I'm a complete newb on this topic, so sorry for any stupid inquiries.
I'd like to be able to record approx 4 different local news channels...take the best video and info from each station on a given story, and then condense/summarize my own story out of it.
My local cable company won't let me grab the video from my dvr. I've done some reading on boxes like silicon dust's products but really don't know how or if they would work.
Any advice or pushes in the right direction to better understand what I'm trying to do would be appreciated.
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Your local channels are probably sent via clear (unencrypted) QAM. If you have a TV with a QAM tuner see if it can get the channels you want directly from the cable feed. If so, all you need is a capture device with a clear QAM tuner. Note that the FCC recently ended the requirement that cable companies transmit local stations as clear QAM. So even if you get them now it may not be long before they're cut off (encrypted). Cable companies want to force you to rent a box for each TV.
If you can't get what you want via clear QAM you'll need to see what analog outputs you have on the back of the cable box. Most still have standard definition composite and/or s-video outputs. Most also have standard and high definition component outputs. To use those you'll need a device that can convert them to digital. Something like a Hauppauge HD PVR (for SD and HD) or the HVR-2250 for clear QAM and standard definition analog.
HDMI outputs on the back of the cable box are almost always protected by HDCP encryption. Few devices will capture encrypted HDMI. There are some grey market HDCP strippers available. But it may be illegal to possess one in the USA.
I question your wanting to do this in the first place as if you live in the USA, technically speaking the news broadcasts are probably covered by copyright and you may not have the legal right to do what you propose, particularly if you make these summaries available in some public place where others can get to them. But it would likely take a court case to decide on whether what you propose is or is not legal. It may not necessarily fall under Fair Use. In general, the longer the summaries are, the less likely it would be considered Fair Use. US courts have never explicitly defined what is and is not Fair Use so it's all just guess work, but in general in legal cases involving Fair Use, the shorter/smaller the excerpt, the more likely it was to be considered Fair Use.