Did you know that your cable company most likely provides your local HD channels via clear QAM (i.e. without encryption)? The availability of these channels, through what is know as Clear QAM, is usually not too publicized by your cable company. Clear QAM essentially is unencrypted digital cable without a set-top-box. The digital signal comes through a standard coax cable feed, originating from your cable company.
I am in the process of switching over to capturing shows via Clear QAM. I currently use an indoor antenna and an ASTC tuner card but the reception is just bad enough for me not to want to record anything. Some days the reception is good, some days it is pretty poor. Such reception is fine for the occasional televisions watching but for some reason the occasional stutter really bugs me on a recorded program.
In order to get channels via Clear QAM you need the following items:
1) A QAM tuner like the SiliconDust HDHomeRun ($125). More QAM tuners are hitting the market all the time.
2) A nearby cable TV connection and a splitter. For most people with cable modems near their computer, this should be pretty easy. Take the line going to the cable modem and split it, with one line going to the tuner and one line going to the modem.
3) DVR software. Vista has built in software in Media Center to record TV via QAM. BeyondTV and Sage TV both can record via QAM as well. I currently use BeyondTV.
With the above hardware and software, you can record HD programming wth the following benefits.
- Remove the commercials. This is what separates home theater computers from Tivo and cable DVRs. There are a ton of ways to remove commercials from the recordings. If you are using Vista, try eith LifeExtender or DVRMS Toolbox.
- Encode the file to whatever format you want. This is a personal choice for most people. You can leave the program in its native format or convert it to somehting like DiivX or Xvid.
Recording in HD and removing all the commericals is a great way to archive your favorite shows. Even if you have a high-end CableCard system to record HD cable, Clear QAM offers you the ability to record DRM-free.