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Disclaimer: The entries you find in these pages are based on my individual opinions and thoughts. Some of the entries may be just plain wrong, and others harmful. Should you choose to act on, or try, anything you find on this site, you assume any and all risks associated with your actions. So there.



 


HDTV on DVD

January 10, 2005

No, it can't be done. DVD is strictly a 4:3 format. Those "anamorphic widescreen" DVDs you see in the store, and play on your player, are really just stretched 4:3.

Not content with my HDTV PVR and its 120Gb of storage (only 12 hours of HD after all), I investigated throwing the content onto my PowerBook. After a couple of Googles, I found out that in my Developer folder I already had what I needed: Virtual DVHS. This handy little program can record HDTV onto your hard drive right from the FireWire feed, and play it right back out.

My LST-3410a has FireWire out. So I plugged it in to my PowerBook, fired up Virtual DVHS, and fiddled for a few minutes trying to figure it all out. It worked, but after attempting to record an hour onto the HD, it turns out that it craps out after about 3 minutes. Damn. I fiddled for hours, but nothing. I would get 3.5 minutes of stuff from the hard drive, but then it would either flip off, or record whatever station it was currently tuned to (but it recorded that).

I called LG and got a very unhelpful support person. I dropped them a note off of their website, and got a very helpful response about how to return the unit. I called and couldn't believe it when they offered to cross-ship (it worked otherwise, after all).

The new unit did the exact same thing. Turns out that there was a buffering problem in Virtual DVHS. Oops; sorry for the shipping costs, LG. They were real champs. A simple pref setting later and I got my recording. Holy Moly, HDTV on my PowerBook HD. I could play it back to the PVR, and play it on my screen, but it was agonizingly slow to open the file using MPEG2Stream.

And it turns out you have to convert the video to get it to a DVD. Let me save you some time (hours, days even): don't bother. Converting takes forever and what you end up with is pretty worthless anyway. It will have bad interlacing at best, or not work at all at worst.

Instead, I plugged in my Sony Media Converter (s-video/composite to FireWire) and recorded into iMovie. I used letterbox format before realizing that the PVR would play back in "squeezed" mode (Anamorphic Widescreen). Recording in squeezed mode and burning to DVD gave me a playable disk that scaled properly to the full-width of my HDTV screen, with the correct ratio, but with a lower resolution-- it is still beautiful, though, compared to the original.

One irony is that DV video, even though far lower resolution than HDTV, is a larger file size. One hour of HDTV was roughly 7Gb on disk, whereas one hour of DV recording was 11 to 12Gb (or more).