One of the people that discovered my blog and the Archos 605 WIFI posting asked me about using TiVoToGo with the Archos player. I’ve been meaning to try out the TiVo software so it was just the incentive I needed to check things out. I like this time of year. I get to burn some deserved vacation time and fiddle around with my gadgets instead of server software. That and watch football, eat lots of goodies, and drink a few beers. So many things to do, not enough time.
A few months ago when I bought the TiVo Series 3, I thought it would be kewl if I could offload the recordings to one of my portable media players. I tried the TiVo desktop software briefly then, but I never took the plunge and purchased the Plus option that allows you to create H.264 or MPEG-4 “portable” versions of the recordings. I made that purchase yesterday and last night put it to work.
As it turns out, it works pretty well. I transferred about six weekly series episodes and a couple of movies to my laptop where the TiVoToGo software is running. Those transfers end up being some files with the .tivo extension. They are full blown HD versions of the recordings and look killer on my ThinkPad T61p 15.4″ widescreen or Dell 24″ flat panel.
During the transfer process, you can also kick off an additional transcode that will produce “portable” versions of the video. The portable versions are down resolution versions of the high def recordings so there is a serious loss of bits during the process. You can specify a variety of formats and for my tests I picked H.264 and MPEG-4.
For comparison, the movie Happy Feet is 10GB in size after the transfer from the Series 3 to my laptop. The portable version of the movie is 750MB. Where did all of those bits go? Well, from looking at the resulting playback, I would estimate the bit rate to be less than 700k.
All of the H.264 and MPEG-4 conversions played well on the Zune 80 and the Archos 605 WIFI player. Because the screen on the Archos 605 is much larger, the lack of detail in the video is more noticeable. I didn’t think the resulting bit rate and playback was great, but I would not characterize the video and playback as poor either.
So how long do the transfers and transcoding take?
The file copies take a pretty long time. There’s actually more going on during the file copies, or so it seems. Keep in mind the files are pretty huge. I use a 1000BaseT network at my house so the network isn’t a bottleneck. There appears to be some conversion going on during the copy from the TiVo box to your PC. Another conversion takes place after that copy completes if you have specified you want a portable version. This takes lots of time, and I was using my dual core laptop.
How would I set this up?
The TiVo desktop software lets you create a subscription called “auto transfer”. If you have a home server or desktop running the TiVo software, then it would automatically pull the recording off the TiVo and drop it to your PC. You could of course have the portable version created at that time. And then you could automatically sync that to a Zune 80 if the folder is being watched.
There’s a couple of other things worth noting here. The movies came from HBO HD and Starz HD. The weekly shows came from the local HD affiliates of ABC, CBS, etc. All of this was delivered to my TiVo Series 3 via Verizon FIOS TV. I understand some of the cable systems block what I accomplished (from the “premium” channels like HBO). I personally think that stinks and see no reason for the block.
The video world as you know it is going to change soon. Watch and see what happens over the next 3-5 years…