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The Media Television Technology

Stephen Colbert and the Monster Truck of Tivos 85

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lee Hutchinson writes at Ars Technica that when you're picking out a DVR for your home, there's a pretty short list of candidates — TiVo has its new 6-tuner DVRs, or you can get something from your cable provider, or you can roll your own. But SnapStream makes a line of 30+ channel DVRs that can record dozens of TV shows simultaneously. Its products are the monster trucks of the DVR world, used by popular shows like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and The Soup. A SnapStream cluster can repackage, transcode, and distribute content for re-use — functionality you won't find on a consumer-grade DVR. 'Being able to record, say, all of the news channels was something companies were interested in,' says Aaron Thompson, SnapStream's president. 'The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and so on all use it to record a bunch of stuff, find what they want to make fun of, and quickly get it into their editing bays to get it on air.' Prior to SnapStream, the big media companies were using isolated DVRs to record all the different television channels and shows like The Colbert Report had armies of interns to watch and catalog all the recorded TV, but SnapStream can search the entire recorded library for video based on keywords in the closed captions. 'We bring some of the power of 'new media,' the ability to search, copy and paste, and e-mail clips, to the old media of television for organizations,' says Rakesh Agrawal . 'You weren't able to search television before, but now you can. Now you can pinpoint stuff and you can hold people accountable and move at the same speed at which media works in the online world.'"
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Stephen Colbert and the Monster Truck of Tivos

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  • by DavidClarkeHR ( 2769805 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2013 @06:10PM (#44851949)
    Sure, it's an advertisement (or slashvertisement, *groan*) ... but this one is highly relevant.

    To someone.


    • I'd be happy being able to watch something while recording two other things. Or for the recordings to start and stop at the appropriate time. I regularly miss the end of things because the DVR doesn't know what to stop.

      I'd also be happy if there wasn't so much lag and the box that came with my TV service was easily replaceable with something that wasn't from DirecTV. I'm not sure who makes them, but they're ridiculously sluggish and don't perform as well as the one we had when we got the service.

      • I regularly miss the end of things because the DVR doesn't know what to stop.

        That's not the DVR's fault. That's the stupid channels that start and stop things at times other than what they have have set in their guide information. These seemed to really get bad a few years ago (History channel seems to the worst that I watch).

        I'm not sure who makes them, but they're ridiculously sluggish and don't perform as well as the one we had when we got the service.

        I recently had to replace my old TiVO S3 and was quite disappointed to find that the new one is even slower than the S3 which I was quite irritated by to begin with.

        • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @12:05AM (#44853729)

          It's not the DVR's fault per se, it's a combination of the DVR and the broadcasters not using technology that permits the DVR to stop recording only when the program is finished. In some parts of the world the broadcaster embeds a signal that tells the DVR what program is on. That way if the game goes into overtime, the DVR knows that it's still going and you don't miss the extra action.

          I believe in parts of Europe they have it figured out so that you don't have to worry about missing the end of the football match.

        • by unitron ( 5733 )

          What exactly was wrong with that S3, was it the 648 or the 652, and was it lifetimed?

        • by unitron ( 5733 )

          and if you don't want to mention it here, you should be able to figure out how to reach me at, or PM me at TCF if you hang out there.

      • I'd be happy being able to watch something while recording two other things. Or for the recordings to start and stop at the appropriate time. I regularly miss the end of things because the DVR doesn't know what to stop.

        The bolded part is why it's better to have more than the two tuners you say you'd be happy with. When you have 4-6 tuners, depending on how much you record, you have enough capacity to record every show for 5-10 minutes past the station's advertised end time.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sure, it's an advertisement (or slashvertisement, *groan*) ... but this one is highly relevant.

      Over there, we call that an arsvertisement...

    • "Sure, it's an advertisement (or slashvertisement, *groan*) ... but this one is highly relevant.

      To someone.


      It is important to the 'armies of interns' that are no longer needed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Comparing this to a Monster Truck just seems wrong. The comparison instead should be to large CAT type land movers. Monster Trucks are completely useless in terms of functionality. (Which is probably what this 30 channel device would be to the average consumer.)

      • by unitron ( 5733 )

        This is /.

        It must be a car analogy or as close as it is possible to get to one.

        Monster truck is closer than what you're talking about.

  • by chrismcb ( 983081 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @06:24PM (#44852049) Homepage
    FTS: "the monster trucks of the DVR world"
    But the title is "Monster Truck of Tivos"
    Why? Why do we have to use Tivo as a synonym for DVR, can't we just say DVR?
  • With digital TV providing multiple TV channels per MUX, it is a lot cheaper to buy the amount of cards necessary to receive everything. In most cases you can even decrypt a whole bunch of channels with just one subscription card. You will not necessarily get all the fancy features that SnapStream provides, but it is a very affordable solution. HTS-TVHeadend can handle some of the practical details like recording each program into a separate file.

    Getting enough disk bandwidth might be a challenge of course,

  • Its products are the monster trucks of the DVR world

    That's not really an apt comparison, because despite their name... monster trucks bear little resemblance to real trucks. They're prima donna performers, capable of little else other than looking good and making a lot of noise.

  • Those 30 tuners? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @06:33PM (#44852101)

    That will set you back to the tune of about $223,500 [] (enter some fake info for the details). Or it looks like you can lease 30 tuners for about $5,000/month.

    Think I'll be sticking with my Moxi.

    • That will set you back to the tune of about $223,500 [] (enter some fake info for the details). Or it looks like you can lease 30 tuners for about $5,000/month.

      Think I'll be sticking with my Moxi.

      Anybody want to chip in on some, and store on the cloud someplace?

      • by claar ( 126368 )

        Anybody want to chip in on some, and store on the cloud someplace?

        My back-of-the-napkin calculations show that Google Cloud storage to be around $100k for the first year at 2.5Mbps * 30 channels * 365 days. I suppose if the tuner costs $225k, that's umm.. reasonable? :)

    • by caspy7 ( 117545 )

      I checked the site and I think this bears repeating: The tuner in question is approaching a quarter of a million dollars in costs (perhaps more depending on the '+' part of '30+').

      At that rate, wouldn't it be more economical to pay a hacker to build/design one based on MythTV that pulls off the same features (then whip out another or upgrade when you need it)? Heck, you could hire a couple MythTV developers.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

        A MythTV hack isn't going to get you easily extractable, searchable, licensed, broadcast-quality video that interfaces directly with pro video editors. This thing is designed for a pro market, where $250,000 isn't much money for this sort of tech.

  • Quite happy with my MythTV box thanks. It does a lot more than any commercial product.

    • I have AT&T Uverse. Their commercial set-top boxes actually let me watch TV, which is certainly a step up from MythTV which has no way of decrypting their proprietary IPTV streams. I know of no third-party equipment capable of decrypting it.

      I remember the Slashdot thread from a while back which lambasted the FCC's effort to regulate IPTV. Otherwise MythTV might actually become compatible with IPTV services. What a scary thought.
      • Re:Quite happy (Score:4, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:12PM (#44852653)

        On the cable side, a CableCard and Ceton InfiniTV 4 []. Ceton has a 6 tuner card.

        As for IPTV, MythTV cannot decode the signal alone however, they can be used with IR blaster connected to a set-top box and MythTV can grab the stream from box sometimes.

        • At best that would give me 1 tuner per set-top box, but I've read the Uverse STBs are very troublesome to control with IR blasters. At this point I regret my decision to go with Uverse every time I turn on my television, and I'm counting the days until my contract is up and I can move to cable.

          Though I've read there are problems with cable as well. MythTV can only watch the Copy Freely channels, and many cable companies use Copy Once flags. I suppose doing all these things forces customers to lease your
          • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

            I'm still hanging on to my old-style cable plan on purpose (as it requires no box) so everything is effectively OTA but most channels are coming in as digital. I have a haupauge WinTV-HVR-2200. It's 2 analog/digital tuners. I've not ever found a problem of needing more.

            If I ever had to upgrade my plan, I'd go with an HDHomeRun Prime, which is a mythtv-compatible digital (only) TV tuner with cablecard support, I think I read somewhere it can record upto 6 digital channels at once (I'm guessing thats assuming

  • Since as I recall U-verse centrally packages ALL television now to allow the back in time DVR feature, wouldn't the prudent thing be for AT&T (even though I dislike them) to offer a commercial product. $5k / month and all they need to do is drop a few U-Verse boxes with unlimited channel lineup packages and maybe a custom workstation that can pull and transcode. I think Time Warner has a similar feature as well to jump back to missed shows.

    The bigger joke here, is with all of their investment in infra
  • This submission is a lot less interesting than the title led me to believe.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I tried TiVo out. I wanted it to do one thing: Allow me to record a single channel N for one hour beginning at HH:MM.

    It can't do it.

    Instead, TiVo insists that I connect to a phone line or an internet connection. It insists on downloading program schedules, and it wants to force me to select what program I want to record. It's got one job, and that is to record the channel I tell it to for a certain amount of time beginning at a certain time, and it can't do that.

    I sent it back.

    • The original Tivos were able to do scheduled recording without a network connection. They took that feature away because it hurt their revenue model when they were looking to license their tech to other companies and just operate as a service provider.

    • Every recorder must be individually addressable and killable....this is why the Sony HDD 250 was killed.
  • That's pretty cool device too bad it isn't in the realm of average people. How much more efficient media could be consumed.

  • This is new? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by illtud ( 115152 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:28PM (#44852713)

    We've been doing this since 2007 (digitally) at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales []. We have a licence to keep for the nation any broadcast TV that we recieve that meets our collection policy. We've been doing it on SVHS (and earlier technology) for decades before. We probably have an order of magnitude fewer channels than they have (UK Freeview - 50 TV & 24 radio) but scaling up the number of channels we keep in the buffer (two weeks) before programme selection wouldn't come close to the pricing mentioned in some of the comments here. We keep the full MPEG-TS as transmitted (so can use the raster subtitle streams if necessary) and ingest them into our Fedora-commons digital repository. We're moving to a version that OCRs the subtitles for improved resource discovery - at the moment we only use the EPG which we convert to our own metadata standard.

    We use a commercial system, Imagen from Cambridge Imaging Systems, to capture and select, then our own workflows for technical characterisation, metadata transformation and ingest, but you could use MythTV or some other to buffer two weeks of the entire UK terrestrial output for a lot less than is being mentioned here. We will have a youtube-like interface (but with transcription searches from the subtitles) to search the tens of thousands of recordings that we hold, and it will incorporate digitised material from our own unique collections of film and video.

    I'm sure that the BBC or other similar national broadcasters have monsterous systems that eclispe ours or The Colbert Show's - the system we're using was originally designed as one massive PVR for UK universities to try to save resources and share recordings amongst campus users rather than have each student download each progamme to their dorms (and uni storage).

  • Does it really take that level of infrastructure?

    I would think it would be embarrassingly easy to find people saying stupid things on the news these days without a lot of searching, and then just comment on the stupid things you find. It's sort of analogous to looking for a needle in a needle factory.

  • Too bad this company stopped doing consumer products like BeyondTV. I wonder what are good ones these days.

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @09:29PM (#44852985)

    >"Stephen Colbert and the Monster Truck of Tivos"

    A SnapStream is not a TiVo, it is a DVR. So you can call it "Stephen Colbert and the Monster Truck of DVRs".

    And the CORRECT term is even in the article that you were apparently trying to quote:

    "Houston-based SnapStream makes a line of DVRs that scale to truly silly sizesâ"its products are the monster trucks of the DVR world."

    So why the hell edit it to make it wrong and confusing?

  • One more job lost...

    Really is absurd that you need equipment to do this task in the first place.

  • Do those shows just not know how to build a DVR computer? My gaming PC took about $150 in additions to make it an HD-capable, DTV-capable, satellite-capable, cable-capable DVR that can record 900 hours of video. I could have gone dual or quad tuners for not a whole lot more. Then the end result is an actual file, not some digital content floating around in a proprietary box with all custom parts and a custom OS. Take that, all DVRs everywhere.
    • My provider scrambles everything. I've yet to see a product that works between my cable box & my entertainment PC so I can record content. I can only record broadcast signals.
      Is there a viable solution available that is not too pricy?

      • Since that's illegal, the FCC demanded that they provide, 100% free, a tuner that spits out a standard coaxial connection with "de-tuned" data. Time Warner has one that's basically a DTV converter but for cable.
  • Back in the day Snapstream made an awesome consumer product, Beyond Tv, which was exactly what MCE should have been. The product and their customer support was a dream. It allowed multiple tuners, was relatively lightweight, and I even bought their networked streaming Link product. Being internet professionals us forum posters complained that we paid for a product which didn't have every single feature we wanted. I think this contributed to Snapstream deciding us consumers were never appreciative and bu
  • When you're picking out a DVR for your home, it's probably still 1996.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer