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Hardware Support Discussions related to using various hardware setups with SageTV products. Anything relating to capture cards, remotes, infrared receivers/transmitters, system compatibility or other hardware related problems or suggestions should be posted here.

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  #1  
Old 11-28-2007, 07:09 PM
hoorah hoorah is offline
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Question about performance of SageTV recording ATSC in SD on older hardware

Hey guys,

Odd question for you all about performance of Sage w/ HD. Normally I could just search and find my answer, but this question is probably a bit different than most of your situations.

I'm thinking about building a HTPC box for my mother out of a recent donation. Its a Dell Precision 410 (550MHz PIII CPU, whatever ram will work in it (probably 512 - 784 MB), a 40G SCSI HDD, and an old ATI Rage Pro AGP card w/ TV out). Actually, I'm going to build an HTPC box out of this, its just a question of what I can do with it. Heres where the odd part comes
in:

My mother won't pay for cable, and with her needs/wants, I don't blame her.
She's only interested in network shows - House, CSI Miami, Bones, Law and Order, The Office, and Leno. She's never had cable, and has gotten by with a pair of fuzzy rabbit ears since before I was born. So, I know that the PC would be fine if I got a hardware encoding SDTV tuner, but she'd be a perfect candidate to make the switch to ATSC now (better quality, a few more multicast channels, some channels that are too weak she'd get perfect, she'd get the EPG guide, etc).

Now, I obviously realize that the dinky dell can't do HDTV, but she doesn't have an HDTV. So, I'm wondering, is there any hardware encoding ATSC tuner (HD or not) that I can use, set SageTV to only capture/playback 480i from the digital signal, and be within the capabilities of the system?

I currently have a slower PC setup on her TV now for random use (say, I bring a TV show over on a thumbdrive or stick in a digital camera card to look at some photos), but its not user friendly at all, no media interface.
I'm planning on replacing it with this new system, probably put a Sage front end on it (if the ATSC works) and at the very least be able to store a few video files/ripped DVDs, so the ATSC PVR aspect isn't absolutely necessary, but it'd be a nice upgrade for her.

So, has anyone used an ATSC hardware decoder on a slow system and only looked at SD resolution? A hardware upgrade just isn't in the cards for her, not with ATSC tuners being around the corner and hopefully cheap with the government subsidy. I can justify a $75 TV tuner and a software license if she can record her shows, but anything more than that and I'll probably just wait until the ATSC tuners are out (and maybe with PVR functions).

Thanks for any advice, and sorry my first post is so long.
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  #2  
Old 11-28-2007, 08:48 PM
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mayamaniac mayamaniac is offline
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Quote:
SageTV System Requirements
For Hardware Encoding: Intel Pentium III, Celeron or AMD Athlon at 600 MHz or VIA 800MHz or faster. Minimum 128Mb RAM and a Recommended 256Mb RAM
That PC is a bit below system requirement for SageTV, but it might just work. There's some hardware and software costs also. Get a PVR150MCE single tuner ($70) or PVR-500MCE dual tuner ($150), which ever you can afford. And an MVP Media Extender + License ($110) to connect to the TV for playback. And lastly, the SageTV Media Center software ($80). You save some money if you buy the tuner and SageTV software as a bundle. The 40Gb harddrive is bit low, but should be fine if she doesn't record too many show per day.

The PC will do the recordings only. Since the tuner does all the encoding, it is not taxing on the PC speed at all. And the MVP Extender handles all the playback funtions to the TV, which is not taxing on the PC either. You need a router or hub to network connect the PC and the MVP, a crossover cable might work but I'm not 100% sure. You also need a good antenna to make sure the TV signals are good.
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Last edited by mayamaniac; 11-28-2007 at 08:56 PM.
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  #3  
Old 11-28-2007, 09:37 PM
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I'm not sure but I don't see any reason you can't tune SD digital channels, my TVs ATSC tuner picks up both, I just disable the SD versions, you'd just do the opposite.

It should work for recording/playback. I had a similar setup originally with an old ATI all-in-wonder card (which doesn't support hardware encoding) using the S-Video out to the TV and it was OK. You couldn't do much else but it worked as a simple PVR. You're going to need more HD space though. With XP and Sage you're not going to have much space left. HD space is cheap, might even get by with a USB 2.0 card and external HD, it should support PATA drives too.

A simple set of rabit ears can get decent reception for digital, though better antennas are available cheaply and while digital gives good quality it's all or nothing, you don't get poor images, you get no image.
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  #4  
Old 11-28-2007, 09:57 PM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoorah View Post
is there any hardware encoding ATSC tuner
No there isn't, because ATSC is by definition already encoded by the broadcaster. An ATSC tuner doesn't need to do any encoding; it just needs to capture the incoming digital stream to disk.

So your concern is whether you'll be able to play it back with that hardware. I'm not familiar with ATI cards, new or old, but if there's a weak link in your system that's probably where it will be. You may find it worthwhile to spend a few bucks on an up-to-date graphics card.
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Old 11-29-2007, 09:01 AM
hoorah hoorah is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GKusnick View Post
No there isn't, because ATSC is by definition already encoded by the broadcaster. An ATSC tuner doesn't need to do any encoding; it just needs to capture the incoming digital stream to disk.

So your concern is whether you'll be able to play it back with that hardware. I'm not familiar with ATI cards, new or old, but if there's a weak link in your system that's probably where it will be. You may find it worthwhile to spend a few bucks on an up-to-date graphics card.
Thank you for the info, I wasn't aware of how this worked. If its just a matter of playing the content back, thats easy, because the system can easily playback uncompressed (or even compressed) 640x480 (480i?) content, thats no big deal. I suppose the real question is: Can it handle the I/O to record the stream to the disk and play that stream at the same time, assuming I can record 480i/p from the ATSC tuner.

I'm slightly concerned that I would be forced to capture 1080i or 720p from the ATSC source, since thats what its broadcast in (most of the time), which would probably be too much for the machine, even if I'm only playing back SD at 480. I suppose there's only one way to find out, and thats to try it (or see if someone else has tried it).

Thanks for the meaningful responses, most tech forums I would have expected a dozen replies telling me to buy a quad core and 18 gigs of ram for my mother.
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  #6  
Old 11-29-2007, 09:02 AM
hoorah hoorah is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mayamaniac View Post
That PC is a bit below system requirement for SageTV, but it might just work. There's some hardware and software costs also. Get a PVR150MCE single tuner ($70) or PVR-500MCE dual tuner ($150), which ever you can afford. And an MVP Media Extender + License ($110) to connect to the TV for playback. And lastly, the SageTV Media Center software ($80). You save some money if you buy the tuner and SageTV software as a bundle. The 40Gb harddrive is bit low, but should be fine if she doesn't record too many show per day.

The PC will do the recordings only. Since the tuner does all the encoding, it is not taxing on the PC speed at all. And the MVP Extender handles all the playback funtions to the TV, which is not taxing on the PC either. You need a router or hub to network connect the PC and the MVP, a crossover cable might work but I'm not 100% sure. You also need a good antenna to make sure the TV signals are good.
Thanks for the advice, but aren't all of those components analog capture cards? They wouldn't do ATSC, and thats not what I'm looking for.
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  #7  
Old 11-29-2007, 09:13 AM
hoorah hoorah is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djc208 View Post
I'm not sure but I don't see any reason you can't tune SD digital channels, my TVs ATSC tuner picks up both, I just disable the SD versions, you'd just do the opposite.

It should work for recording/playback. I had a similar setup originally with an old ATI all-in-wonder card (which doesn't support hardware encoding) using the S-Video out to the TV and it was OK. You couldn't do much else but it worked as a simple PVR. You're going to need more HD space though. With XP and Sage you're not going to have much space left. HD space is cheap, might even get by with a USB 2.0 card and external HD, it should support PATA drives too.

A simple set of rabit ears can get decent reception for digital, though better antennas are available cheaply and while digital gives good quality it's all or nothing, you don't get poor images, you get no image.
Thanks for the feedback. What kind of card are you using? I have a HDTV myself, but I don't get SD and HD channels on the ATSC tuner, just one channel (that sometimes plays SD content with borders, but is still broadcast in 1080i all the time).

Because my post was so long, I left out a few details about my setup.

First, the computer is hardwired (hate wireless) to the router (running wires through the attic sucked).

Second, it will have a 40G SCSI for local recordings, and I realize thats not a lot, but I also planned on having at least 1 or 2 small drives for the OS (4-6G). This project is on a serious shoestring budget, but I have plenty of otherwise useless drives I could run the OS on, although the performance would suffer over the SCSI. If the drive isn't enough, I have a NAS appliance with 2 250G drives. I realize there may be some issues with throughput to the NAS, but I also have a few other actual computers on the network that I could use the storage from, or I could directly connect one of the 250s to the PVR. Thanks for the heads up about the space though.

Last, the Dell Precision 410 is actually a dual CPU board. It currently has a PII400mhz in it, but I have a PIII550 at home that I know works. I also have a PII450 lying around in a closet somewhere. I know very little about older dual CPU setups, but I wonder if there is a possibility of running the PII450 as a 400 and running 2 cpus? I know, I'm really working with last decades junk, but I'm sure within the next year someone in my family will want a new desktop and will handmedown the old one to the TV, so Im hesitant to purchase anything for it, especially that old.

Thanks again everyone!
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  #8  
Old 11-29-2007, 06:17 PM
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Djc208 Djc208 is offline
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I'm currently running a Hauppage HVR-1600. I switched it to recording clear QAM becuase the signal quality OTA was mixed, so I don't remember if it found all the same channels as my TV but I think so. I do remember that just about every local channel had a SD digital and HD digital sub-channel, sometimes the HD channel did SD content (local news).

Well at about 2GB/hr a 40GB recording drive should give you around 20 hours depending on the video quality. You won't have lots of media but it should work.

Dual CPUs will help prevent slowdowns. You can't split playback across them but it should prevent other tasks (comskip, feeding extenders, etc.) from slowing down the main process.

As long as the HDDs have decent throughput the computer shouldn't have any problem moving the data around. PCI has more than enough bandwith.

I'd buy the tuner card, set up the system install Sage on the free trial and see what you get, if it's not enough to be workable then at most you're out the cost of the tuner card (though it could probably be returned too).
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Gaming: Intel Core2 Duo E7300, 4GB RAM, ATI HD3870, Intel X-25M G2 80GB SSD, 200 & 120 GB HDD, 23" Dell LCD, Windows 7 Home Premium.
Laptop: HP dm3z, AMD (1.6 GHz) 4 GB RAM, 60 GB OCZ SSD, AMD HD3200 graphics, 13.3" widescreen LCD, Windows 7 x64/Sage placeshifter.
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