I have gotten a lot of great response from a post about how to fix a problem with muting and the Comcast DVR. So I thought that I would share another great tip about the cool box, how to get the video off of it and onto your Mac. I currently have two of these DVR boxes, interestingly enough both are a little different. The good news is this technique works on both. The second box that I got, has a eSATA port on it, which I find very interesting. I have not tried to do anything with it yet, but I will let you know when I do.
So you want to get the digital video off of the DVR and onto your Mac. Well you can do it, kind of. Unfortunately there are issues with this technique that are beyond our control. The cable company can add copy protection to the signal, which makes it impossible to watch. As of now, I have not found a way to get around this. The good new is that the local channels (channels that would be broadcast over the air) must remain unencrypted. Now that we got that out of the way, here is how you do it.
Start with the Motorola Dual-Tuner DVR High-Definition Set-Top DCT6412 or similar unit. As I mentioned, I got mine from Comcast, but I think there are other cable companies like Cox that use the same box. Then you will need a Mac and a standard firewire cable (six pin to six pin). I recommend that you run the latest version of OS X, as I have not tried this with anything other than Tiger.
Next you will need to download the FireWire SDK 22 for Mac OS X from Apple. This developers tool kit provides a cool app called AVCVideoCap. NOTE: FireWire SDK 22 for Mac OS X is the latest version at the time I am writing this. There may be a newer version by the time you read this. Anyway download and install the SDK.
Now you have everything that you need to get started. As a safety measure you may want to shutdown you computer and DVR before you connect them with the firewire cable.
1. Connect the the DVR and the Mac with the firewire cable.
2. Open the AVCVideoCap application. (it is located in the developer tools folder
3. If all is good with the world you should see your DVR listed in the device window, select it. In the image above there is no device listed, so if your screen looks like that, there is a problem.
4. Turn your DVR to the channel that you want to record (you can also do this through the computer in the next step).
5. Note the EMI status. This is what will tell you if the video is copy protected or not. Copy Freely means that you can record it no problem. Copy Once, means that you can copy it, but you will not be able to view it.
6. Select the capture from device button, you get a dialog box with some more options. They are pretty much self explanatory, so fill them out and start recording.
The file that you will record is a MPEG-2 transport stream. So you will have a file that will end in .m2t. Since these are not really common file type they can be a bit complicated to play. The best app to use to view these files is the VLC media Player. This app should play these files without any issues.
For more advanced use, and conversion I recommend two more programs. The first is MPEG streamclip, a great quicktime based MPEG app. And since you will be working with MPEG-2 you will need to buy the MPEG-2 playback component for QuickTime. You may want to try things out before you shell out 20 bucks, but it does make life easier.
And that is it. While it might sound kind of complicated it is rather easy and fun. It is really cool to be able to view these high definitions videos on the computer. Apple has clearly laid the groundwork for someone to create a Mac DVR app, it is just to bad that copyright is such and issue with this type of stuff. But as and alternative, there is a cool product called eyetv hybrid that looks really cool. I have not tried this, but I would love to get my hands on one. When and if I do, I will let you know what I think.