Tech Help Needed

Posted: September 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 25 Comments »

Need some recording advice from anyone who knows about HD video.    

From the early 90’s through 2010 I recorded games using VCRs, with some DVD stuff mixed in.  In 2011 I went to only DVDs.

This year I finally upgraded to HD TV.  Slow, I know.  I assumed you could copy games onto DVD, but then did some reading and found out that isn’t practical.

I then figured I would explore recording the games onto an external hard drive.  I did some reading on DirecTV forums and one big issue is that if you have the drive attached to the receiver and the receiver dies, the new receiver will not “match” the hard drive and the files won’t be accessible.

I’ve previously heard of attaching the external hard drive to a computer.  If you copy files onto this…are they permanently safe?  I want to be able to access games for years, not just temporarily.

I miss my VCRs.  Life was simple.  Right now I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

Ideas?  Advice?


25 Comments on “Tech Help Needed”

  1. 1 aerochrome2 said at 4:20 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    Not a complete help, but I know that all hard drives have somewhat limited shelf-lives. You could always re-back everything onto a new one in four-five years and repeat, or maybe look into a cloud backup service like dropbox (HD games may kill storage limits though).

  2. 2 Matthew Verhoog said at 4:29 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    Hard drives are limited in Read-Write cycles. If you record on them, and then put them on a shelf they will be safe

  3. 3 Matthew Verhoog said at 6:28 AM on September 5th, 2012:

    I realize looking at this it’s technically not correct, Solid state drives have a limited read/write, regular hard drives wear out because the phyical components break down, if they are not spinning the chances of a failure are extremely low. once upon a time hard drives were pretty reliable, but then came Napster, and downloading, and endless read/write cycles and boom, all the hard drives started failing.

  4. 4 Jason Hutt said at 1:10 PM on September 4th, 2012:

    He could invest in a Solid State drive which would last longer, but they’re probably too expensive for the amount of space he would need.

  5. 5 aceandson said at 4:22 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    Anything on an external drive is as “safe” as an external drive can be.

    Which is to say: crapshoot, and you’ll need to back it up.

    It’s a good idea, though.

    On another note, just listened to the latest podcast. Mary Hardin-Baylor was founded as Baylor Women’s College in the 1840s (before TX was a state). I don’t know if there’s any official connection any more. Any more than Georgetown and St. Joseph’s are related.

  6. 6 Ben Firth said at 4:39 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    Burning the files onto blu ray discs will be a much safer backup than an additional hard drive.

  7. 7 Anders said at 4:45 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    Agree, blue rays are the safest way and aint any different than a VCR in use (I dont understand why DVD aint practical?). If you dont want to use blue rays or DVDs, I suggest setting up a server in Raid 1 with server rated HDs

  8. 8 deg0ey said at 5:05 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    DVD wouldn’t be practical because even when you get into dual layer you have a maximum capacity of about 12GB per disc. If Tommy’s recording in HD, then he’ll be looking at files that are somewhere in the region of 7GB/hour; not gonna fit an entire football game onto one DVD.

  9. 9 Neil said at 4:47 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    I’m not sure how prices have changed over the last few years, but bluray burners used to be prohibitively expensive. And then, does the recording device burn to bluray itself, or would you have to have an external hard drive to transfer files to your PC to burn them there?

  10. 10 Ben Firth said at 6:59 AM on September 4th, 2012:

    They’ve come down to reasonable levels. E.g.
    A burner for $60. It’s not the fastest, but if you’re just doing one or two at a time it wouldn’t really matter.
    Personally I’d record, then transfer to bluray.

  11. 11 the guy said at 4:41 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    I can’t speak towards how you want to record the games, but if it were me, I would look at getting a disk array device with RAID. The problem with a single external HD is that it is meant for backup, not for primary storage. If the HD dies, you lose it all.

    I don’t know how much you know about this stuff, so I’ll explain:
    Essentially a disk array is a small computer that just does storage. If you have a gigabit (1000Mb) network I’d look at NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices, which would give you the flexibility to read and write to the disk array without having it attached to a specific PC. It just joins your network like another computer or a network printer. If you don’t have 1Gb Ethernet, it would probably be uncomfortably slow to copy large video files, so you should look at a USB/Firewire device. Many disk arrays have USB, Firewire, *and* Gb Ethernet connections, so you can get one of those and use which is right for you at any given moment.
    The real value of RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is that you typically put 2-4 hard disks in the device, meaning a single hard drive failure (which are relatively common) wouldn’t result in lost data.
    These devices tend to run in the $200-400 range, and frequently don’t come with the HDs (must get them separately) There are some other complexities involved. If this seems like the kind of solution you want to go with, let me know and I can try to help.

  12. 12 Jason Hutt said at 1:01 PM on September 4th, 2012:

    I think this is the best suggestion. I personally use a Buffalo 2TB LinkStation in a RAID 1 config (where 1 hard drive is mirrored on a 2nd hard drive) and it has served me well. It has a nice notification system that emails you in the event of problems with either of the drives. It’s also relatively affordable.

  13. 13 Neil said at 4:41 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    The receiver should save the videos to a specific file format, which is denoted at the end of the file name after a period.

    video.avi or wmv or mkv, etc.

    If you have to replace the receiver and the new one doesn’t read the old files, it is probably because of some compatibility issue with the format. So say receiver A writes to .mkv, but receiver B was not made to support that format. If that happened to you, you could hook up the external hard drive to your PC and play the videos with a good playback program like VLC, but I would think receivers are being made nowadays with pretty good range of compatibility.

    Besides that, there is the matter of a physical failure in any hard drive. The way you can think about that is, you buy a new hard drive and within a month it has a maybe 10% chance of failing based on manufacturer, but after maybe three to six months the chance of failure will be less than 1% until it is about five years old, maybe longer if it is being used only sporadically like external hard drives tend to. The prudent move here is to just have two hard drives with all of your files on both to guarantee nothing can happen to your files, but even with just one the risk of loss is fairly negligible.

  14. 14 Neil said at 4:49 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    Something else to consider: if you stop being able to watch the videos because of format issues, you can almost surely move the files to your PC and use conversion software to redo them in a more compatible format.

  15. 15 Alex Karklins said at 5:07 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    I can’t give you advice on actually recording the games, but I will chime in and say that you probably shouldn’t save them at the highest resolution unless you have the funds to pay for a lot of storage. I’d recommend compressing the video files to something manageable, like a 720p mp4 file encoded in h.264. You’ll still get video that’s better than DVD quality and you won’t max out your hard drive as quickly. Handbrake ( is an excellent (and free) media encoder.

  16. 16 A_T_G said at 5:48 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    And after the files are compressed they should fit onto DVDs, wouldn’t they? So Tommy could burn them after compressing them and just keep the ones he want easy access to on the hard drive.

  17. 17 GlennNovi said at 9:24 PM on September 3rd, 2012:

    It depends on how deep you want to get into and how much you want to spend. Truthfully DVD AND BluRay is going away (believe it or not) and everything is going to be file based. Might be a good idea to start now and move your stuff to a file based media center (sounds scary but it is basically a computer hooked to a hard drive.) This way you can move stuff around and not have to worry as much about compatibility. You would just have to decided what device you want to playback on and where then go from there. For instance say you want to playback on your living room TV with your xbox then you would be converting all your videos for that set up. It can get a little confusing at first but once you get things set up you will wonder what you did without it. Let me know if you need more ideas or specifics. I would be glad to help out THE Tommy Lawlor!!!

  18. 18 Ben Firth said at 4:33 AM on September 4th, 2012:

    Looking into it, I think it will be very difficult to backup the files from the directv dvr because of digital copy protection. The easiest way would probably be to get a recording box that accepts component (YPbPr) as that signal won’t be protected and use that for games. Then it’s just a matter of connecting that box to a pc for backup (preferably to a physical disk like blu ray, as I said earlier). HDMI signals are pretty much impossible to capture. Then just use the directv box for recording your tv shows.

  19. 19 Eric said at 6:40 AM on September 4th, 2012:

    Tommy if you are using DirecTV go to and ask the guys there. I would bet they would have some ideas for you. I think you would probably not want to store HD for long periods of time it would require a ton of storage.

  20. 20 Kelvin said at 10:51 AM on September 4th, 2012:

    Backing up with a hard drive is a solid idea.. For my films for school We always transfer the file onto a hard drive. The file will always be there when you need it.. I always keep two files.. 1 on my comp and 1 on my hard drive.. If your comp craps out you will still have the files saved on your drive..From there you can then copy the selected file/files to a disc if you like.. I have done it many times.

  21. 21 aceandson said at 1:00 PM on September 4th, 2012:

    And you’re just getting HD now?

    For reals, the games are going to look so much better, for reals.

  22. 22 jbird1785 said at 4:54 PM on September 4th, 2012:

    I don’t have much experience with DirectTV, so things may be different, but I’ll tell you what I know regarding cable.

    There isn’t really an ideal solution. The media companies have made a mess of this. I think you have three choices.

    1. DVR+external hard drive. It manages the video files well enough and you should have enough storage. Probably would let you record multiple games at once. If the receiver breaks or the hard drive dies, you are SOL. If you ever want to upgrade to a bigger external hard drive you are also SOL.
    2. Bluray or DVD recorder. I don’t know of one that takes an analog or digital HD input, so this will downgrade the quality to SD resolution.
    3. PC+HD PVR. You’d need a PC near your TV with plenty of storage, although you could always add more later. You’d also need something like this: You would hook that up to your computer as well as your DirectTV receiver. It will record whatever is coming out of the receiver, so be careful with hitting menu buttons. This will record an AVCHD file to the computer. If you hook up the PC to the TV, you can view the AVCHD file right on the computer, otherwise you can burn it to bluray or DVD(providing it isn’t too big) and then most recent bluray players will play it.

    Those are in order of decreasing recording ease and increasing flexibility with the recording afterwards.

  23. 23 TommyLawlor said at 5:19 PM on September 4th, 2012:

    Someone else made a similar suggestion to this. I’m looking into it.

  24. 24 jbird1785 said at 11:40 PM on September 4th, 2012:

    If you go with the third option, I don’t recommend using a laptop. Preferably a specific computer built for it, but at least a normal desktop. Like others mentioned, hardware wise, RAID might be good if you find the data important enough or just another hard drive you back up to.

    Also, remember that there is a shelf life to burned DVDs. No one seems to have a good idea of how long: anywhere between 5 and 30 years.

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