HTPC as Digital Video Recorder? and Burning to DVD?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Tom Koegel, Jan 28, 2002.

  1. Tom Koegel

    Tom Koegel Stunt Coordinator

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    How many people are out there in the HTF world who have begun to burn DVDs? Well, more to the point, I'd love to pick up tips and tricks from the knowledgeable.

    I have a Sony RX-490TV. It has an MPEG-2 encoder and a primitive set of software to emulate a Tivo/ReplayTV type digital video recorder. It also comes with the Pioneer DVD-RW drive. I had the notion that I would be able to use the machine to burn DVDs from various TV sources; primarily, the kids shows that are almost completely unavailable on DVD.

    The experience has been, shall we see, interesting. Like most Sony PCs, the entire assembly seems to be something of a design concept rather than a fully thought out machine. The DVR is far, far short of a Replay or Tivo one can record specific shows either once or on a repeated basis, but there is none of the sophisticated searching or channel building that is allowed in a "real" Replay or TV.

    Once the TV shows are recorded, they are held in video capsules which can be, relatively easily, edited in a video applet that lets you cut and splice segments. Unfortunately, the videos are kept in a propriety video capsule package--one can set the edited video to play out the video/audio outputs, but you can't simply output it to a conventional MPEG-2 file for burning. You can dump it straight into another applet for burning a DVD, called Simple DVD Maker--but that gives you zero control on menus, screens, chapters, etc. About the best you can do is dump different recorded programs. The PC ships with Sonic's DVDit LE, but for that app you need to export to MPEG-2. Only the full, unedited capsules can be exported to MPEG-2. Long story short: you need to have an external cutting application.

    No problem there, right? The PC shipped with Adobe Premiere. Whoops, Premiere does not natively handle MPEG. (Apparently the weird data structure of MPEG gives conventional non-linear editors fits.) And of course Premiere, or Ulead's MediaStudioPro, which does handle MPEG, seem like ridiculous overkill just to do some simple cuts. But I suckered myself into buying MediaStudioPro. It seems like a fine program, but - - it wants to re-encode the MPEG that you edit, which takes about 3 hrs for a 1/2 hour segment--this on a 1.7 GHz Pentium IV. Arggh. I tried the freeware TMPGenc, which offers a cut utility, but that didn't work either. (Bombed out on my PC; might have some kind of incapacity with WindowsXP.) Eventually, I downloaded a copy (for $129!) of a something called MyFlix XE, by a company called Mediaware that offers a full fledged MPEG editor called MEdit2 (I think). It does work flawlessly as advertises, and lets you snip frame by frame from the MPEG2. It doesn't have the slick filmstrip/filmroll for finding segments that is available in the Sony utility (which doesn't work to export MPEG) or in Premiere or MediaStudioPro). But it does the job.

    On the DVD burning side, DVDitLE couldn't transcode AVI or QuickTime files. Seemed like I needed something more substantial, so I upgraded to DVDit PE. Works like a charm with those MPEGs, but the transcoding craps out constantly. A patch is promised to be posted today to fix that. We'll see. As to the part of the program that works, once you grasp the nonintuitive interface, the program seems to work pretty well. (So long as you stay away from transcoding by working only with MPEG2 files.) It does take the better part of 2 1/2 hours for the software to prepare and burn a disc. (Again, we are talking about a Pentium IV 1.7 GHz with 384 KB of RAM.)

    The ability to lay out menus on DVDit is quite primitive. It doesn't have any kind of grid system on which to lay out the buttons. You basically have to create your menus by eye, and assume that you have things lined up.

    On the plus side, the discs are compatible with my relatively old Sony DVD-S550. (That includes DVD-R and DVD-RW, the two formats written by the Pioneer drive. Oddly, although Sony is one of the backers of DVD+RW, they shipped the PC with the DVD-RW drive.) All the menus work, the video looks great, no problems.

    Bottom line: my son will have the world's most expensive collection of Arthur, Zoboomafoo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, etc., videos ever assembled. But I'm having some fun, and I suppose I'm learning some useful video skills that may be more valuably employed if I ever get around to dumping all that miniDV tape from the last three years into the machine.

    Now the questions:

    Anybody got anything nice to say about other DVD authoring software? Ulead has one. Any better than DVDit?

    Is there any difference in the brand name DVD-R or DVD-RW vs. the generic stuff available on the web? As Ron Epstein noted in a different post, there are huge differences in price on this stuff. DVD-R ranges from $2.50 a disc (in bulk, without jewel cases)to $15 or more. DVD-RW ranges from about $5.50 up to $25.00. Is there a risk of instability in the discs with the cheapies?

    Anybody try any of the other PVR / DVR software, for example, the Hauppage? Does this work any better on the PC?

    Anyone have any other recommendations in terms of video editing software?

    The thoughts of the learned members of HTF would be most appreciated.

    Tom Koegel
     
  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Tom,
    I haven't played around with this much myslef- but there is a big crowd over on AVS into PVR and DVD burning.
    I would certainly check it out!
    http://www.avsforum.com
    -Vince
     
  3. Tom Koegel

    Tom Koegel Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the tip, Vince!
     
  4. Grant B

    Grant B Producer

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    Hey Neighbor!

    My new Sony PC came yesterday and I got it up and running (and that's about it). I have the DVD r/rw drive also. I was kind of surprised I didn't have a svideo input etc to run video tape etc into it for DVD making.

    Have you tried to do something like that yet?
     

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