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PS3 as ATSC PVR?

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EricBall

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Of course, now that I've ordered a new computer the "dead" one stops crashing and actually transcodes overnight. So now I have a spare computer to find a use for.

 

I have two SD TiVos - a dual tuner connected to the HDTV for analog and digital cable, and an old Sony S1 in the bedroom for analog cable. I also have an antenna connected to the HDTV for getting OTA (over the air) channels in HD. I'd love to add an HD TiVo but I can't quite justify it for recording network television; and I can't justify the rental cost of a cableco HD PVR when I get HD OTA for free. But would it be possible to use my old computer as a cheaper solution?

 

An ATSC PVR does two things - first it stores the bitstream to disk and second it decodes that bitstream for display. The first step just requires the right hardware and a large hard disk. The second step is CPU or GPU intensive. So my old computer should be able to handle the first step without any problems, I just need to buy the ATSC capture hardware; but the second step is quite beyond the capabilities of the system. However, if the display were handled by another system, like my PS3 which is already attached to the HDTV, then I'd be laughing. (The old system is also noisy, so I don't want it next to the HDTV anyway.

 

That brings in two more challenges - first is getting the video to the PS3 so it can display it and second is getting the video in a format the PS3 will display. The PS3 can function as a DLNA client, displaying video streamed by a DLNA server. There are several DLNA server applications for PCs, including PS3 Media Server which will automatically transcode video into a format the PS3 can use. Unfortunately, transcoding is even more CPU intensive than simply decoding. So unless the PS3 can display something very close to ATSC this idea still won't work.

 

Fortunately, (based upon a simple test) it looks like it can. One problem is the PS3 Media Server interface is dang ugly - it's a very simple folder tree structure. So then the question is whether I can find some free software which will behave as a kind of minimalist PVR (ideally controllable via a web interface).

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It should be able to - ATSC uses MPEG-2, same as DVD and Blu-Ray*, which the PS3 can already play back

 

Hmm - from the ATSC link

Since July 2008, ATSC supports the ITU-T H.264 video codec.
was not aware of that. Wonder if that's to allow for broadcast of 1080p which I don't think MPEG-2 can handle within the limits of the 6MHz (19 Mbit/s) signal.

 

 

* Blu-Ray players must support MPEG-2 for backward compatibility with DVDs. Since the players supported it, a lot of the early Blu-Ray discs also used it - probably because they had proven processes in place to generate MPEG-2 content.

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It should be able to - ATSC uses MPEG-2, same as DVD and Blu-Ray*, which the PS3 can already play back

 

Hmm - from the ATSC link

Since July 2008, ATSC supports the ITU-T H.264 video codec.
was not aware of that. Wonder if that's to allow for broadcast of 1080p which I don't think MPEG-2 can handle within the limits of the 6MHz (19 Mbit/s) signal.

 

* Blu-Ray players must support MPEG-2 for backward compatibility with DVDs. Since the players supported it, a lot of the early Blu-Ray discs also used it - probably because they had proven processes in place to generate MPEG-2 content.

Although ATSC "supports" H.264, no current HDTV does. So it's more of a future thing.

 

And although the PS3 may support a format when acting as a Blu-Ray player, that doesn't mean it will support it over DLNA or stored on a USB key - different apps, different rules. (In fact, DLNA is very restrictive regarding what it does support.)

 

There's also multiple layers which much be considered. ATSC uses the MPEG-2 Transport Stream container, which is different than the MPEG-2 Program Stream container. ATSC may also contain multiple program streams, and I don't know if the PS3 will handle that correctly. Then we get down to MPEG profiles and other constraints like resolution. And don't forget the audio codec.

 

Early Blu-Rays used MPEG-2 to leverage existing encoders.

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I experimented with DLNA servers a few weeks back and TVversity was the only one I found that consistently handled most of the cases without issues. Unfortunately DLNA can be a bit of a fickle thing but when it works it's pretty nice.

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I experimented with DLNA servers a few weeks back and TVversity was the only one I found that consistently handled most of the cases without issues. Unfortunately DLNA can be a bit of a fickle thing but when it works it's pretty nice.

PS3 Media Server also seems to work well.

 

 

I've done some more research and it looks feasible. MythTV has a web interface (mythweb) and has a built-in uPnP/DNLA server. I've seen enough evidence that others are doing similar things. However, there's no current how-to. Some people have also reported issues, particularly with audio (support and sync). The PS3 may also be picky WRT imperfect streams. But, that should be correctable, given the right tools.

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