Two hours have passed since the last TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus update on Backstage, so you can probably guess what that means: so far, the package has converted 1 full TV show from TiVo to iPod format. Here’s how it has worked so far.
After taking 40 minutes to transfer a 36-minute TV show wirelessly from my TiVo to my PC, TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus wasn’t yet ready to let me watch the video on an iPod – it still had to go through the entire process of conversion. Wow. So with the preferences set to MPEG-4 as shown in the preceding Backstage entry, Desktop automatically initiated a background TiVo-to-iPod conversion process, indicated by this little bubble in the bottom of the screen tray. Thankfully, this process can run concurrently with the transferring of the next file from the TiVo, and you can get percentage (not time) progress updates by hovering your cursor arrow over the TiVo icon.
No shock here: the conversion process is painfully slow. On my old PC, which has been out of active use for 2 years now, it took 49 minutes to convert the TiVo/MPEG-2 video file into MPEG-4. Another way to put that: it took me 89 minutes to move a 36-minute TV show from the TiVo into an iPod file, not including the brief period of time it took to add the file to iTunes. (Desktop 2.3 Plus doesn’t handle that last step automatically, unlike Elgato’s EyeTV 2 software.) Your conversion time may vary wildly from this one, depending on the speed of your computer – it could be five times faster, or similar, depending on how old your machine is, but remember, that number most likely will affect only the 49-minute conversion (reducing it to 10 minutes or so), not the initial 40-minute transfer time.
On the bright side, the MPEG-4 file – shrunk from 729 to 220 Megabytes, down to 320×224 resolution, 24kHz stereo audio, 843kbps/second – works almost perfectly in iTunes and on the iPod. In addition to looking roughly as good as the video that is being sold for $1.99 online, save for the added commercials and beginning/end minutes, the MPEG-4 file played back without any sort of problem, and appears to have proper audio/video synchronization. (The sample photos above and below come from an episode on bootlegging that intentionally degrades some of its video, for those curious.) Besides converting the file, Desktop 2.3 Plus properly tags your show by artist and genre from the TiVo’s program guide data, making it appear as a TV Show on the iPod, rather than a generic movie, and takes a stab at titling the episode that isn’t always as clean as the iTunes Music Store’s tag, but acceptable. The tag had the wrong season identification, though, and TiVo Desktop doesn’t have a way to fix that. You’ll need to do it in iTunes, or a superior video tag editor.
More thoughts will follow on this soon, but there’s a mixture of relief and disappointment at this stage: relief that MPEG-4 files work on the iPod, but disappointment that they take so long to transfer/convert, and can’t be processed under Mac OS. Admittedly, it’s much easier to occupy a spare PC with conversion tasks all day, but having an end-to-end Mac solution would be so much nicer.