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HDTV Onto a PC Through FireWire?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-television-required dept.

Television 49

William George asks: "As of April 1st, 2004 it has been required that all cable companies in the United States be able to provide customers, upon request, with a High Definition set-top box with IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connectivity (e-CFR Part 76.640 Section 4 Subsection i). This was designed to allow easier connections between modern TVs, set-top boxes, and digital PVRs. However, it should also allow for a connection to a computer... at least in theory. Well, I am out to test that theory. After extended communication with my local cable company (CableONE) they have arranged to send out a pair of techs to help me try this out. The arrangement is for them to come out on September 22, and with phone support from their corporate offices and Motorola (the company that provides their set-top boxes) we are going to see if it will work.""I have a Windows XP-based PC, and I recently added a 3-port FireWire card specifically to test this out. There is only one problem: software. Macs apparently have software built in for this, but I am having trouble finding a solution for Windows (Linux would be worth trying too, but I have not had any experience with it before). Does anyone out there know of any software for Windows that allows viewing and/or recording of an MPEG-2 transport stream over a FireWire connection? I found one website with a trial version of some software available for download, and I think it might have even been mentioned in a previous Slashdot post. However, their software crashed during installation even though my hardware meets their stated requirements and my FireWire card is based on a TI (Texas Instruments) chipset as they specify. Contact to their tech support resulted in instructions to try again, which I did with no luck. From reading their software description, however, it looks like it is only designed to store the video recording on a computer and then display it back to a TV - which is not what I need anyway. I want to get rid of the TV completely and allow for viewing and recording of pure, digital HDTV directly on a PC. Any ideas or help would be greatly appreciated, and if this works I will set up a website with instructions on how to do it yourself!"

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What about a PCI solution? (2, Informative)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 9 years ago | (#10301851)

What about a solution such as this [] ? This will let you get rid of the cable box entirely. :)

Re:What about a PCI solution? (3, Informative)

mknewman (557587) | more than 9 years ago | (#10301915)

Notice in the "Key Buying Points: S-video, Composite and audio inputs, Dual RF Inputs both HDTV compatible " There is no digital inputs. The beauty of the Firewire/USB2.0 approach is that it's 100% digital. Marc

Re:What about a PCI solution? (4, Informative)

Jherico (39763) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302013)

That almost certainly won't work. Cable carried HDTV content is not in the same format as airwave carried HDTV content. The coaxial inputs on the card you suggest will probably not be able to interpret the cable signal and convert it to HDTV data. In many areas the HD content available over a cable box is going to be more extensive that what you will get over an antenna. On the other hand most cable companies will encrypt all the channels except the over the air ones (which they are prevented by law from encrypting) meaning the firewire data is worthless anyway.

I haven't found a solution yet for capturing the HDTV data over the firewire port yet, though I have a mac for this purpose. The mac is unable to render the HD content because its an old G4 400Mhz, but it can stream it to disk just fine and I'm able to use a cross platform tool [] to render the saves streams on my PC. In practice this ends up being more trouble than I'm usually willing to go through, since I can't actually do this for movies (because of the encryption as stated above) but its what I've got. This does at least let you play the MPEG-2 streams on a PC.

Re:What about a PCI solution? (1)

Beatbyte (163694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302051)

or he gets the cable box for dirt cheap and the firewire card for $15 at wal mart and gets more flexibility ;)

Re:What about a PCI solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10313701)

That's for terrestrial broadcasts, not cable. You would want this: sion3qt.asp
which STILL cannot decode encrypted broadcasts.

As usualy, no one answered his question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10354292)

As usualy, no one answered his question, but instead suggested hardware and other crap that was not what he wanted.

First, the firewire port is not for streamning live video to another display device... nice in theory but it isn't even speced for that. It is speced for connection to a storage device... i.e. the digial VCR.

Second, there certainly is software for a PC that makes is a firewire based DVCR for use with the firewire port on set-top boxes. It is called FireBus [] .

FireBus is a software only DTV recorder, that will use your W2k or XP personal computer to record and play back HD and SD TV using the firewire interface in your HD tuner, cable box, or HDTV.

It records in native Transport Stream (.TS files) that can be converted to other formats by a few readily available applications.

HDTV over firewire (4, Interesting)

mknewman (557587) | more than 9 years ago | (#10301868)

I wonder if this ruling applies to DirecTV, Dish and VOOOM also? I know the Tivo HDTV unit has USB 2.0 but no firewire. Marc

Re:HDTV over firewire (5, Informative)

paul_friedman (741288) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302014)

These guys: [] will add FireWire to your DirecTV, Dish STBs so that you can do this. They also provide a How-To guide for recording in High-Def.

These are not the forums you are looking for (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10302086)

You should probably head on over to the and spend a few days searching and reading there. You'll find out almost all you need to know if you learn how to navigate (and learn how to protect your eyes from the wicked garish color scheme). The avsforum is large and noisy, but has tons and tons of gems for hdtv geeks.

For example, you'll find out that you won't get your cable company's on screen display through the firewire port of the motorola box, which may be a serious problem for you*. You'll also find a big community of PC users hashing out the same firewire-to-PC issues you are.

*They may have updated the box to fix this, and this may be a comcast-only problem.

HDMI (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302140)

Is this HDMI?

I have a Wega television with an HDML receptical. It'd be very cool to get an all-digital connection with that.

Re:HDMI (2, Informative)

Jahf (21968) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302605)

No, 1394 and HDMI are not compatible. HDMI is essentially the next rev of DVI and you can connect DVI HDMI for video. 1394 uses a different signal altogether from DVI and HDMI.

Re:HDMI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10350645)

I use the HDMI port on my LCOS wega to connect to my PC. It takes a lot to set it up (custom drivers, powerstrip ap, service menu overscan changes). It looks great.

Possible softwares? (2, Informative)

Goyuix (698012) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302235)

Check out [] - they have some examples of how to setup your PC and record/play using DirectShow filters. Not the absolute brain dead click one button approach you might like, but it could get you started.

I would also like to cast my vote that avsforums is the place to look. You will likely spend many hours searching and reading, but you will likely find a tons of useful info from people who are already doing more or less what you are trying to pull off.

Re:Possible softwares? (1)

LazyBoy (128384) | more than 9 years ago | (#10304285)

This appears to let you talk to D-VHS decks. Will it let you emulate one? And talk to a cable box and TV?

Try this Linux software. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10302241)

Try this software out: []

It's designed for D-VHS streaming, which is a similar testcase. Keep in mind that VideoLAN works natively with MPEG2-TS as well: []

DTC Record (1)

patman1 (70075) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302337)

I have no experience with this, but found this a few months ago on &p ostid=3768065#post3768065

I'm looking into doing the same thing since I have a Motorola Comcast HD tuner with Firewire, a Freevo pc & a NEC 42MP3 (with DVI out) at home.

Warning tho, this software sounds very clunky. That's why I have yet to try it out myself.

you might want Linux for this (1)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302351)

I know you don't have Linux installed, but you might still want to look at knoppix based mythtv []

I've not used it myself, but it's comparable to WIndows Media center edition without the Digital Rights management issues. if Linux sees firewire video feeds like it would a TV tuner card, MythTV would be like usig a TIVO for your HDTV.

Re:you might want Linux for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10304305)

if Linux sees firewire video feeds like it would a TV tuner card, MythTV would be like usig a TIVO for your HDTV.
But Linux doesn't, and MythTV doesn't.

Re:you might want Linux for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10311367)

maybe OHCI-1394 Video Support ist not compiled into the kernel (or module)

The broadcast flag may prevent this (3, Informative)

__david__ (45671) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302550)

Next year, when manufacturers are required to implement the broadcast flag, you will not be able to use your computer to view programs that are protected (channel 7 in LA (ABC) now sets the broadcast flag for almost all content). This is because protected content is required to be transmitted accross 1394 encrypted by DTCP (an encryption/key management standard). The DTCP license explicitly disallows the use of the standard on a computer. Specifically, it does not allow unencrpyted data to go across a PCI bus which rules out all firewire interfaces to your computer.

You can only get the details of DTCP if you sign a contract that says you owe them $8,000,000 if you leak any details of the standard.

So you will be SOL as more and more programs get the broadcast flag.


easy solution for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10302643)

stop watching TV

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (2, Funny)

cft_128 (650084) | more than 9 years ago | (#10303112)

The DTCP license explicitly disallows the use of the standard on a computer. Specifically, it does not allow unencrpyted data to go across a PCI bus which rules out all firewire interfaces to your computer.

Thank god for PCI Express [] .

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (1)

Jherico (39763) | more than 9 years ago | (#10304505)

I doubt DTCP will last any longer than the DVD encryption standard did. All this does is delay the software PC pirates will use by a couple of months and completely disallow any legitimate market for HD on PC's via firewire.

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (2, Informative)

__david__ (45671) | more than 9 years ago | (#10305732)

I doubt DTCP will last any longer than the DVD encryption standard did.
As much as I wish this would be true, the DTCP is much more secure than the DVD copy protection scheme. It uses Diffie-Hellman and eliptic curve stuff for the key negotiation and though it uses an encryption method comparable to DES for the data (ie, weak by todays standards), it rotates the key often enough to make it really difficult to break.

If it is broken it will likely be confined to specific devices, not a global hack like the DVD encryption breakage turned out to be.

Unless, of course, someone steals the top level DTCP top level private key. But I suspect they guard that vigorously.


Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (1)

Jherico (39763) | more than 9 years ago | (#10309477)

the DTCP is much more secure than the DVD copy protection scheme

Perhaps in an ideal world. In the real world you'll end up with things like cable boxes that have an undocumented sequence of commands to disable encryption, company's choosing laughably simple keys to guess, and so on. I still think that tactics like these will never stop dedicated pirates, only hurt potential markets.

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (1)

esanbock (513790) | more than 9 years ago | (#10315313)

If you can see/hear the content, you can steal the content. One way or another, someone will intercept the keys. Even if it means taking apart a TV

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#10321145)

Only if the HDTV recieving device chooses to actually honor the 'broadcast flag' though.

Forget cracking the encryption, just find a simple hardware mod to let the machine think there's no flag.

Ie; Who cares how cryptographically secure MS-Signed Xbox games are, we'll just replace the BIOS with one that runs unsigned code.

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (1)

__david__ (45671) | more than 9 years ago | (#10326524)

Yes, but my original point was that hacking a TV or set top box to send out cleartext video that was supposed to be encrypted is going to be difficult. And it is going to be near/completely impossible to do this directly from a computer with no hack on any of the other equipment.

People compare this with DVD cracking, but that was a walk in the park compared to this. There will be no 3 line perl script to unencrypt HDTV.

The X-Box is almost an apt comparison. Yes, it's hackable now, but it took a while and the X-Box is a fairly stable and widely owned product. There are nowhere near as many HDTVs as there are X-Boxes. And each new TV has to be hacked--There is no global hack that you can use on them all. They all have different OSes and different ways of protecting themselves. Not only that, year to year the TV's are changing drastically. Just because one year it gets hacked, doesn't mean the next year's model will be susceptable to the same hack. Whereas most of the X-Boxes are the same, if not very similar (again, as far as I know--I don't own an X-Box). Not to mention that the X-Box is running a very familiar architecture--these TVs run on many different micros, not plain old pentiums.

I'm just pointing out that it's not going to be as easy as some here seem to suggest. I don't mean to suggest that it shouldn't be done... But it may be easier to convince the FCC to get rid of the stupid broadcast flag requirement... Ok, maybe not. :-)


the giant, sucking, hole (2, Informative)

poptones (653660) | more than 9 years ago | (#10314121)

Of course, that all depends on no one being able to get 1394 chips that have this encryption. Fact is, there are already plenty of them on the market. and they have serial interfaces just like D/A convertors (how do you think those 169 folks add 1394 interfaces to set top boxes?).

this is the giant hole I wrote about a year ago, and thus far I see no one addressing it. I suppose the industry expects no one will offer PCI cards for sale that have, say, a TI 1394 interface chip on it - but given the NWO and the fact most of the rest of the world doesn't have any law against it, I expect this "security" will be moot from the day it begins. Worse case is you end up sending your source device to a tweaker who will just disable the encryption either in firmware or by replacing the 1394 chip with a pin-compatible device that lacks the encryption "feature." []

Re:the giant, sucking, hole (1)

__david__ (45671) | more than 9 years ago | (#10320473)

It doesn't matter if you have a chip that supports the 5C and M6 encryption. Unless you have a key signed with the DTLA's private key, no other device will talk to you. And, say you get a key, they protect against that too. Every device is required to implement a viral SRM list--a black list of sorts. Once a key makes it onto the black list no other device will talk to it again...

Changing the firmware is probably the only option. But some chip makers have made that difficult.

Replacing the chip with a pin compatible device that lacks the encryption feature might work if it's on the TV, though just because it's pin compatible doesn't mean the TV's firmware can't check to make sure the encryption option is installed (and refuse to work with it if it isn't).

There is no gaping hole that I can see. I don't think it's unbreakable or anything, but it's going to be a lot harder than the DVD encryption problem ever was.


you really think (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 9 years ago | (#10323317)

they are going to get away with using the blacklist? There are already thousands (if not millions) of units in the field (Pioneer, for one, uses that TI chip) and "blacklisting" either Pioneer or TI will result, in effect, the DTLA functionally destroying those devices.

I specifically mentioned source devices for a reason. But since you did mention it I really don't believe that "blacklist" is going to survive past the class action suit that will arise from the first time they use it.

Re:you really think (1)

__david__ (45671) | more than 9 years ago | (#10326471)

Well, I hear there are already devices on the blacklist, though I haven't seen it first-hand.

And they couldn't blacklist TI, since the TI chip doesn't have any built in keys or or identifying info (from the 5c/1394 side). They can (as far as I know) only blacklist individual devices. They can blacklist *your* Pioneer VCR, and not mine, for instance.


Disney owns ABC (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 9 years ago | (#10316134)

channel 7 in LA (ABC) now sets the broadcast flag for almost all content

That's to be expected of The Walt Disney Company. Boycott Disney [] by watching other channels instead, and your problems go away.

Re:The broadcast flag may prevent this (1)

enrico_suave (179651) | more than 9 years ago | (#10321634)

to clarify... The manufacturers will be required to implement devices that honor the broadcast flag after July 2005 (i think). BUT any card/etc manufactured BEFORE then is grandfathered in.

We can only hope there's a stockpile of broadcast flag-less devices somewhere next to the atari 2600 ET cartridges. =)

hopefully the ruling will be twarted/revoked by then... (one can hope)


I want a card that supports QAM HD not just OTA... (1)

heldlikesound (132717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302633)

I am specing out a HTPC, and am amazed that there is only one option, the just released Fusion 3 (not sure of the company name), for PCI or AGP cards that can decode HDTV from a cable source (QAM).

From user feedback, it doesn't even seem to work that well. I know the new All In Wonder HD is out, but it only works with OTA (Over the air) signals, bleh...

There goes my dream of a HD PVR....

Mac OS X vs HDTV... (2, Informative)

beerits (87148) | more than 9 years ago | (#10302894)

This doesn't answer the poster's question but Mac users can checkout this [] article at [] . The software is not built into Mac OS X but it is a free download from ADC.

Fucked now or fucked later -- take your pick. (2, Insightful)

GoRK (10018) | more than 9 years ago | (#10303380)

The firewire ports on cable boxes mandated by the FCC do deliver you an MPEG2-TS data; unfortunately, in most markets, the stream is encrypted on most if not all of the channels. There are several encryptoin methods; the most common algorithm is 5C. The EFF made an appeal to the FCC to require any HDTV content that is broadcast OTA in the same market be transport unencrypted on the cable network, but the appeal was denied.

Even if you get something working now, all they have to do is begin to encrypt the HDTV stream(s) that you can get from the firewire port and then you are fucked again. If you have a really nice cable company, you might be lucky enough to get a decrypted stream; however, the broadcast flag mandate will ensure that this stream either be envrypted or downsampled to no more than 480p if output via some "insecure" medium such as firewire or DVI-D.

The best thing you can do now is to buy an OTA HDTV tuner for your PC. In the future (and to a lesser extent now), you will probably be able to buy some grey-market sort of modifications to cable boxes to enable full-resolution firewire output. In a way, because of this, I'm at least glad the firewire mandate exists - at least it will be a little easier to hack.

Re:Fucked now or fucked later -- take your pick. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10314698)

as long as its not fucked by you....

April 1st? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 9 years ago | (#10303520)

This is a real requirement right, and not a stale April Fools gag that someone still doesn't get?

(Disclaimer: I'm not in the US and therefore don't really care.)

AVS Forum Firewire Recording Discussion (2, Interesting)

gmb61 (815164) | more than 9 years ago | (#10303865)

Here is a good discussion on recording Firewire to Windows XP: hreadid=403695

Here you go (3, Informative)

LiNT_ (65569) | more than 9 years ago | (#10304235)

Read here [] and here [] . The second link is mainly for Mac's but also has a bunch of relevant information.

I also suggest you ask further questions on this topic over at the AVS forum. Slashdot is great but for this type of thing, you'll get better info over there.

easy to misinterpret summary (3, Interesting)

jbloggs (535329) | more than 9 years ago | (#10304604)

It says they will REPLACE, not give at will: (4) Cable operators shall: (i) Effective April 1, 2004, upon request of a customer, replace any leased high definition set-top box, which does not include a functional IEEE 1394 interface, with one that includes a functional IEEE 1394 interface or upgrade the customer's set-top box by download or other means to ensure that the IEEE 1394 interface is functional.

Re:easy to misinterpret summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10310181)

They'll swap STBs as the stocks come in. The biggest issue is that the 1394 signal is encrypted using 5C. So you can forget hooking up a PC.

Pinnacle's Studio... (1)

marcus (1916) | more than 9 years ago | (#10305173)

...for DVD authoring will capture from a digital camcorder over firewire. It is just a DVI interface as I recall.

Whether this translates to your cable box interface or not I don't know...

Good luck and keep us informed.

Microsoft Movie Maker (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10306728)

I'm a little far from a Microsoft advocate (and I run Linux myself) but I was pleasantly surprised when I tried to do some Firewire video work on my wife's PC last weekend. In the latest version of Windows XP she has something called Movie Maker and this did the trick without much fanfare. It's not too sophisticated - you couldn't schedule recordings or similar - but for getting video data from a Firewire feed, at least as a proof of concept, it should do the trick.

It was better than the software that came with our camcorder, anyway.

Re:Microsoft Movie Maker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10349674)

We're not talking about DV over firewire. The software to do that comes with every firewire card, and as you saw for yourself, with XP. We're looking at an HDTV transport stream over firewire, carrying MPEG2, not standard def DV.

Bad news about the VividLogic software (3, Informative)

3waygeek (58990) | more than 9 years ago | (#10306857)

I've had a Motorola DCT-6200 box for about 6 months now, and spent quite a bit of time over at AVSforum checking out the various threads related to HD recording. One thing to be aware of is that you need proper firmware on the Moto box; you need at least version 7.10 for proper 1394 support. I bring this up because I was stuck with version 7.07 until about a month ago, when I was upgraded to 7.15; the upgrade is downloaded off the cable, so it has to be instigated by the provider (something to keep in mind when the techs visit you on Wednesday).

Bummer about the VividLogic software -- I've been considering it for some time, and have almost bought it on several occasions. However, given your experiences and those of AVSforum members that have had similar outcomes, I'll probably give it a miss.

In my spare time, I've been working (very slowly) on an XP driver for the DCT-6200 boxes; it's going slowly because there's not much doc for streaming video drivers, even less doc for MS's AV/C and 1394 drivers, and none at all for the DCT-6200's AV/C capabilities (i.e. what commands the box recognizes, etc.).

I've been recording HD content to a Mac OS X box for some time using the free VirtualDVHS app that's part of the Apple Firewire SDK mentioned in another post [] . You can pick up an old blue & white G3 Mac (the oldest/cheapest Mac that can handle the job) for a few hundred off eBay; that's what I did. Note that the Mac solution works even with the old 7.07 firmware.

You mentioned Linux -- you might want to check out the lib1394 project. Some people over at AVSforum have reported success using it with the Moto boxes.

DVTS. (1)

josh3736 (745265) | more than 9 years ago | (#10322147)

A little app that might be worth a shot is DVTS [] . The purpose of this suite is to encapsulate DV streams into IP packets. (I've used it before with a SD camera, it's actually pretty cool. Firewire in one computer, out the Ethernet to another, and out of that computer's Firewire.) It has a tool called dvsave that basically dumps the DV stream to your hard drive. Whether or not this app would work with HDTV, I really have no idea since I've never really looked in to HDTV or how it works.

Fusion HDTV (1)

steve_bryan (2671) | more than 9 years ago | (#10326552)

I suppose you were looking for a software only solution and what I'm describing really is software only but the software is written to only work if you have the board installed. The board is any one of the HDTV receiver boards from DVico. The one I purchased well over a year ago is their original board and I purchased it for less than $150 as a new product from Digital Connection.

The software that comes with this product is not without any problems but it has at least two very nice features. If your graphics card has DVI out it is capable of sending the digital video signal to an external HDTV over DVI as well as display the HD image in a window on your PC. The other nice feature is that it will work with any firewire port your PC has (obviously I have only tested the "any" part of that description in my own case). I believe the enabling condition you need is to be running XP. You just click the button on the bottom left of the FusionHDTV control window which is labeled DVHS to view a transport stream that is connected to your firewire port.

The specific setup I have tested is running Virtual DVHS on a Mac and viewing the content on the PC running FusionHDTV with the DVHS button selected. On the other hand you can use VLC to play HDTV for sources across ethernet when you can run VLC on both platforms. It would involve more description than most would care to read but the gist is that you have Advanced Output options available when you open a file and the receiver can use Open network to receive the content. I've used this with VLC running on the PC and Mac.
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