The Hauppauge HD-PVR is essentially a video capture card (in a box) that is capable of grabbing video from high definition sources, such as a cable DVR or a game console such as the Xbox 360 or PS3. It will handle up to 1080i sources, though I prefer to grab a progressive source such as 720p. This is set in the recording software. For instance, I use a program on the Mac known as EyeTV from Elgato. You have the option in the preferences to set the quality of the recording. Files are captured in a proprietary container with an .eyetv extension. You can transcode (which means converting without re-encoding) to an MPEG 4 file as well as an mt2s version for further manipulation/editing. You also have the option to export to a variety of different formats such as iPhone, or iPad/AppleTV versions, with correspondingly long encoding times.

The HD-PVR will take a component video signal (the red, green, and blue cables) in. The signal is then sent via USB to the computer (either Mac or PC) and the software then does the job of capture. The component signal is also passed through so that it may be displayed on a monitor or HDTV with component in. The unit needs to be powered on to pass the signal.

An example of using the HD-PVR would be for archiving TV shows from you cable DVR. Connect the component video out from the Cable/Satellite DVR box and input it into the component in on the HD-PVR. Then control the recording with the software on your computer. You can either capture it live from your set-top box or play a recording you have previously saved on the DVR. The HD-PVR will record EVERYTHING it sees on the set-top DVR so you’ll see any interface graphics from the DVR interface in your recordings.

There is definitely a copyright issue to be aware of here. Capturing video from commercial TV that you then re-distribute would be considered illegal. Previous Supreme Court cases have held that the “time-shifting” the VCR enabled was perfectly legal. The likelihood that a media company would prosecute someone for keeping digital recordings in their home of the type the HD-PVR affords is low. However, that is an opinion and NOT legal advice.

All in all, the HD-PVR is another great tool to free your digital media files to be played in your home theater at a moment’s notice.