Copying from DVR to the iPod


Q: Is there a way to transfer video from a Dish Network DVR to a 30GB Video iPod?

Copying from DVR to the iPod

– Alan

A: Unlike TivoToGo, there are not yet any canned software or hardware solutions that specifically do this for cable or satellite DVR devices/receivers.

However, depending on the model of receiver you are using it may be possible to record a video stream from the receiver’s FireWire port directly to your computer, assuming that you also have a FireWire port on your computer. Almost all HDTV cable receivers and many satellite receivers with FireWire ports provide an MPEG2-TS stream through the FireWire port that can be captured by your computer with the right software.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of simple packaged tools available for this, and the time and disk space required, this isn’t a canned “just works” solution for the faint of heart. If you’re comfortable working with your computer, however, and want to invest some time in getting it to work, it can certainly be accomplished, and isn’t an unreasonable solution.

Essentially, in this case, you would have to record and encode the content onto your computer first, either from a live stream or a pre-recorded show from your DVR, in much the same way as you would from a FireWire video camera. You could then take the resulting MPEG-2 stream and convert it into an iPod or Apple TV ready format, using any number of the video conversion tools presently available.

The stream that comes out of the FireWire port on a cable or satellite receiver is the same raw MPEG-2 Transport Stream (MPEG2-TS for short) that is being received by the cable/satellite receiver itself. Unfortunately, normal video capture protocols that are used for camcorders do not normally work with cable/satellite receivers and MPEG2-TS streams, so you would need to obtain a software package that can specifically record this stream.

If you’re a Mac user, Apple themselves provide some rudimentary tools that can be used to do this as part of the FireWire SDK available from the Apple Developer Connection site, although a free basic membership registration is required to download it. The AVCVideoCap and VirtualDVHS tools in this package should be all you need to get started.

Copying from DVR to the iPod

For Windows users, special FireWire drivers will also be required, making this something of a more cumbersome solution, and the choice of software will depend largely upon the cable or satellite receiver that you are using, since many of the applications out there use device-specific commands and protocols. If you’re adventurous and want to explore this area, however, a great place to start is with a search through the AV Science Forums.

One very important caveat to all of this, however: More and more cable and satellite companies are transmitting their signals in encrypted form, particularly for their premium and/or HDTV channels. If a channel is encrypted when it is being broadcast, the cable/satellite receiver will simply output the same encrypted stream via the FireWire port. The result of this is that while all of the above can be made to work somewhat smoothly for non-encrypted content, whether it is even practical or not will depend on the content you’re looking to record/convert.



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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.