Columbia ISA
Audio – Video


Audio Video Connections

Hookup Guide

DVR - Digital Video Recorder

What is a DVR?

A DVR (digital video recorder) is an electronic device used to record broadcast TV, cable TV or satellite TV programming and give the user the capability to manage their television viewing. A DVR works similar to, and is about the same size as a VCR but instead of recording to tape, a DVR uses a disk like the one in a personal computer. Most digital video recorders use a hard disk drive for storing TV programming data. The size/capacity of the disk determines how much TV programming can be recorded. 

A DVR gives the user much more capability than a VCR. For example, with a DVR the user can "pause" live TV. While you watch TV, the DVR is recording the TV show to disk. If you get a phone call, just pause live TV and the DVR will continue to record the TV show to disk. Then when you return, you just press the pause button again and continue viewing your TV show from where you left off. 

A DVR can be a stand alone unit, or can be integrated into a set top box provided by a cable or satellite TV company. Your TV is connected to the DVR and you use a remote control for the DVR to play, pause, stop, record and schedule TV programs to be recorded for later viewing.

Stand Alone DVR's

Stand alone DVR's have been made popular by brands such as Tivo which can be bought from most electronic stores and hooked up to most TV sets. These DVR's offer large storage capacities, as well as fully functional TV viewing guides so that users can easily record their favorite shows. Standalone DVR's can be purchased for $50 to $150 and then charge an additional fee for each month of service. Typically less than $20 per month for the TV listing subscription fee. The TV listings are downloaded to your DVR so it can determine what is available and when to record your TV programming choices. The High Definition DVR will cost much more to purchase but offers more capability.

Set Top Boxes with DVR Capability

Cable and satellite TV companies offer many of their customers DVR's. These DVR's come with large storage capacity for recording TV shows and movies at home to watch at a later time. These DVR's are usually built-in to set top boxes, so one box fulfills all your cable or satellite TV needs. Most cable and satellite TV companies allow their subscribers to rent these DVR's directly from them usually for a small monthly fee so there is no hardware to purchase. There is no additional fee for TV listing services. For High Definition TV you'll need to get a HD DVR set-top-box.

Storage Capacity

The larger the storage capacity of your hard drive in the DVR, the more digital programming you can record. At a low resolution, you can store about 1 hour of video for every gigabyte (GB) of storage. 

High Definition Compatibility

If you have an HDTV, you will probably want to record shows that are compatible with it. While many DVR's record in HDTV resolution, some do not. Check the specifications before you purchase or rent your DVR unit.

Dual Tuner

DVR's usually allow you to watch a program on your TV while you record a new show. However, if you would like to watch a live TV show, while you record a new TV program on a different channel, you will need to make sure that your DVR has Dual Tuner technology. Dual tuner technology means that it has two tuners built in, one for tuning the program that you are currently watching and a second tuner to tune to the channel that you would like to record.

One of the reasons people like DVR's is the wide range of services and features that they offer. DVR's are more powerful than a normal VCR. You can record the entire season of a specific TV show in just one setting. This way you don't have to remind yourself each week to record your favorite show.

Keyword Search
You can put in a keyword or phrase and it will search TV listings to find programs that fit these criteria. 

How does a DVR work?

Think of a DVR as a small computer that can store video and lets you control what you want to see on your TV. A DVR is part computer processor, like a personal computer, and part video processor, like a DVD player. The signal from a cable or satellite TV provider comes in through a cable connection to the tuner in the DVR. The tuner passes the signal to an encoder to convert the signal for digital processing by the DVR. This digital video signal is handled by the CPU which is under software program control. 

The CPU has to determine which tasks to execute (example: pause live TV, load an old recording). The DVR uses an operating system that is controlled by the CPU and stored on the DVR?s hard disk. The CPU has to send the digital video to the decoder so the signal can be sent to the television through a connecting cable. Some DVRs have the option of recording the stored hard disk digital video to a DVD recordable disk. This helps free space on the hard disk and at the same time allows access to the original recorded video.

Since the DVR is a small computer, it uses hard disk memory to store video. A DVR can record programs in different video qualities. The formats are basic, medium, high and best quality. If you record in the basic video quality, your DVR will use 1 Gb of space for every hour of recording. The user can manage memory capacity depending on how crisp the video is recorded. A built-in DVR inside a set-top-box such as a digital cable TV or satellite TV provider will use proprietary software and firmware because of the type of signals sent out from the provider to the user. Satellite TV providers use different encryption techniques than do cable TV companies. Therefore many DVRs are incompatible with video signals sent over a competing carrier. In addition, even within the same provider, there are incompatibilities due to firmware upgrades or omissions in DVR set-top-boxes provided to the end user. 

Block diagram - Inside a DVR

What can I do with a DVR?

Record TV Programming

Record hours of TV programming. The total hours of recorded content will vary based on the storage capacity of your DVR and type of content (digital, analog, or HD) being recorded.

Maintain a Personal Program Library

Maintain a personal library of recorded programming, accessed by using the electronic program guide (EPG).

Control Live TV

Pause, rewind, and fast-forward live TV.

Simultaneously Watch Two Programs

Watch two programs and easily switch between them using the SWAP key on your remote control. (Dependent upon program guide support.)

Simultaneous Watch and Record

Record one program while viewing another live broadcast at the same time.

Who makes DVRs?

DVR's are made by many companies but Motorola and Scientific Atlanta make most of the boxes for the Cable TV providers in the U.S. If you subscribe to cable TV, chances are you will get a Motorola or Scientific Atlanta box. You can get a traditional analog cable box or a digital cable box or a digital cable box with a built-in DVR or a HD DVR cable box. Some also have dual tuners so you can watch one channel and record another.

Motorola HD DVR DCT-6408

• Supports HDTV, Dolby Digital 5.1
• DOCSIS 1.0 / 1.1 capable integrated cable modem for high speed interactivity
• Internal 120 GB hard drive 
• MPEG-2 digital video processor 
• PCM, AC-3, Dolby 5.1 Prologic Digital audio capability 
• ITU standard 64/256 QAM/FEC/enhanced adaptive equalizer 
• Three 54-860 MHz tuners (two video, one data) 
• Frequency agile 2.048 Mbps out-of-band data receiver 
• 32 bit, 2-D / 3-D graphics 
• Analog/digital video scaling (Picture in Graphics) 
• 16 MB Flash, 128 MB DRAM standard unified memory 
• Clear analog channel processor with BTSC decoder 
• DES-based encryption/DCII access control 
• Macrovision? copy protection 
• 10/100 Base-T Ethernet Port (RJ45 Connector) 
• Smartcard interface connector (e-commerce)
• TVPASS? renewable security connector 
• IR Blaster Port 

HOOKUP DVR Digital Cable box to TV or VCR

1. Power cord
2. Cable TV signal input
OPTION 1 connection uses RCA composite video and left & right stereo audio cables
OPTION 2 connection uses RF coaxial cable for video and mono audio

High Definition DVR box uses DVI, HDMI or component video cables.
What is Digital Cable service?
Digital cable offers digital quality picture and sound and provides more channels of programming. Other features Digital Cable offers are 24 hour, commercial free music; Pay-Per-View channels, and an Interactive Program Guide.
Do I need a new digital television to receive digital programming?
Not necessarily. Traditional analog TV sets can receive "analog" TV signals either via an antenna or the cable network. Digital Cable is a digital TV service, but uses the digital receiver to convert the digital signal to analog for viewing on a conventional TV set. 
How does Digital Cable compare to Direct TV?
Digital Cable compares very favorably with DSS systems. With Digital Cable, you receive over 160 channels, including 46 channels of digital quality music. Digital Cable offers local network channels such as Fox, NBC, and ABC with Basic Cable, as well as Music and local weather. Direct TV has made local networks available at an additional monthly charge and requires the purchase of an additional dish if the customer does not have the oval satellite dish. 
What is an Interactive Program Guide?
An Interactive Program Guide is integrated into the digital receiver. Some of the features include a 4 day advance programming guide, Pay-Per-View ordering, parental control, searching by theme, title or channel, favorite channels settings, and more!
What is HDTV?
HDTV stands for high-definition television. HDTV is a class of digital television that provides a very high-resolution picture with Dolby digital surround sound. The higher resolution picture, displaying up to ten times more image detail than standard TV, is the primary selling point for HDTV. HD signals also display in 16:9 aspect ratio as opposed to the standard 4:3.
What is the difference between analog, digital and HDTV?
Analog: Standard picture and sound quality with about 80 channels. 
Digital: DVD picture and sound quality with more than 300 channels. 
HDTV: 10 times better resolution/image detail than analog.
What is a DVR (Digital Video Recorder)?
A DVR is a device/service that allows you to record and store television programming on a hard disk drive in your digital receiver so that you can access this programming at any time. The DVR functions like a VCR, but without videotape and with more sophisticated recording and playback options. Choose from live television or recorded content. A DVR will allow you to stop, pause, rewind, or fast-forward your program. For example, if you receive a call in the middle of a program, a DVR will allow you to pause the show, recording the content from the moment of the pause, and resume viewing where you left off.
What is the difference between a DVR and VCR?
DVRs store content in a compressed digital format onto a hard disk drive (like a computer), which alleviates storage limitations of VCR tapes. VCRs use VHS or Beta tapes to store information in an analog format. VCR tapes can only capture up to 6 or 8 hours of programming while a DVR can store 15, 30, 50, 90 or more hours. DVRs also provide more sophisticated recording options. For example, it can be programmed to record an entire season of your favorite show.
Will I need to purchase any special equipment to use a DVR service?
No, you do not have to purchase any equipment. There is a monthly fee of $9.95 per DVR and your digital receiver will be replaced with a DVR receiver.

Cable hookups for HDTV


1. How do I return to live TV when I'm watching recorded programming?
Simply press the LIVE button on your remote.

2. How do I record Pay Per View (PPV) programming?
You can record or watch a PPV show only at the time you purchase it.

3. How many other home entertainment components can be connected to my DVR?
Three: your TV, and (VCR, DVD player, or audio).

4. Do I have to connect my DVR to a telephone or other data source?
The DVR gets all the information it needs from your cable signal, so that's the only connection required.

5. I currently record programs on my VCR. How is a DVR different?
The DVR takes recording technology to a new level, capturing picture and sound digitally (for a superior result to tape-based recording) and allowing greater viewing flexibility. You can PAUSE a broadcast while you're watching it, and restart it up to 2 hours later. And you can say goodbye to those annoying "what just happened?" moments when you're watching a movie - simply press INSTANT REPLAY to review the last 15 seconds, or REWIND to see a longer scene again. Yet you won't miss a moment of the action, because the DVR keeps recording forward while you pause, rewind or replay scenes. No VCR can do that!

6. I expect to record a lot of programming. How will I know when my hard disk is full?
When your remaining available disk space reaches just 20%, your TV will display the following: "Recording space low. You only have 20% of your total recording space left. To be sure new recordings are completed, you may want to delete previous recordings."

7. What is the Interactive Program Guide (IPG)?
The IPG contains program listings and information. It is searchable by Title and Genre, and allows you to automatically record programs in the future. Detailed program information is available up to 24 hours in advance, and complete program listings are typically available 4 days in advance.

8. How can I find programs I want to record?
Using the Interactive Program Guide, you can search upcoming programming by Title and Genre. When you find something that sounds interesting, simply press RECORD. The DVR will automatically record that program for you.

9. Can I transfer a recorded program to a VHS tape?
Yes. Simply play your recorded program on your TV, and tape it using your VCR.

10. Why doesn't my DVI ready HDTV set work with the DVR?
DVR's have a DVI connection with built-in HDCP (High-bandwidth digital content protection), an industry standard security feature. Unfortunately some TV manufactures don't integrate this industry standard into their television design. This means that the DVI connection on those HDTVs will not work with the DVR equipment. As an alternative connection for viewing HDTV, use the component video connection.

11. Why do analog/basic cable channels look worse than before?
There are 3 reasons for this.

  1. Analog channels tend to pick up "noise", which is typically processed out on digital channels.
  2. Certain TVs offer different levels of noise reduction (filtering) among their video inputs.
  3. The DVR functionality interjects slight video degradation on analog channels, as part of the conversion process from analog to digital in order to store onto the digital hard drive.


12. Can I watch a show I recorded earlier while I record another show?
Yes. In order to watch one program and record another you will need a TV with multiple cable and/or video connectors. You can watch a program on basic cable from a direct cable input to your TV and record a different program on Digital Cable or basic cable from the tuner in the DVR. The switching/video source selecting requires a cable signal splitter with one leg of the output run to the DVR and one to your TV. The switching needs to be done with the internal video source selector for your TV, usually found on the remote control and front panel of the TV.

13. How do I watch another channel while I'm recording?
With the dual tuner set-top, you can easily watch and record one program while simultaneously recording another program. 

14. Can the HD DVR playback a high definition recording while another HD program is being recorded?
YES, in fact you can record two programs at once while watching a previously recorded program from the hard drive.

15. Are there two record buttons; one for each tuner? How do you make the DVR record two programs at once?
You can set it for two recordings using the Interactive Program Guide by selecting two different programs listed with overlapping times and pressing the record button.

16. What kind of programs can I record?
You can record both standard and high definition programs which are automatically interpreted by the HD DVR.

17. How much high definition programming can I save versus standard definition programming?
You can record up to 90 hours of standard digital TV or up to 15 hours of HDTV (depending on the transmission bit rate). Recording times may vary.

18. Can I transfer recorded programs to another device such as an external hard drive, a PC, or a DVD recorder?
Only if the software supports it. 

19. How do I connect the DVR to my TV if my TV only has a coaxial cable (RF) input?
Some newer DVRs do not have an RF modulated output. These DVRs support component (HD), composite, S-Video, DVI, and 1394 video outputs. For installations to TVs that have only an RF input, a VCR hookup or external RF Modulator can be used.

RF Modulator:
The RF modulator converts the baseband (composite) video and audio outputs of the set-top and modulates to RF channel 3 or 4 to the TV. There are a number of suitable RF modulators on the market that can be purchased from retail stores and distributors. You can find them online easily just by entering "RF modulator" in your search engine.

How can I get a DVR cable box?
Cable converter boxes with a built-in DVR are not for sale in retail stores but are available from Digital Cable service providers. These products are networked devices reliant on a cable provider's network. The Interactive Program Guide that allows you to operate all the functions is a software program that receives information from the cable operator's network.

Why does the set-top continue making noises even when it's turned off?
Like some other appliance in the home such as your refrigerator, the set-top needs to remain on at all times to connect with the cable plant headend for continued exchange and refresh of data. The DVR set-tops have an internal hard drive and fan which remains on at all times. You will experience a slight humming noise during operation. There is no reason for concern. Again, similar to the humming from your refrigerator, this humming from the DVR means the box is on and running to serve your entertainment needs.

Why does the set-top box appear to be warm?
The set-top is an electronic device that gives off a nominal amount of heat. It is fully compliant with UL recommended heat emission standards. Follow guidelines for ventilation in the front section of the User Guide.