There has been strong interest in a unique feature of the Pioneer DVR-520H – the DV In/Out port located at the front of the unit, with the particular focus on the “Out” part of it. In other words, dumping the hard drive’s content onto the PC without any disc burning. So, since I have one, and have successfully utilized this feature, I offer the details to answer many questions to me in case you’re thinking of buying one used.
There is no documentation officially available from Pioneer on this so we’re really on our own here. This obviously was something experimental, maybe even a mistake, which may be why it was corked in subsequent models.
Keep in mind, the way this works is not via direct transfer of MPEG-2 TS streams to the PC. It’s not a file-copy type of feature. You are actually (re-)recording, or rather capturing, the video, in real time, to your PC during playback of content that is already, currently, in the 520’s hard drive. But it is a capture direct from the unit itself.
As well, I have yet to find a way to capture any streams while they’re being recorded, only when the 520 has finished its recording to its HDD. Then, and only then, will it be available for acquisition by your PC. (Unless of course someone finds a way around this and posts.)
Video format is DV AVI with LPCM audio at about 13GB/hour. Huge, yes, but edits nicely and encodes easily to other smaller formats (like MPEG-2/DvD, DivX, etc). Great results.
In comparing the captured DV with the burned MPEG-2 equivalent video:
-DV seems noisier, more grained.
-DV seems more sharper in detail and color
-MPEG-2 seems more blocky.
-MPEG-2 seems cleaner.
This is subjective to the individual. I prefer the DV version since the final re-encode with the PC later produces nicer results.
Needless to say - record all content you wish to keep in FINE mode since it will not change the size of the DV, but will improve quality. No need for lower modes to save space (and kill quality). Personally, with my "weekly purges" to the PC my 520's HDD is empty several times a month even when everything is in the bigger FINE mode.
So, what are the advantages to doing this with the DV-Out instead of burning to DvD with the 520? Why bother with the huge DV video file sizes and extra capture time then?
-Ideal for the individual that does indeed migrate lots of content to the PC for better edits, encodes, authoring and burning, etc.
-The PC capture process is unattended. You literally just need to start it and then come back later when it’s done. It’s virtually no work unlike migration via DvD-R(W).
-No need to compromise quality for space, faster burning, etc with lower quality modes, such as SP, LP etc. You can record everything to FINE now and enjoy the better quality.
-No edits on the 520. The remote control is too clumsy, awkward, slow and limited compared to the functions available with PC apps. Every general editor app available, that is worth its salt, has features for DV video. But even editing with just a simple editor like VirtualDubMod in Direct Stream mode, and batch mode, is so much more convenient than with the 520’s remote.
-No time-consuming series of burns to transfer content. Zero wear-and-tear on a burner that is apparently limited.
-Quality seems richer with DV. This is taste though.
-DV streams edit much easier, especially with special effects, etc.
-DV streams produce nicer encodes if you wish to IVTC, use AviSynth filters, etc to the final target like DvD, DivX, etc.
-If you manage your work flow efficiently, you will save more time and have better results. And your 520’s hard drive will be empty a lot – always convenient.
The DV-Out method IMO is better suited for the individual that processes the 520's yields on a PC. It would be much more time consuming via remote and burner otherwise. Just dump the content as-is, and edit/encode later on the PC. Very simple.
Disc burning (as well as 520 remote control editing) is a thing of the past for me now.
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I hate VHS. I always did.
Here’s what you need:
-Firewire cable: 4pin to the 520, 6-pin to the PC’s firewire ($15US-$50US)
-Firewire card if you don’t have one already installed. ($30US-$50US)
-I would recommend a later model PC. This is, after all, a capture process that can be CPU intensive for older models.
WinDV is enough, which is free, effective, tiny and needs no installation. But you can look into Nero, WMM, VideoStudio, VirtualDub (I think), etc. There’s plenty.
You will also need an editor app. Good ones for DV-video are:
VirtualDubMod (lossless cuts and joins and batch mode)
WMM (decent and free)
Again, plenty available.
Since DV video is quite huge, you may need an encoder for either MPEG-2, DivX, Xvid, H.264 or whatever you wish to encode it to for playback purposes or just to save space. (Or, you can keep the DV, or encode it to a high bitrate MPEG-2 for archiving as source. This is up to the individual.)I hate VHS. I always did.
I will detail my workflow here in case it helps. Even though this will vary for each individual, the intention is to provide insight to this feature’s practicality.
Keep in mind, I have my 520 at a separate part of my house, so I actually physically bring it to my PC once a week to clean out its hard drive.
Since I don’t have a TV next to my PC, I have to “blindly” select the video to capture. This I do with preparation beforehand by dumping what clips I will capture to the Copy Menu’s timeline as if preparing a DvD burn – easier to manage this way in one place and can accommodate many hours of video. And no need to “combine” the clips, they will play in sequence.
-Bring the 520 to the PC. Plug it in, but don’t power on just yet.
-Connect the cable’s 6-head to the firewire card. (You can leave it there always after.)
-Connect the cable’s 4-head to the 520’s front port.
-I personally like to restart the PC for a capture session.
-When the PC is ready, power on the 520. Wait for Windows to recognize it. (I’m using XP).
-Start playing the video from your 520’s Copy Menu timeline.
Here are the “blind steps”:
-Press Home Menu on the remote.
-Press down twice.
-Press Enter (you should see the Copy Menu at the front of the 520 on its LED display)
-Keep pressing Enter several more times (at least 3 or 4 more times). The video from the Copy Menu’s timeline should start playing soon enough.
-Fire up and begin your capture software and wait till it recognizes the playback. I find it easier to have it recognize the playback when it’s already playing.
-Press record on your software (and restart the 520’s video with the remote). You can always edit these extra bits out later.
-Just keep capturing. When the video finishes the software should stop. And it will be exact: if you have 5 hours and 20 minutes of content in your Copy Menu, it will take exactly that long to capture it. Hence, plan a batch overnighter every time you do this. (It doesn’t make sense to do an hour here and there.)
-DV video is ~13GB/hr. Make sure you have sufficient disc space for the capture. You can always edit, and re-encode/compress later. This process is up to you.
Once you check that the capture went fine, then feel free to delete the content from your 520’s drive when you plug it back to your TV. This is how it’s empty several times a month and ready for another week each time. I don’t need a bigger drive on my 520.
So far, apart from a few mistakes in the early part of the learning curve, this method has been flawless for me. Perfectly synced captures without a single dropped frame.
I hope this helps. If anyone’s got questions, feel free to post.I hate VHS. I always did.
PuzZler, Well written. Thank you for the guide.
Excellent tutorial- thanks!
Just as a general aside, other models of Pioneer purported to have this hidden feature were the 510, 5100, 720 and 9200. All of these have hard drives, the 5100 was the global-market version of USA 510, the 720 was a 520 marketed outside the USA with a larger hdd, and the 9200 was identical to the 720 aside from its dark gray cabinet and "industrial" model designation. These units all had sister models without hard drives, and the DV out feature applies to those as well, models 210, 310, 3100, and 320. The x10/x100 models had virtually no editing functions aside from creating/erasing chapters, so using the "stream to PC" feature expands their usefulness considerably. Since the burners on many of these models are now 5-6 years old and prone to age failure, the DV streaming feature can extend their useful life as "hdd-only" recorders. Win-win all around, but do be aware not every computer configuration will connect with these recorders: don't rush out to pay an inflated price for a used 520 unless you get a trial period to test it.
Thank you PuzZler for a nice tutorial. I have a few questions:
1. When the clips are played from the Copy List and captured via DV, are they separated by tracks, chapters, or is it just a looong recording needing to be cut.
2. If I make some edits on 520H, do I get chapter marks in captured DV?
I actually like editing video on my 520H. I have studied it well and can split and combine tracks, archive to DVD-RW and put it back, edit some more ad burn to DVD Video. I use chapters a lot and that is a feature not supported by most PC video players.
Browsing. marking and cutting is really easy and fast, comparing to any PC stuff. When I watch the recording, I often use 1.5 speed (scan1). It's a great time saver. Then I put a Chapter Mark on 2 strategic points at the beginning: one for Navi Mark (Track name and picture) and one for Episode name. That way I can skip the beginning of the episode which is always the same and can read the name of the episode. The following Chapters mark the beginning and end of commercial breaks. I just love doing it in full screen. Sometimes while I watch, sometimes just to clean up and mark the recording to watch later. I use all navigation tools: Scan fwd and back 3x and even 4x and Skip fwd and back. When I'm close to where I want to mark a Chapter, I use frame by frame navigation. Unfortunately the later models lost Chapter and Navi mark buttons and navigation is different too.
It just works flawlessly, unlike any computer solution I've tried. If there are other important segments I want to find again, I put extra Chapters.
After marking chapters, I go to Chapter Edit and erase all segments where the commercials are (I don't have it in front of me, so this is from the head). At the end I sometimes write a Title of the recording using GPS style texting (I don't understand how some people complain about browsing for characters: you can switch case, make space and write just fine using keys if you read the labels) and put it in a group. The NAVI mark is often enough to recognize the track. I stoped writing titles for cartoons, just too much work, NAVI mark is enough.
You just can't do that with a computer. Browsing, viewing and marking in full screen is priceless.
There are challenges managing my collection of DVDs (over 200), I might write something in another post.
Hey Orsetto, I'm sure your post will be useful for anybody interested in this feature upon bidding for one. Since this feature may never come back, I'm considering a backup myself, even one without a burner or editing features - one should be perfectly fine editing on a PC with the DV-Out. Maybe I take it for granted that it works flawlessly on my PC with a native OEM firewire input and an installed one as well. I actually made the mistake of buying a firewire card for this feature only to realize that I already had one. Oh well, I still installed it on another PC anyway. Anyhow, BOTH, worked just fine.
Sometimes the cable doesn't sit tight into the Pioneer's input and the "chime" tells me we lost the connection. I've bought a more expensive cable later but still it happens. I discovered that taping the cable down on the ground/floor to keep it steady and moving the 520 closer into it now works flawlessly. (I believe Pioneer didn't design this port perfectly.)
I use XP SP2, and with 2 cores this thing runs at about 15% during capture (I restart the PC before any long capture and kill all running programs). WinDV, as a capturing utility, has been excellent. No need for any other.
If anyone's got questions regarding any of this let me know.I hate VHS. I always did.
Originally Posted by jcool
If you combine the clips into one this awkward pause is much shorter - but it becomes more difficult to detect when editing. I personally like this "landmark" since each clip is a separate entity (I tend to mix a documentary with a sports game and music videos, etc all into the same timeline to edit later.)
There is no need to combine clips for me other than when I want to know exactly how long the capture will be beforehand - it only shows you the total time when combined into "one" clip. Then you can add a few seconds for each clip in the capture time for those pauses in playback.
You can still capture from the main board of clips, but it's just easier to select, reorder and manage with the Copy Menu.Originally Posted by jcoolOriginally Posted by jcool
As well I like special effects, certain AviSynth filters, other video formats for certain video etc. The DV suits me just fine.
But to let you know, when you have it in DV instead, a simple app like VirtualDubMod is so much easier for me for the cuts and joins that the remote does on the 520. You can quickly find the cut areas - no need to rewind/forward through hours and hours of video when a quick scrub or movement/click of the mouse finds it much quicker. It's even quicker than 4x or even the scan 10 minutes forward button. You can batch the clips using "Direct Stream" for later cutting. It's easy to join as well (I find when you combine or add chapters with the 520 it creates buggy streams with editors and encoders later.)
Yes a big screen TV would be nice for editting, but a smaller monitor is just fine. The only time I do any editing on the 520 now is when I feel the need to "cut some extra fat" here and there when I feel like shortening the capture time a bit. Otherwise I am so much happier with the mouse on a PC. Maybe you should try it, even without an expensive editor but with VirtualDubMod, just to see the difference.I hate VHS. I always did.
Thanks for the explanation.
It looks like the way we use the 520H depends on what we are comfortable with.
I was seriusly dissapointed by PC video editing software (stability, performance, features, quality of ouput). I have purchased several PC tuners (will never buy anything from Pinnacle again - good HW, but buggy SW, no support). After not being able to capture video consistently, I purchased a HD recorder (Philips - user interface sucked, returned for Pioneer - loved it after lowering some expectations - what it knows, works good). Unfortunately Pioneer did a bad design decision to remove Chapter Mark buttons from remote - so I guess I wont buy a new model unless I can access recordings directly from a computer (USB, network). I don't think that is going to happen soon (if at all). I hope nothing bad happens to my 520H for another 3-4 years when all analog TV should be replaced by digital here in EU.
I use it also for capturing from my miniDV camera. It puts chapters where clips start (not exactly - it's a few frames too late) and it's a really quick way to turn video from camera to DVD which you can actually navigate - skip to a next clip.
I know the resulting stream is hard to work with on a computer if it has been cut.
I really got spoiled by DVR's ability to put chapters anywhere. There is hardly any support for such functionality on a computer.
What do you do with video after capturing and editing (put it on DVD, iPod, NAS)?
Note to jcool: if you really do depend heavily on your 520, understand you are living on borrowed time. The vast majority of 520 burners have long since died, that yours still works after five years is a minor miracle. To extend the life of your 520, you need to do three things (if you haven't already): stop all use of 16x DVD-R and switch to Taiyo Yuden or Verbatim DataLife 8x media (this puts much less stress on the burner), limit your R/W use, and search places like eBay for a working, second-hand Pioneer DVR-107 or -A07 PC burner. If your 520 burner ever dies, you can replace it with a used 107 burner if you swap the controller boards in the two burners. (See other threads here such as "DVR-R09-XP needed"). The Pioneer company recently tanked, they are in serious financial trouble and are reorganizing as a strictly "car audio" supplier: this means no more Kuro TVs and no more DVD recorders. The Pio recorders have already been pulled from the USA and Canada stores, if you can possibly afford it I suggest you buy a new DVR-560 in your country while they are still for sale. They make a worthwhile supplement to a 520 and can finalize 520 discs, as well as exchange unfinalized and VR-mode discs.
While it does not offer the old-style full screen chapter marking, the separate chapter editing window in the 560 is the fastest and most responsive one Pioneer has come up with since the 520 (mainly because the CM skip now allows jumping in variable increments up to an hour in either direction, and the nav is more linear). The 560 is actually much more refined than the 520 aside from the full-screen feature that some have grown addicted to in the 520: definitely worth having as a reserve machine if you don't enjoy computer editing. I own the 510, 520, 540 and 560: once I got used to the much easier navigation and tools in the later models I stopped using the older units as anything but duping slaves. But its a matter of taste, everyone records differently- for my main purpose of archiving shows for later viewing and dubbing a huge collection of VHS tapes, the later models are more responsive. Others who are more immediate in their viewing prefer the 520, as would someone needing a machine to integrate into a HTPC system. Regarding the edited finalized DVDs from the 520 being more difficult to reauthor on a PC, I would only add that such issues occur with media from any DVD recorder- none of these burns a disc in a way that completely satisfies picky PC authoring tools. The Pios are actually as close to spec as you can get, there are endless tales of Panasonic and Toshiba created discs needing much more work to reauthor (depending on the vintage). Anyone expecting to re-author frequently should just avoid a recorder and take the direct-to-PC route, unless they can find something like a 520 that integrates via DV connection.
Dear PuzZLeR, thanks for the excellent tutorial, I might have to use it since my 720 just stopped finalizing DVDs and I cannot find a replacement drive. Question, have you ever tried removing the HD from the Pio and connecting it directly to a PC? Are the files in a usable format?
As far as I know about this topic from my own research on the matter: the disk is formatted as an archaic UNIX format (BSD?, not sure). I've found a utility that reads files, but it was way to expensive. None of the disk file systems in use today and tools to handle them can't do anything with that disk except corrupt it. I gave up on direct disk access after finding this information.