Watching television shows and movies in high definition with a high-quality tv aerial installation is a great experience. Recording them on your computer is now possible in several ways.
Although you can use your cable or satellite high definition personal video recorder (PVR) to record high definition (HD) content, you can’t transfer it to a computer to watch it or burn it to disc.
Currently, there are no Bluray High Definition recorders, like DVD recorders, available in the USA. It is possible with a computer to record live high definition TV shows, movies, and sports. What source you are recording from will decide what equipment you will need.
OTA: Over the Air HD Recording
Over the Air High Definition (OTA HD) content is what you receive with an HDTV antenna that is being broadcast from local television stations. Typically this would be NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, FOX, etc. For this you will need an Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) HDTV tuner for your computer.
These are available from different manufacturers as an internal computer card or as an external USB device. It may come with a small antenna about one foot in length. To be able to pick up distant stations you may need to attach a larger antenna. The ATSC tuner will come with software to allow you to adjust your antenna for the best reception and allow you to record programs. Most of the tuners can be incorporated into Windows Media Center to schedule recordings with a program guide.
Cable Television Recording
If you have cable TV as your source of HD content you can use the same method as OTA. Most ATSC tuners also have Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) tuners built in, as well. The QAM tuner will let you watch and record unencrypted high definition programs, such as local programming.
Premium content, like HBO or Discovery, is usually encrypted and will require a cable card for your computer. A cable card is a component that the cable company will install in your computer to receive programming. Presently, you need one cable card for each channel you want to watch or record. Ceton has a four tuner card coming to market soon that will allow simultaneous recording of four HD cable channels.
High Definition Satellite TV Recording
Recording HD satellite tv currently has fewer options than other sources. Microsoft has been working with satellite providers to make a Windows Media Center tuner for them, but nothing has yet come to market. Nextcom provides an after market upgrade to your satellite receiver that adds a USB cable to connect to your computer. You can then schedule HD programming and have it recorded on your computer.
The Hauppauge PVR is a USB capture device that you attach to your computer. It has HD component inputs and an optical audio input and outputs for both so it can be placed in between your source and HDTV. You can record HD with Dolby Digital audio from any source that has component outputs, such as your cable box, satellite receiver, etc. A new version of this will be available this year made as an internal card.
Playing Back Recorded HD Content
Everything that has been recorded can be watched on a computer. The files can also be burned to a blank DVD in a format that is playable in some standalone Bluray players, or they can be burned to a traditional Bluray disc. A simpler option for watching the files on an HDTV would be to play them back on a digital media player like a Popcorn Hour, Western Digital WDTV, and others.
Recording HD television shows, movies, and sports on your computer is possible. It requires extra hardware and time to get started. The benefit of being able to archive content in the pristine form of high definition is worth the effort.