HD capture cards

Been looking for TV capture cards to add to my home-built PC and I thought I’d HD capability to it. Well, like just about everything that’s near the cutting edge, it’s WAAAYYYY more complicated than it seems. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Over-the-air (OTA) HD broadcast is known as ATSC and, if you want to receive OTA, you need a video capture device that can handle it. To keep things complicated, if you receive HD over a cable, you’re most likely receiving it in QAM (the Wikipedia entry for QAM isn’t too helpful as it discusses the imploementation, not what it implies for HD, so take a look at the entry for HDTV, instead).

OK, so, that covers OTA. Now, where I live, I don’t get too much OTA. I do have Comcast digital cable and they broadcast HD channels so I can mostly rely on their service. It turns out that they put their free (i.e. “local”) HD broadcasts in 256QAM so the capture device must be capable of decoding and decompressing 256QAM with ATSC optional. Well, most capture devices that are billed as digital or HD-compliant can do ATSC but not QAM. So far, I’ve found products from FusionHDTV, in particular, the FusionHDTV5 USB Gold, and the MyHD card.

Note, this doesn’t allow me to receive/decode encoded broadcasts like HBO, Showtime, ESPN, etc. For that, I’ll have to wait for a CableCARD-capable unit )supposedly I can get a card from Comcast in my area but, so far, there are no capture units that accept them).

Alternatives? Well, I’ve got a Motorola DCT6412 DVR (see this Wikipedia entry if you don’t know what a DVR is) that’s HD capable and has a Firewire port onto which it puts whatever channel’s being displayed on the TV. I’ve hooked it up to my PC and have been able to display appropriately-sized video windows (using information from this post to the AVS Forum) but haven’t been able to record anything so far.

So, what am I going to do? I’m not sure yet. I’ll post when I do. If you have any suggestions, please email them to me or post them as comments.

2 thoughts on “HD capture cards”

  1. I bought the FusionHDTV5 USB card to use with MCE. I only get four OTA stations that are good (not jerky, audio in sync) with MCE, though most of the signals are totally fine when using the included software. I also get clear QAM with the FusionHDTV software, but not, of course, with MCE.

    I went into elaborate detail of the setup on my blog if you are at all interested.

  2. Long term, I’m waiting against all odds for a CableCard capable thingy. In the meantime, my current working version is OTA HDTV via an ATI HDTV card on Windows MCE. Next step will be XBOX-360 (with Media Center Extender) hooked up to my main TV so that I can actually view HDTV on my HDTV instead of my PC.

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