'm pretty sure that the DTAs put out analog RF (channel 3 or 4), so theoretically you could set them up to record (again, channel 3 or 4) at the appropriate time, assuming you can be sure that the DTA is tuned to the correct channel. I'm not sure if the DTAs, themselves, support timed recordings to support that.

#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Brian^K

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Posted May 29 2009 - 06:13 AM

Here's a picture of a DTA

Posted Image

I've also updated some of the information I posted earlier, in the message above.

Keep in mind, DTAs put out only one channel at a time. That's often a source of confusion for people. They have tuners in them, which means you tune in the cable channel you want using the DTA, not using your television or VCR. The television or VCR just tunes in Channel 3 or 4.

#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted May 29 2009 - 07:05 AM

Quote:
So with one box connected to my tv, and one to my vcr, will I be able to record a digital channel while watching another?

The answer is yes. But strongly consider getting with the times and getting a DVR, which is a massively better TV watching experience. (easier programming, don't have to wait until recording finishes to start watching, thus enabling ability to simply record *everything* you watch, FF/skip over commercials, watch shows in any order you want, record 2 shows at once while watching a 3rd prerecorded show, other great stuff.)

I haven't used VCR regularly for 10 years already.

#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted May 29 2009 - 09:56 AM

I think the OP is hosed when it comes to timed recordings requiring channel changes when she isn't at home when using a DTA to feed a VCR for recording channels above 30. The VCR is mainly going to be useful for taping channels 30 and under with the built-in VCR timer menu for recording events.

It's Comcast's way to get people to pony up for their DVR STB boxes for $16/month.

Here's another thread talking about the Comcast digital switchover (channels over 30):

http://www.hometheat....s-throats.html
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#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Brian^K

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Posted May 29 2009 - 10:13 AM

It is Comcast's way of clearing limited bandwidth so they can support the new services that I want -- service that I and folks like me are willing to pay more for as compared to the folks currently paying for the services that need to be discontinued to make room.

#11 of 13 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted May 29 2009 - 10:34 AM

Quote:
I think the OP is hosed when it comes to timed recordings requiring channel changes when she isn't at home when using a DTA to feed a VCR for recording channels above 30. The VCR is mainly going to be useful for taping channels 30 and under with the built-in VCR timer menu for recording events.

Not entirely hosed. She can use the full STB to feed her VCR rather than the DTA, and set timers on the STB.

Being forced to pony up for a DVR isn't a bad thing, most people will like them as they are a 100x better solution than VCRs. Though I prefer TivoHD to their box.

#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted May 30 2009 - 05:04 AM

Do non-DVR STBs really have timers in them for channel-changing?
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#13 of 13 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted May 30 2009 - 05:27 AM

Not all of them, but most modern ones do have channel guides & timers, depends on what software they are running. Stripped down ones like the DTAs don't.

I used to use the timer on a 5100 as a backup in case my Tivo IR blaster missed a digit. But I ditched that setup once the HD-DVRs became available.


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