I recently came across this device: USB Video Grabber, and it got me thinking.

What it does in a nutshell is to take the analogue signals from the composite cables (red, yellow, white) and smush that into a USB input, which presumably is interpreted by some software.

I have a digital TV set top box, a Soniq QMD501H, which I have connected to my pre-digital TV set. This basically takes the RF cable (from antenna) as an input, and outputs to composite cables (red, yellow, white), which I plug into my TV set. If I buy this device, instead of plugging it the component cables into the TV, I can plug them into this device, and plug this device into my computer, and watch/record TV on my computer.

However, what I realised was that this was a rather circuitous route: there's at least two conversions going on, at least one of which is completely unnecessary.

My set top box tells me that the Standard Definition channels are broadcast in MPEG1 and MPEG2, and the High Defintion channels are broadcast in MPEG2 some format it simply calls HD (720p and 1080i).

My computer can understand all of these formats, so I was wondering, why not get these to input directly into my computer?

Is there a device / software that will allow me to bypass the the digital set top box, and get the digital signal directly onto a computer?

If this is not possible, how can I achieve this through my digital set top box?

Setup/device details:
My digital set top box also has a HDMI output, and a RS-232, and Y-Pb-Pr outputs that are currently unused, in addition to the composite cables used by the TV..
My computer only has USB inputs (it's a laptop).

  • When you say component you really mean composite. The Y-Pb-Pr output you speak of is component. – prestomation Dec 29 '09 at 14:46
  • This looks like a digital set top box to receive free OTA digital channels, not a box provided by a cable/satellite company, correct? – prestomation Dec 29 '09 at 14:49
  • @prestomation, yup, i think you're correct (component vs composite). also, yes these are free to air digital channels, not a subscription model. – bguiz Dec 29 '09 at 14:59

What you're looking for is a TV Tuner. Many manufacturers make these devices (newegg sells a variety of them).

It seems like you're only looking for something that supports over the air broadcasts (not cable, satellite, etc). If that's the case, almost every card you find will be able to handle this. Just make sure they support digital signals (ATSC), not just analog (NTSC).

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  • thanks for the suggestion, do these TV tuners generally have their own antennae, or do would they allow a connection directly to the TV antenna (RF socket in wall)? – bguiz Dec 29 '09 at 15:07
  • @bguiz Are you in Australia? Make sure you get a DVB card and not ATSC(which is US). They will accept your current antennae just fine. – prestomation Dec 29 '09 at 15:26
  • bguiz: generally, they do not have built in antennae and will let you plug into an RF socket. – mothis Dec 29 '09 at 18:20

The best thing you can probably do is just buy a TV Capture card such as the ones Hauppauge sell.

You will be able to use a standard signal and your pc will get unaltered digital TV that you can record or do anything you want.

They make everything from analogue tv cards down to High Definition Satellite cards.

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  • thanks for the suggestion, are TV capture cards the same as TV tuners? Do these TV capture cards generally have their own antennae, or do would they allow a connection directly to the TV antenna (RF socket in wall)? – bguiz Dec 29 '09 at 15:08
  • TV Card, Capture card and Tuner are pretty much the same thing with maybe a slight difference in features... apart from the USB portable ones, they are unlikely to come with an aerial but instead come with the same inputs that your freeview/tv would have for an external aerial. – William Hilsum Dec 30 '09 at 0:14

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