New Set-top boxes that can record, pause and play live TV broadcasts are flooding the market, but I'm sure some of you are still stuck with your older set-top box designed to just receive satellite TV signals and display them on your TV. In order to record and pause live TV broadcast signals, you need to upgrade your older set-top box to a newer one which has the facility to record and pause live TV. These set-top boxes are available only with the satellite TV broadcast companies such as Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel, Reliance Big TV and others. The older set-top box won’t fetch you anything and you would have to pay for the newer one which can set you back almost Rs 5,000 or more (plus taxes and installation charges applicable in certain cases). These set-top boxes have a built-in hard drive (approximately a 160 GB or a 250 GB SATA hard drive) which can record up to 200 hours of television videos and pause up to 30 minutes of live TV.
The drawback of these recording-capable set-top boxes is that you can only record them and watch them on that particular set-top box. You can't transfer these recorded videos to any other media player and you can't burn them on a DVD and store them. So what if you want to record a good classic movie on HBO or a particular documentary on the Discovery Science or an animated series on Cartoon Network? We have a solution you could consider –
Here we shall show you how you can pause and record live TV broadcasts by using your existing set-top box, be it from a well-known satellite TV service provider, free-to-air Doordarshan STB or your local cable operator’s CAS STB. Well, you do have an option to install a TV tuner card on a PC or a laptop and get the same environment, but you would be restricted in certain ways—dedicating a computer for TV viewing and wasting unnecessary electricity by using it.
Rear Connections on an STB and DVR
I recommend using a DVR. The DVR we used in the test is an Ellion Digital product and the model is the HMR-350H. You can find some more updated products on ‘www.elliondigital.com’. The HMR-350H is an HD multimedia player which can house a desktop SATA hard drive of up to 1 TB capacity and can play music, videos and photos in addition to recording videos from an external source. But this one can only record standard definition videos (576p) via the composite video input. There are no video recorders presently that can record in full 1080p or 1080i using the HDMI interface for general use.
So basically the method involves a few connections that crisscross between the set-top box, the DVR and the television set. Once you have the connections fixed, you can go right ahead and enjoy the pleasure of pausing and recording live television broadcasts and viewing them at your convenience. A simple upgrade of the firmware for the HMR-350H gave us the possibility of scheduled recording and now I can record videos when I am not at home. A drawback of course—I have to keep the set-top box switched on and the DVR on standby mode whenever I have a scheduled recording setup. Also, as other set-top boxes with recording features from satellite TV companies have the option of recording from one channel while you are watching another, you cannot do this here because there is only one tuner on your set-top box.
If you want that feature too, you can use another set-top box and connect it accordingly. This can help you watch one channel while the other channel is recording at the same time. Take a good look at the wiring diagram given in this article and set your connections accordingly. There are options given in the diagram which enable you to watch TV without recording too. These are as follows:
Various connectibity options
HDMI from DVR to TV. This will output the signals from your DVR to the TV in full HD. You can watch, record and pause TV and playback your stored videos and music from the internal DRV’s storage without making any connection changes.
Component video from DVR to TV. Same as Option A for TVs and monitors that does not feature the HDMI port.
Composite video from DVR to TV. Same as Option B for TVs that do not feature component or HDMI inputs.
HDMI from set-top box to TV. To switch directly from DRV to TV incase you don’t want to record any programs. You can switch off the DVR completely.
Same as Option D with component video connections
Note: The availability of a DVR, similar to this one used here, is pretty difficult in India as the Indian law does not permit recording of television broadcasts for piracy purposes. Though TV tuners can record TV broadcasts, you can still record videos. Piracy of videos, rebroadcast, distribution and other forms of video distribution/sale is strictly against the law.