Friday, February 2, 2007

Video From DVR to DVD with MacOS X

Ginger, my girlfriend, always accuses me of wanting to do something before its time.

She likes to think that I am the first with an idea to try some new way of watching and storing my media - That I am 'inventing' something new. Which of course I am not. She still uses her Windows 2000 system to surf porn on the web, read e-mail, listen to some mp3's and download and store her photos. In that order of importance.

Outside of that, she has no real use for her computer at home. Don't get me wrong, she knows how to manipulate Google better than any person I have ever met, and one day soon I will actually convince her to write her novels on it.

So, I am sure that I am not the first to try this - I am not 'inventing' it - but I thought a post on the topic would certainly help others who want to do the same.

So, with my new macbook pro in tow - I am ready to tackle something very simple. I want to access my Motorola DCT 6412 DVR.

I want to download the files contained within and convert them onto a single DVD. What I want to do is create a DVD of a wonderful yoga program called 'Namaste'. We have recorded several episodes on the DVR. When Ginger wants to do a quick 25 minute yoga session, she simply loads one of the saved programs and proceeds.

Except its not that easy. The programs have a long lead-in of commercials. There are commercial breaks every five minutes. She has to stop her work-out, hit ffwd, and then probably rewind as well to get back. I want to create for her a simple way to plug in a DVD, pick which work-out she wants, and just work out, with no commercial interruptions.

Now, one would think this is easy. I have Mac OS X. My Macbook Pro has a firewire port. My DVR has a firewire port. I should just be able to plug in, mount the PVR's hard drive and drag and drop. Right? Right? I mean. It's just a mac. It just works. RIIIIGGGHHTTT!

Of course, the Motorola is not a mac. So, of course it didn't work like that.

I plugged in the DVR (or PVR, or TIVO-like machine) to my Mac. Nothing happened. No drive appeared. I checked. No drive was mounted. I went into my favorite Mac Utility, (in /Applications/Utilities) Disk Utility. There was no disc mounted from the DVR. And no way to do it. I went into System Utilities - (Apple Icon in the top left - About this Mac - More Info - Hardware - Firewire) and discovered that the DVR was there. The OS was reading it - but it didn't mount as a disk.

A little research later (is there any better app in the world than Google search?) and I realised that it wasn't going to happen like I imagined.

My next quest then was to discover how to grab the videos stored on the PVR. The solution was simple, but convoluted, and not very 'mac like' or user friendly. Nonetheless it worked.

Here is my solution. I've adapted it from this post.

Here is what you need to do:

1) Goto and register in their developer section.
- You will need to register. Don't worry. It's free.
2) Download and install a program called "FireWire SDK 23 for Mac OS X"
- The program is found under 'Downloads' and then 'Firewire' (in the menu on the right hand side.)

- Once installed, you can find the applications in your Mac HD. Goto the root directory (Macintosh HD) and then click on the folder 'Developer' - then FireWire SDK23 - and then 'Applications.'

3) Open a program called 'AVCVideoCap'.
- This app will allow you to capture the video from your DVR.
- Your DVR device should appear in the window. Click on it - so that it is highlit.
- Click on "Capture From Device".

- This will bring up a new window. In that window you can name the file and its location. I always put the location as the Desktop or a folder on the desktop. I've called my folder "Peevie Movies". Our DVR is called PEEVIE. P-V-R. Get it?

- Click ok, and a new window will come up. It will give you some options such length of recording etc. I set up the video for 30 minutes, the length of the program.

4) Use your remote to set-up the video. I hit play - the video started playing.

5) I then Hit 'capture' and the stream started recording.

Now, this is a very manual operation. It captures previously recorded video from the DVR. You can also use this to capture live television - or use this app with iCal to use the Mac as a DVR itself. Read this post, and all the comments as well, to find out how.

At this point, your file should be saved. The file I saved was called Sun Wind Sequence.m2t. .m2t files are playable in VLC Player, but not in Quicktime.

There is another step to get the .m2t files to a file format that Toast or iDVD can read to create the DVD.

But first, I wanted to remove the commercials, and trim the head and tale of the video clip.

The program I used is called MPEG Streamclip by a company from Italy called Square 5.

In this program it was simple to edit out the commercials.

1) Scroll through the video in Streamclip and set an in and out points. (where you want to start and finish the commercial break or start and finish of the video) Use the "i" and "o" keys to set those points. Once you have those points set-up then use 'Command-X' to cut out the part of the video you don't want. Repeat until you have the video set as you wish.

- Dont worry if you make a mistake. Simply hit 'Command-Z' to undo after any cut to restore the video.

Now, MPEG Streamclip is a great program in that it will also export the m2t file into almost any other video codec you have on your system. So, if you just want to export to a quicktime mov, or an xvid or divx file, then that is possible as well.

I exported my saved .m2t file to a quicktime movie using the following codec - H264 Encoder (Mpeg-4)

Click on 'Make Movie'.

The export did take a while, even on my brand spanking new MacBook Pro 2.33 GHz machine. It took about an hour for each video. A full blown two hour feature could take 4 hours. Best to set it up and go to bed or work IMO.

At this point, I had my Sun Wind file. I simply opened iDVD, set up the menu, and I had the DVD I wanted.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED - My own little FAQ


Q: Can't I just transfer the files onto my hard drive?
A: NO. At least, I've not found the answer, except through the convoluted process above.

Q: I have an older Mac. Can I still do it?
A: You will need the latest versions of all the software from above, and Mac OS X Tiger. The only drawback is that the video will still need to be rendered from the m2t format to the .mov or other format. The older the machine, the slower the render.

Q: Can I speed it up? This is too complicated.
A: Not as far as I know. Apple has yet to make a simple process to copy the files. Until the Motorola and Mac OS talk to each other better, or there is an all in one app, this is the best that I've seen after mountains of research. The simplest solution, being able to mount the DVR harddrive on your desktop isn't possible as far as I know.


FireWire SDK 23 for Mac OS X
MPEG StreamClip
VLC Player
iDVD (included in Mac OS X)

(another great piece of software is FFmpegX - it could replace MPEG Streamclip to convert the video. Some have said that it is faster than MPEG Streamclip.)

I for one am looking forward to Apple TV. It will probably put my DVD player out to pasture.

p.s. If you want to know my opinion on copyright - especially since Namaste is a program with traditional copyright protection, then just click here -- COPYRIGHT --

p.p.s. If you want more info on Namaste - click HERE.

p.p.p.s. I know. If you click on the first pic, it states clearly that developer apps are not to be 'published' and that includes 'screen captures'. Therefore I have not published those screen images at this time. If anyone has trouble just comment and I will assist.

p.p.p.p.s Here is another helpful link. MacHouse is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in video on computers, especially quicktime.


Thursday, January 4, 2007


I am extremely aware of copyright. I deal with it every day in my business. I have to option and buy materials from creators who own copyrights. I am also create for a living, so I have my own copyright concerns. I work in the film and television industry. I deal with writers, composers, musicians, photographers, actors, web designers, directors, editors, computer effects and animators... and of course, big corporate giants (including the biggest defenders in the world of copyright infringement, music labels and hollywood studios.)

However, I am also a consumer. Not to say that I have ever illegally download anything. But I know friends who do. In fact, I've seen them try to download stuff that I have created, stuff that I worked hard on, stuff that I created to make a living. Were they robbing me? If I do it, am I guilty of it?

To be honest, I am one who is always walking a fine line - defending the studios for their attacks on down loaders, deriding them the next for failing to provide me the content I desire in a manner I desire, at a price that is reasonable.

I fight constantly with shops. I want a new pair of shorts. Its summer. Well, August. But, can I find any? Of course not. It's time for the fall fashions. If I'd wanted shorts, well then, I should have damn well bought them in the spring (when it was -10 and snowing.)

This fight is the same in my media consumption life. I want to read good books, listen to great music and be blown away by amazing flicks. Gosh, I even want to watch hour after hour of 'lost' and 'grey's anatomy.' But I also don't want to be dictated to by the media giants when I can watch it. Or how I consume it. Maybe I wanna listen to Beethoven on my surround sound stereo. Or listen to Fiddy Cent while I am at the gym. Watch episodes of 'Bones' on my cell phone on a transatlantic flight - because I can, my phone can, and I don't want to have to sit down at nine o'clock on a Tuesday and watch it it - and be forced to carry a DVD player, or worse, actually watch the prescribed movie on the plane.

So, what I advocate in respect to copyrght is simple. If you use it, pay for it. Unless it was provided free already (such as on television.) The number one sin, if someone else created it, don't go reselling it and stealing their profit. If you use it for your own consumption, without making profit, its fine in my books.

Of course, there are cases when that just doesn't work. I'm sure there will be more discussion about it. It can't be avoided. As the record labels have refused to acknowledge - times are a changing - FAST - and things are in flux - and we should be flexible to the fact that the rules are a changing and technology doesn't close doors on making money from good original content, but rather opens the door for something new and better for the consumer, and something I am happier to pay for.

And as a creator of the content. It makes me a little more flush if I am clever enough to exploit it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I just got it!

My first Mac. Not my first Apple. But my first Mac. It's been twenty-three years since I last sat in front of a brand new Apple computer. That computer, which will be mentioned in future blogs, was an Apple 2e. I still have it. Photos will be here soon.

My new Mac is a 17"Macbook Pro.

2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. Mac OS X. Matte Screen.

I just opened it - it's beautiful, shiny and silver.