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Need me some video capture hardware

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#1 ApochPiQ   Moderators   

Posted 11 October 2005 - 12:06 PM

Right, here's the deal. It has come time for my annual fixation with Making A Household Appliance The Geeky Way. My target this time around: PVR (a Tivo clone, for those of you who are initialism-challenged). For those with painfully short attention spans, you may skip to the marked location below, but be warned that if you reply with a question that is answered somewhere in the ramblings and incoherency below, I will hunt you down and expectorate upon you and your descendents for 40 generations, amen. I already have my video playback system set up (my Beast and my projector) so the box will not need to be capable of playing back the video stream directly. Essentially I'd like to play the video stream over my LAN if that is feasible; failing that, I'll have the PVR box record to a local hard drive and then spool it over to the playback machine via cron or some such. I've been looking at dropping the whole unit into this chassis: Sexiest PVR case EVER Basically, the hardware comes with a decent Pentium M processor and a PCI expansion slot, which is all I'm terribly interested in. I know from experience in dealing with Axiomtek that the unit can support a hard drive after-market, so that's taken care of as well. I'm planning on getting a video capture card that's not terribly anal about being cut apart, and moving the coax input manually so that I can arrange the ports as needed inside the NA-1301 chassis. I'm currently dialoguing with a contact at Axiomtek to make sure that I can fit a decent-sized PCI card into the unit in the first place, although from the description I'm hoping so. I'll try to line up a demo unit to play with and evaluate here in the next week or so. The unit has two USB ports, so I can hook up an IR-driven remote control system to it if I want. The little LCD readout on the front is just damn cool, and I'm hoping to find a way to rig it so it shows cool little facts about the machine while it's running. Anyways, I'm really hoping to get to put the box into that chassis, as IMO that would just be fricken cool. But failing that, suggestions on an alternative (and equally sexy) case would be appreciated. If you have a painfully short attention span, you may resume reading from this point. So, I need some recommendations for good video capture hardware, and good software to run on a Linux (or BSD) distro. Playback directly on the recording device is not needed, streaming across a LAN to another computer is desired, spooling the content off the recorder onto a file-server is my fallback choice if I can't do streaming. Bonus points if I can use the software/hardware to play live TV and get rid of my crappy VCR (which currently exists for the sole purpose of turning coax into RCA video/stereo audio).
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#2 Olrich   Members   


Posted 11 October 2005 - 12:32 PM

Well, I don't have any experience with the topic but the folks over at Systm (Old TechTV People) made a pretty cool video on how make a home-brew PVR using MythTV, which runs over Linux. Seems like MythTV is the most popular way if using Linux. Hope that helps.

#3 ApochPiQ   Moderators   

Posted 12 October 2005 - 06:06 AM

MythTV looks pretty potent... although I'm not entirely clear on whether or not I can use it to stream the video over to my Windows box. I'll dig a little further into it and maybe post on their support list to see if anyone has any thoughts.

Thanks for the link... hopefully that will be enough to get started with.

#4 Blaise Douros   Members   


Posted 12 October 2005 - 06:14 AM

Pinnacle makes some of the best consumer hardware. Failing that, there are many, many independent companies out there--I would do research carefully though, because unknowns have a tendency to be either fantastic or utter crap, especially when it comes to digital video hardware.

#5 ApochPiQ   Moderators   

Posted 12 October 2005 - 05:05 PM

I'm currently looking at going with an ATi TVWonder Elite for the video capture and then using Unreal Media to stream the content over to my main playback machine. I doubt that my 100Mb LAN will be a speed bottleneck, but if it becomes a problem, the Axiomtek system and my main box are both Gigabit capable, so all I'd really need to do is upgrade my switch and that problem would go away.

The main remaining concerns are A) fitting the TVWonder into the Axiomtek chassis (probably nothing that a Dremel and a little solder can't take care of) and B) getting audio capture working correctly. I know the NA-1301 has no audio connectors, but the chipset used by the motherboard definitely has an AC97 component. Hopefully when I get the actual eval unit I'll be able to see if there's an audio lead on the motherboard itself that I can take advantage of, even if it means soldering in a connector for it by hand. If I can fit the TVWonder into the chassis and get the audio squared away I might just pull this thing off.

In the meantime, I'm looking for a backup case and baseline system that I can build this all into if the NA-1301 doesn't work out. Frankly though I'm thinking I might just pick up the TVWonder and drop it straight into the playback box, and forget having a separate PVR... even though it would be a lot cooler that way.

#6 outRider   Members   


Posted 12 October 2005 - 05:23 PM

What exactly is that Axiomtek thingie? Is it basically a computer in a tiny form-factor to allow it to be used as a generic device (like a set-top box, DVD player, music player)?

Oh, and to address your question, if you don't go with Pinnacle as suggested, Hauppauge also makes some good capture cards with hardware compression for reasonable prices, usually much better than an AIW.

Are you looking to capture from a digital or analogue source?

#7 ApochPiQ   Moderators   

Posted 13 October 2005 - 02:09 AM

Standard analog cable.

The NA-1301 is basically a 1U-form factor computer. It's geared towards network applications, but I've used Axiomtek hardware before and I know it can be pressed into service as just about anything you want it to do.

I've read up a lot on both Hauppauge's cards and the 550 chipset (which the TVWonder Elite uses) and there's essentially no contest in terms of quality and suitability for what I'm doing. Don't confuse the TVWonder with an AIW - I have no use for a dedicated video card in a glorified VCR [wink]

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