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  1. I have files recorded on the hard drive of this dvd recorder. Is there a way to transfer them to a flash drive or my pc without recording them onto to dvd and then editing on computer.
    My main goal is to edit the files recorded on this hard drive. All of the files were converted from VHS and VHS -c tapes.
    thanks
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    can you transfer the recordings to the SD card ?? - https://panasonic.ca/viewing/ALL/DMR-EH50/OI/rqt8033-3b/rqt8033-3b.pdf
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  3. The easiest method remains to do rough editing on the units HDD, high-speed lossless dub to reusable DVD-RW, rip the RW to your PC, then do your final edits there in an authoring suite (or repackage the edited DVD files as standard MPGs). The unit does not allow moving recordings from HDD to SD card or USB.

    It is also now possible to harvest the video files from a Panasonic HDD and copy them to your PC using newer versions of ISObuster software. However, this workflow is not convenient as an everyday method. It requires removing the HDD from your DMR-E50, connecting it to your PC to copy the files, then re-installing the HDD in your Panasonic for further recording. While this is doable on an occasional basis, its a PITA to do constantly, and these recorders do NOT like having their HDD yanked out and replaced often. Proceed with caution, and if you expect to do this as a routine its best to modify your DMR-E50 so the HDD can remain outside the case for easy access (or add an adapter to record directly on a CF memory card instead of a hard disk).

    VH member jwillis84 was instrumental in helping the developer of ISObuster add the ability to read and copy files from proprietary DVD recorder HDDs. Search for his older posts on this topic, example thread here discusses convenience modifications one can make to the recorder for this workflow:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/395631-Pioneer-DVR-a-new-experiment-long-term-m-2-storage
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  4. The easiest method remains to do rough editing on the units HDD, high-speed lossless dub to reusable DVD-RW, rip the RW to your PC, then do your final edits there in an authoring suite (or repackage the edited DVD files as standard MPGs). The unit does not allow moving recordings from HDD to SD card or USB.

    It is also now possible to harvest the video files from a Panasonic HDD and copy them to your PC using newer versions of ISObuster software. However, this workflow is not convenient as an everyday method. It requires removing the HDD from your DMR-E50, connecting it to your PC to copy the files, then re-installing the HDD in your Panasonic for further recording. While this is doable on an occasional basis, its a PITA to do constantly, and these recorders do NOT like having their HDD yanked out and replaced often. Proceed with caution, and if you expect to do this as a routine its best to modify your DMR-E50 so the HDD can remain outside the case for easy access (or add an adapter to record directly on a CF memory card instead of a hard disk).
    But writing to DVD-RW disks and reading from DVD-RW disks one by one is painfully slow and tedious, as opposed to extracting the whole contents of a HDD in one go, so I get why someone would favor the second method, however awkward it may be... In other words, these units are PITAs by design, and it's a matter of finding ways to mitigate and alleviate the inevitable butthurt that they're bound to trigger.

    VH member jwillis84 was instrumental in helping the developer of ISObuster add the ability to read and copy files from proprietary DVD recorder HDDs.
    I didn't know about Isobuster for that purpose, but years ago I had found a dedicated tool called PanHDD. If memory serves right it was neither very convenient nor very reliable (but I only made a few tests).
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  5. Since I am not going to be using the unit going forward, how would I hook the hard drive to my pc?
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  6. Originally Posted by AMYFAITH View Post
    Since I am not going to be using the unit going forward, how would I hook the hard drive to my pc?
    If you have a desktop PC, it should have an open spare hard drive bay inside where you can just temporarily install the HDD. Tho I suspect the DMR-E50 used the old EIDE HDD connection instead of the now-standard SATA: if so, a newer PC might require an additional addpter to run a EIDE hard drive.

    If using a laptop, you would need an external USB case: you install your bare E50 drive in the case and close it back up, basically converting it into a "portable" external USB HDD.

    I would not recommend the cheap multi-connector external HDD adapter cables that purport to let you just snap on a bare HDD and run it off USB. These often use an oddball bridging circuit that some brands of PC cannot recognize. Complete external cases are fairly inexpensive at about $25: better safe than sorry. Look for something like this, which covers you for both types of HDD (EIDE aka PATA, and the more current SATA):

    https://www.amazon.com/Connectland-External-Enclosure-3-5-Inch-CL-ENC35008/dp/B002MUGU...9363636&sr=8-5

    When you connect it to your PC, Windows will either do nothing (not recognize it) or offer to format/erase it: if the latter be sure to immediately click "no" or "cancel" or the HDD will be erased! Run the ISObuster app, and from within the app the recorder HDD will be recognized and you can then copy the video files as standard MPGs to your PC HDD. Note the free trial version of ISObuster will not perform this rather obscure recorder HDD task: you need to purchase a full paid license (approx $39) to activate that feature.

    Be aware that you will likely be disappointed if you attempt to modify the raw MPG recorder video files in any way (such as convert them to smaller, phone and tablet friendly MP4 files). DVD/HDD recorder files made from VHS barely manage to hold themselves together as MPGs, if you try to shrink them or re-encode them to other formats the quality tends to really fall apart. Be sure to keep a backup copy of each original large-size recorder MPG file.

    Originally Posted by abolibibelot View Post
    But writing to DVD-RW disks and reading from DVD-RW disks one by one is painfully slow and tedious, as opposed to extracting the whole contents of a HDD in one go, so I get why someone would favor the second method, however awkward it may be... In other words, these units are PITAs by design, and it's a matter of finding ways to mitigate and alleviate the inevitable butthurt that they're bound to trigger.
    Its a matter of perspective: up until very recently, when ISObuster unexpectedly added the welcome ability to read and rather easily transfer files from the HDDs of a remarkable array of DVD recorder brands, there simply wasn't any alternative. One used the recorders as they were intended: make all edits and menus on the recorder HDD, then burn a finished DVD. If you were more ambitious, you either ripped that DVD to your PC for more elaborate re-authoring or you didn't waste your time with a recorder to begin with (instead recording direct to your PC via Windows Media Center and external input devices). A lot of us chased down frustrating routes to directly copying the files from the recorder HDD to PC, via misuse of HDD salvage software like Stellar Phoenix, but it was so tedious as to not be worth the effort unless the recorder actually broke down and could no longer make DVDs.

    I didn't know about Isobuster for that purpose, but years ago I had found a dedicated tool called PanHDD. If memory serves right it was neither very convenient nor very reliable (but I only made a few tests).
    See above: these were typically hacks similar to using a tedious fragment-by-fragment salvage tool like Stellar Phoenix. The new ISObuster feature appears to be far more streamlined and versatile: it directly reads a wide range of recorder brand HDDs (not just Panasonic, which was the case with most such hacks), and I believe it automatically finds all file fragments of each title and joins them into a logical unified MPG prior to copying to the PC.
    Last edited by orsetto; 30th Dec 2020 at 16:08.
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  7. Sounds a little bit complex, I will probably just make dvds from the unit. which leads to two more questions. (1) The dvd recorder has RCA ports but of course we no longer have tv's with the rca port to do the hookup between the tv and the dvd recorder. What should I buy to make the connection between the tv and the dvd recorder?
    (2) what the best way to edit the dvds on the pc? thanks again in advance for the rapid responses?
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  8. Originally Posted by AMYFAITH View Post
    (1) The dvd recorder has RCA ports but of course we no longer have tv's with the rca port to do the hookup between the tv and the dvd recorder. What should I buy to make the connection between the tv and the dvd recorder?
    Does your TV not have any analog inputs at all? I know the trend in recent models has been HDMI-only, but often there's at least a triple-socket component or RGB connection that can also double as "yellow (video) white (left audio) red (right audio) connections for a VCRs or DVD recorders. If your TV is HDMI-only, you would need an adapter that converts the round analog connectors on the E50 to a digital HDMI connection, like this. These adapters don't always have the greatest picture quality, but since you only need it to operate the recorder it should be fine (doesn't affect the quality of recordings already on the Panasonic HDD).

    (2) what the best way to edit the dvds on the pc?
    It depends what you ultimately want to do. If you want to keep the recordings in "DVD Player Format", you would use tools like abolibibelot mentioned. If you don't really need actual DVD player discs, you could just rip the dvd contents to your PC with a utility that automatically changes the complicated disc structure into simple, individual MPG video files for each recording on the disc (essentially the same result you'd get from ISObuster). These files can be rather large (a filled blank DVD typically holds 4.3 GB of video), but most devices (aside from some phones and tablets) easily play MPG files from a USB stick. If your PC is running Windows 7, VOB2MPG does this disc-to-MPG conversion easily. If you're on Windows 10, you'd need a newer, similar utility (I'm still on Win7 for video work so can't personally recommend anything for Win10).

    How familiar are you with the operation of your DMR-E50? Like most similar DVD/HDD combo recorders, its capable of a lot more than meets the eye. All DVD/HDD combo units are really just dedicated DVD authoring PCs, repackaged as a consumer device. The entire point of including the hard drive was so we could do almost all the editing and authoring one normally does with a PC directly inside the recorder before burning the DVD. IOW, just about any editing you want to do on the PC can be done just as well or better in the unit itself, so that once you burn the DVD you don't need to do anything further (aside from making extra copies).

    Along with editing the videos on the HDD themselves (permanent editing with no re-do), the recorder has a "virtual edit list" feature: this lets you delete parts you don't want, split videos up to move parts around, and so on. When you have everything edited and arranged exactly how you want, you burn the DVD from this "virtual" template (while the original unedited recordings on the HDD remain intact). The resulting DVD will be "perfect", requiring no further work on the PC. And doing it on the recorder is arguably more pleasant: you view your work on your large TV screen, and do all the edits with the remote control from your sofa (instead of chained to your desk with a mouse).

    There are only two significant things you can do with the PC that you cannot do on the recorder: make very precise edits on the exact frame you want, and elaborate complicated "disc authoring" (custom menus, subchapters with thumbnails, interactive features, etc). The recorder allows you to make accurate edits, but forces each edit to the nearest half second: if you really must have more precision than this, you need the PC (most people get by just fine with the recorder). As far as authoring, if you have no need of actual DVD player discs then those features are meaningless (regular PC video files simply play: they don't have any "authoring" to speak of).
    Last edited by orsetto; 30th Dec 2020 at 19:31.
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  9. I have found that it's difficult to edit very precisely on the recorder. I want to make to pull clips from a few different dvds to make a tribute video for a birthday. Which is why I want to be able to edit them on the computer. Thanks for the great information it's very helpufl.
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  10. @orsetto
    See above: these were usually hacks similar to using a tedious fragment-by-fragment salvage tool like Stellar Phoenix.
    As I recall it was more sophisticated than mere file carving (which is particularly complicated for MPG/VOB files as I mentioned here), as the author managed to decipher at least some parts of the filesystem and title indexing structure, even though it seemed to be some rather crude retroengineering, or “hack” indeed ; but it probably paved the way for those who later implemented that seemingly more mature feature into IsoBuster. It's quite surprising that it only got implemented very recently, since the appeal for these devices must have been seriously dwindling over the past few years, even on the used market ; on the other hand, since (I presume) they're no longer in production (correct ?), and those proprietary filesystems are therefore obsolete, perhaps the manufacturers are less likely to oppose the inclusion of such a feature in a prominent software than, let's say, 5 years ago.

    @amyfaith
    what the best way to edit the dvds on the pc? thanks again in advance for the rapid responses?
    You might find some good suggestions here and here. I mentioned DVBCut, which is light, free, quick, convenient, and has the rare ability to do “smart editing”, meaning that it allows to cut anywhere with a 1 frame accuracy, only reencoding a small portion when needed, i.e. when cutting between two key frames, losslessly copying the rest of the clip. I also mentioned Avidemux, which is more versatile but doesn't have the “smart editing” ability (it can cut losslessly on key frames only, or to cut more accurately it has to recompress the whole stream). Beyond that are commercial softwares, which I never tried, so can't comment on them.
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  11. Originally Posted by abolibibelot View Post
    As I recall it was more sophisticated than mere file carving (which is particularly complicated for MPG/VOB files as I mentioned here), as the author managed to decipher at least some parts of the filesystem and title indexing structure, even though it seemed to be some rather crude retroengineering, or “hack” indeed ; but it probably paved the way for those who later implemented that seemingly more mature feature into IsoBuster.
    I should have been more clear that my own recorder HDD file harvesting experience was based on use of Pioneer/Sony brand DVD/HDD recorders: I do understand that HDD hacking of the Panasonic file system indeed got much further along than any other brand. After some time, hacking of the Funai/Magnavox recorder file system achieved parity with Panasonic, but most other brands were still stuck at hopelessly tedious manual fragment reconstruction.

    It's quite surprising that it only got implemented very recently, since the appeal for these devices must have been seriously dwindling over the past few years, even on the used market
    ISObuster formally added the feature about three years ago in a beta release, its since been updated and improved. I agree the timing is very odd: we really must be grateful to such intrepid and creative developers for bringing us such obscure tools that would (at best) gain them incremental sales from the few people left that desperately need them. As I remember, it took a great deal of effort, with jwillis84 acquiring and beta testing a bewildering array of DVD/HDD recorders from around the world and feeding test data back to the developer. To their great credit, those of us with less-popular recorder brands now have ability to greatly extend their versatility and lifespan. Some of us still vastly prefer the simplicity and reliability of digitizing analog videotape with a DVD/HDD recorder vs a complex, tricky PC capture system (the recorder easily handles mundane tapes while freeing the PC system for the more problematic transfers). Being able to directly copy the recorder HDD MPGs to our PCs without the intermediary DVD burning step is a huge productivity boost (Panasonic owners have had earlier means to achieve this end, the rest of us were locked out until ISObuster stepped in to help).
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  12. Ah, OK, then you'll need to get the videos on your computer for sure. The recorder itself is only capable of editing on key frames, which only occur every half second, so not fine enough control for some very small clips. I do this on Win 7 with the old, free utilities VOB2MPG (to rip the dvd to the PC as regular MPG video files) and MPEGstreamclip (to edit the MPG files before putting on USB memory stick). But I don't think these work on Win10, there are newer similar Win10-compatible utilities which I don't remember the names of offhand. If you're open to buying commercial software, Video Redo Plus is very good (combines the Rip As MPG and Edit The MPGs functions in one utility, can also recreate them as a dvd player disc or convert to other formats for phones, tablets, youTube, etc).
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  13. But I don't think these work on Win10
    So there are many such “legacy” utilities that no longer work on Windows 10, despite the fact that it's supposed to share core components with Windows 7, on which they still work with no issue and reliably do what they're supposed to ? And so the statement I quoted in this thread (from a commentary on this page) is essentially not true ? “If you want Win7, then just use Win10. Win10 is essentially an upgraded, improved, up-to-date version of Win7 considering they both use the same NT 6 kernel version.” (As if I needed more reasons to stubbornly refuse to upgrade...)
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  14. To be fair, a lot of the once-standard video tools many of us still use out of habit under Win7 have been unsupported or abandonware for years anyway, so it isn't surprising they break under Win10. More annoying is when newer apps or hardware that supposedly does have Win10 mfr or developer support breaks, usually because of Microsoft's own atrocious unstoppable updates. The issues do seem more localized to capture with Win10 than post-processing, but reported experiences vary dramatically. I take the easier, cowards way out by performing most video tasks on dedicated Win7 PCs disconnected from web access, with some work still done on ancient Apple Mac boxes (Apple's own video, OS and hardware shenanigans over the past decade rival MS, so no prize there either).
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    I would seriously consider pulling the drive out and transferring the files with ISOBuster. They are already in EH50 format from a VHS capture. That's a generation loss. Unless you can ensure that to transfer to DD will be lossless, you will loss more quality when you burn them to DVD for transfer to the computer. After editing, you'll then loose more when you convert to MP4 for sending to people. If you can edit those original EH50 files, you'll be better off.

    If you go the DVD route, DVDVOB2MPG can also be used to rip/transfer them to a Win 10 computer. It has a couple of minor quirks but in the main works very well. See my posts in this thread:

    https://www.google.com/url?client=internal-element-cse&cx=partner-pub-7958603558688719...AAy_Vn6X-iaqi_

    If you're making a tribute video, you'd be best doing it in a proper video editor such as Movie Edit Pro/Vegas Studio/Pinnacle. Titles, fades/transitions between clips, still images, re-ordering clips and soundtracks can all be easily done to produce a good-looking video. However, there is a mild learning curve but I can tell you, when you get into it, it is addictive!

    Movie Edit Pro basics tutes here (some produced only 3 days ago):

    https://www.magix.info/us/tutorials/
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  16. Agreed: a little patience and perhaps some help from a geek friend should get AMYFAITH up and running with ISObuster fairly easily: once set up it would be a lot faster getting the Panasonic videos onto the PC via direct HDD > HDD file copying. Making the transfer via shuttle discs will be tedious indeed: the 100GB HDD, if full, would require 25 or so discs to be burned (or the same -RW disc recycled 25 times). Each burn in the E50 recorder will take 15 mins, then ripping the disc contents to PC with DVDVOB2MPG will take another 15 mins, multiply by 25 and we're talking approx 13 hours of disc juggling alone.

    OTOH, if AMYFAITH is uncomfortable with the steps necessary to prepare for ISObuster, and has the time available to complete the project more slowly, disc shuttling totally works and is how most of us accomplished this task before 2017. The Panasonic will burn lossless, exact copies of the videos on its HDD to blank DVDs as long as you don't have anything odd going on in the videos (like camcorder format alternating between 4:3 and 16:9). One also has to be careful when setting up the list of videos to copy for each blank disc: the total must not exceed the 4.3GB capacity of the disc or the recorder will default to a real-time compressed re-encode (loses quality, takes a couple hours per disc vs 15 mins for lossless).

    More about these "Panasonic lossless copy" instructions can be found on older recorder threads here and elsewhere: search for topics like "Panasonic DMR DVD/HDD high speed lossless". Usually the only thing you need to keep aware of is blocks of video too large to lossless copy: if the recorder warns of this, just use the copy editor to break that large block into a couple smaller chunks that will fit on several discs.
    Last edited by orsetto; 2nd Jan 2021 at 09:47.
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  17. A tip I discovered quite late (in a gazillionth comment of some obscure, randomly accessed and probably unrelated article) : when you want to copy a link from a Google search, instead of right-clicking on the link directly, first right-click on a blank area (or a plain text area, any area with no URL), then keep your finger on the right-button (or whatever limb you're using — like Emmanuel Kant I'm writing this for any reasonable being that may read it now or in the distant future), move the mouse pointer onto the link, then, and only then, drop the button. See ? Works with Firefox at least, and works on other links that have the same kind of cringeworthy behaviour (like those links that turn into those horrendous “outbrain” or “taboola” links). Seriously, that was a life-changer, a small but enduring one. If it does work on other browsers (possibly even other systems ?), then it should be shared with the entire planet, everyone who owns a computer should know about it.
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  18. Member Seeker47's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    VOB2MPG does this disc-to-MPG conversion easily. If you're on Windows 10, you'd need a newer, similar utility (I'm still on Win7 for video work so can't personally recommend anything for Win10).
    Like Alwyn, I've been using DVDVOB2MPG, which has worked fine under Win-10.

    Originally Posted by abolibibelot
    but it probably paved the way for those who later implemented that seemingly more mature feature into IsoBuster. It's quite surprising that it only got implemented very recently, since the appeal for these devices must have been seriously dwindling over the past few years, even on the used market ; on the other hand, since (I presume) they're no longer in production (correct ?), and those proprietary filesystems are therefore obsolete, perhaps the manufacturers are less likely to oppose the inclusion of such a feature in a prominent software than, let's say, 5 years ago.
    If only that proved true for the DirecTV DVR Sat boxes. I have 3 dead ones so far, each having HDDs nearly full with (seemingly lost) recorded material. I'm pretty sure that content will all be gibberish even for IsoBuster, and I intended to find out definitively at some point, but that would be a great discovery if somehow my assumption was incorrect.
    When in Las Vegas, don't miss the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum http://www.pinballmuseum.org/ -- with over 150 tables from 6+ decades of this quintessentially American art form.
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  19. Originally Posted by Seeker47 View Post
    If only that proved true for the DirecTV DVR Sat boxes. I have 3 dead ones so far, each having HDDs nearly full with (seemingly lost) recorded material. I'm pretty sure that content will all be gibberish even for IsoBuster, and I intended to find out definitively at some point, but that would be a great discovery if somehow my assumption was incorrect.
    There will likely never be a solution to recover videos from the HDDs inside proprietary boxes like cable service PVRs and DirecTV satellite PVRs (or for that matter any other encrypted file systems like the frustrating USB recorder features of some current HDTV screens and standalone tuners). Encrypted is encrypted: no developer is going to knock themselves out trying to unlock those file systems while they remain proprietary and legally protected.

    About all you can do, Seeker47, is hope you live long enough to see the day the zombie DirecTV service finally dies once and for all from both a business and legal perspective. Its long been an albatross around AT&Ts neck that they're desperate to rid themselves of: with no buyers offering a reasonable purchase price or stock swap deal on the horizon, AT&T may eventually just let it die and write it off. At that point, if no one is interested in defending the encryption IP, some developer may hack the encryption and offer a solution similar to ISObuster. But I suspect even with DirecTV dead in the water your videos would still be locked away forever: its almost certain all these encryption-happy services drew their encryption tech from a shared source or license. If one goes out of business, the others remain to enforce the encryption IP. You'd probably need Spectrum, Charter and ComCast to be in the same coffin with DirecTV before any chance arises to beat the PVR encryption.
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  20. Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    You'd probably need Spectrum, Charter and ComCast to be in the same coffin with DirecTV before any chance arises to beat the PVR encryption.
    Or newest A.I algorythms... coming soon i bet
    Last edited by themaster1; 8th Jun 2021 at 14:48.
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  21. Member Seeker47's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    Originally Posted by Seeker47 View Post
    If only that proved true for the DirecTV DVR Sat boxes. I have 3 dead ones so far, each having HDDs nearly full with (seemingly lost) recorded material. I'm pretty sure that content will all be gibberish even for IsoBuster, and I intended to find out definitively at some point, but that would be a great discovery if somehow my assumption was incorrect.
    There will likely never be a solution to recover videos from the HDDs inside proprietary boxes like cable service PVRs and DirecTV satellite PVRs (or for that matter any other encrypted file systems like the frustrating USB recorder features of some current HDTV screens and standalone tuners). Encrypted is encrypted: no developer is going to knock themselves out trying to unlock those file systems while they remain proprietary and legally protected.

    About all you can do, Seeker47, is hope you live long enough to see the day the zombie DirecTV service finally dies once and for all from both a business and legal perspective. Its long been an albatross around AT&Ts neck that they're desperate to rid themselves of: with no buyers offering a reasonable purchase price or stock swap deal on the horizon, AT&T may eventually just let it die and write it off. At that point, if no one is interested in defending the encryption IP, some developer may hack the encryption and offer a solution similar to ISObuster. But I suspect even with DirecTV dead in the water your videos would still be locked away forever: its almost certain all these encryption-happy services drew their encryption tech from a shared source or license. If one goes out of business, the others remain to enforce the encryption IP. You'd probably need Spectrum, Charter and ComCast to be in the same coffin with DirecTV before any chance arises to beat the PVR encryption.
    You know, that was pretty much my working assumption. The reason I never got around to trying anyway was because I certainly never lack for projects around here -- most of them commanding a significantly higher priority. (If for a moment one might have thought that the long "house arrest" under the pandemic conditions would provide a golden opportunity to pursue such things, think again. I've remained way busier than I ever would have imagined, for such circumstances.) I mean, just taking the damn box apart -- with it's proprietary locking screws -- and mounting the HDD somewhere -- in the absence of any likely payoff -- was too much to bother with.

    Originally Posted by abolibibelot
    Or aren't there ways to fix those boxes, at least for the most common causes of failure ?
    Depends on which critical component of the Sat PVR box had died: the PSU, definitely; the mainboard with major surgery, possibly. (Compatible spares could be found on eBay.) If it was the HDD that croaked, Game Over. (Yes, there are firms that recover dead HDDs, for some astronomical fees, but then you've still got that encryption as a Great Wall standing in your way.)

    [Incidentally, eBay probably remains the last resort, for all manner of discontinued products. Over the years, I have sourced many such items from there.]

    Theoretically speaking, as a remote, last chance option for the case I described, the DirecTV sat boxes I have been using -- HR24 series -- claimed to offer a feature whereby one could attach an outboard, auxiliary HDD (which I suppose would have to be in its own supporting enclosure) to the box. This could allow for a significant capacity increase, but here's the rub: you can only have one HDD supported for the sat box; taking this option disallows the original, internal HDD, which may get itself wiped in the process . . . ?! Or at least that was my understanding. A stiff price to pay, maybe irreversible (?), and something of a non-starter, I'd say.

    Interesting, though not really surprising, what orsetto has to say about the future of DirecTV. From what I've heard, the best tv service that was out there in the U.S. used to be Verizon FIOS, which Frontier took over, and my same sources tell me that Frontier has diminished it and largely run it into the ground. That left DirecTV as the best quality service -- on a technical basis anyway, and judging from industry awards. (Customer service has been a very different matter though, in rather unfavorable ways.) As someone who had to try to provide some very limited, ad hoc support for issues with sister service U-Verse, which AT&T also owned, my very strong impressions were that U-Verse was quite inferior. If we are looking from the vantage point of customers seeking a premium level service provider, I don't know where that leaves us.
    Last edited by Seeker47; 8th Jun 2021 at 16:13.
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  22. (I hate my computer with a passion... Had spent half an hour writing a reply, then pfffuit! Firefox crashed all of a sudden, and I barely avoided a global Windows crash by putting it to sleep, because for some reason it happens to temporarily stop whatever SNAFU is going on under the hood, for which I could get absolutely zero useful insight each time I tried to solve this issue on various forums (including this one), it's an absolute nightmare... So, sorry if I forgot some details I had in mind the first time around.)

    If only that proved true for the DirecTV DVR Sat boxes. I have 3 dead ones so far, each having HDDs nearly full with (seemingly lost) recorded material. I'm pretty sure that content will all be gibberish even for IsoBuster, and I intended to find out definitively at some point, but that would be a great discovery if somehow my assumption was incorrect.
    If the data is not encrypted, even if the HDDs are formatted in a non-standard proprietary filesystem, you should at least be able to recover those recordings with the “raw file carving” method. If the recordings are mostly contiguous (i.e. if you didn't delete earlier recordings then write newer ones too often), it should be manageable. One problem is that the video formats usually used for direct recording of TV broadcasts (MPEG2 TS or MPEG4 TS where TS stands for transport stream as opposed to program stream) have a highly “modular” structure (might not be the correct technical term), with many redundant headers sharing the same “file signature” which confuse recovery utilities into detecting each small fragment as an individual file (each one behaving differently in that situation — for instance Photorec tends to extract fewer fragments than R-Studio which can even display hundreds of overlapping files, each one a few kilobytes smaller than the one before, which is obviously highly impractical).

    An alternative method (again there should be no encryption for this to work) would be to extract the whole drive's binary contents as a single file, starting from a valid video header, using a hexadecimal editor. With WinHex for instance :
    1) examine the beginning of a few video files created by the corresponding device, and select a specific enough string that appears at or near the beginning of each one, then copy it, either as ASCII text (Edit > Copy > Normally, or shortcut CTRL + C) or preferrably as hexadecimal (Edit > Copy > Hex values — hexadecimal is more reliable as it allows to search non-ASCII bytes) ;
    2) open the whole DVR HDD (Tools > Open disk > select the one with the correct size) ;
    3) search the string you just copied, either in ASCII (Search > Find text) or in hexadecimal (Search > Find hex values), depending on what was copied in step 1 ;
    4) at the first hit, mark the beginning of the sector (sector boundaries appear as horizontal lines every 512 bytes) as the beginning of the block (right-click > Beginning of block) ;
    5) then go all the way down to the end of the device (Navigation > Go to > End of file, or shortcut CTRL + END), and mark the last byte as the end of block (right-click > End of block) ;
    6) then extract the block that was thus defined as a humongous file (Edit > Copy block > Into new file), with an extension matching that of video files normally created by the corresponding device (usually .ts).
    Then you should be able to open this huge file in any video editor that recognizes that video format (provided that it doesn't choke on the sheer size), to visually determine where each recording begins and ends, and match fragments if there aren't too many of them. (Then if you want to stay as lossless as possible, you could go back to the hexadecimal editor to extract the individual files, by calculating the position based on the timecodes, with a bit of trial-and-error.)
    Even if there's no actual encryption, the data could still be unreadable if it was written with a different “endian-ness”[*]. I've had this when trying to extract video files from a Toshiba HDD recorder. I noticed the pattern because the first sector of the HDD contained the string “OTHSBI AVD-DiVed onIof”, which, when inverting bytes two by two, reads as “TOSHIBA DVD-Video Info”. I managed to make the data readable using WinHex's “Modify block” feature (Edit > Modify data > Reverse byte order, 2 bytes).


    [*] From WinHex's integrated help :
    “Endian-ness
    Microprocessors differ in the position of the least significant byte: Intel®, MIPS®, National Semiconductor, and VAX processors have the least significant byte first. A multi-byte value is stored in memory from the lowest byte (the "little end") to the highest byte. For example, the hexadecimal value 12345678 is stored as 78 56 34 12. This is called the little-endian format. Motorola and Sparc processors have the least significant byte last. A multi-byte value is stored in memory from the highest byte (the "big end") to the lowest byte. For example, the hexadecimal value 12345678 is stored as 12 34 56 78. This is called the big-endian format.”
    Last edited by abolibibelot; 8th Jun 2021 at 11:58.
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  23. Member Seeker47's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by abolibibelot View Post
    (I hate my computer with a passion... Had spent half an hour writing a reply, then pfffuit! Firefox crashed all of a sudden, and I barely avoided a global Windows crash by putting it to sleep, because for some reason it happens to temporarily stop whatever SNAFU is going on under the hood, for which I could get absolutely zero useful insight each time I tried to solve this issue on various forums (including this one), it's an absolute nightmare... So, sorry if I forgot some details I had in mind the first time around.)
    I understand and commiserate on that pain. Never thought I could adjust to Win-10, but have been forced to do so, at least with some computers. I don't much care for a lot of the hardware changes that have come down the pike, like UEFI and discontinued features like the Reset button often going the way of the Dodo. My solution has been a different sort of tightrope, either more or less drastic depending on one's point of view. (It was exacerbated by my fondness for the Shuttle XPC line, which makes much use of downsized and proprietary components.) I standardized on a couple older models that I liked, and acquired spares of them. A backup against failures, a repository for spare parts that can get harder to find. The tradeoff is not having the latest and greatest in terms of computer horsepower . . . but it's remained quite adequate, even for video stuff. I used to maintain a set of cloned boot drives, which were great to have as immediate, drop-in replacements, supplemented by more recent partition backup images. Ideally, I should get back into that regimen.
    When in Las Vegas, don't miss the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum http://www.pinballmuseum.org/ -- with over 150 tables from 6+ decades of this quintessentially American art form.
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  24. Sorry for the jargon: by IP I meant intellectual property, yes.

    Its a little hard for us at the consumer level to fully understand the infuriating "prison" technology of proprietary recorder HDDs. On the one hand, its probably not nearly as complicated as it seems if someone really wanted to engineer a solution to break out the videos. OTOH, it seems pretty complicated and hopeless because there's a double software/hardware layer to the encryption. Not only are the recordings encrypted on the HDD, the key to unlocking them is embedded in the recorder hardware: each individual recorder has its own distinct key. If the hardware fails, nothing else can unlock the software encryption on the HDD.

    Many current HDTVs, BluRay recorders and tuner/recorders that offer a "record to USB stick or HDD" feature operate in similar fashion: the blank HDD or memory stick is formatted with an encryption lock so its file system will be inaccessible to any device except the one that formatted it. If the TV or device irreparably breaks, the recordings cannot be retrieved even by another example of the identical brand/model. This would be the case with Seeker47's DirecTV box if he used the external HDD expansion option: the external HDD would become forever locked to that particular box (if the box died, the only way to re-use the HDD would be to erase it).
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  25. Member Seeker47's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    Its a little hard for us at the consumer level to fully understand the infuriating "prison" technology of proprietary recorder HDDs. On the one hand, its probably not nearly as complicated as it seems if someone really wanted to engineer a solution to break out the videos. OTOH, it seems pretty complicated and hopeless because there's a double software/hardware layer to the encryption. Not only are the recordings encrypted on the HDD, the key to unlocking them is embedded in the recorder hardware: each individual recorder has its own distinct key. If the hardware fails, nothing else can unlock the software encryption on the HDD.

    Many current HDTVs, BluRay recorders and tuner/recorders that offer a "record to USB stick or HDD" feature operate in similar fashion: the blank HDD or memory stick is formatted with an encryption lock so its file system will be inaccessible to any device except the one that formatted it. If the TV or device irreparably breaks, the recordings cannot be retrieved even by another example of the identical brand/model. This would be the case with Seeker47's DirecTV box if he used the external HDD expansion option: the external HDD would become forever locked to that particular box (if the box died, the only way to re-use the HDD would be to erase it).
    I take it this applies to units like the Elegato Game Capture, and various others occupying that general category space ? I never explored those options, but never imagined they would also be that restrictive. Now I'm glad I didn't bother experimenting with that. While these units may have been primarily intended for capturing one's own game play --and I've never been a gamer -- I'm aware that many sought or hoped to use them for capturing / saving program material. Several threads here have touched upon that goal. But this suggests that would have only led to a dead end ?

    On the one hand, and without looking to make any excuses for the domestic service providers, in at least the case of the Sat / Cable DVR boxes one can understand how DirecTV and all the others would find themselves so handcuffed. It's not just a matter of keeping the delivered content exclusive to the cable / Sat provider: Paramount, Universal, Warners etc. must be holding them responsible under contract to do everything possible to keep said content from "escaping the corral." The ironic thing is that this does next to nothing by way of keeping virtually any show or movie you could name from being smeared all over the internet, in 720P or better quality, often within hours of its initial release. A multiplicity of timezones makes that easier. If it's not what's called in the biz a "Day & Date" release, given differences for foreign territories it might be available on the 'Net even well before it's legitimately available here. That's gotta be a huge pain for Big Content.
    When in Las Vegas, don't miss the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum http://www.pinballmuseum.org/ -- with over 150 tables from 6+ decades of this quintessentially American art form.
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  26. Oh, absolutely: no question these encrypted HDD systems were implemented at the behest of Hollywood as a slight firewall to slow down sourcing for torrents, etc. It makes sense from their business standpoint, but practically speaking caused an unnecessary mess. Given most of the affected PVRs are sealed box cable/sat subscription devices, the actual number of consumers who would actually dare to tear them apart for pirating reasons has to be statistically irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Instead, the greatest impact the encryption has isn't piracy prevention but consumer frustration when these boxes often fail, taking perhaps months of recordings with them into the void. Poll any dozen random ComCast PVR subscribers, and ask how they feel about this encryption trap. Without encryption, the services could have offered the oft-requested optional service charge to move HDDs from dead PVRs into new ones with no loss of saved recordings.

    Re the tunerless "game recording" type of box: most (if not all) of these do not employ encryption locks. You can freely move files from their internal or external drives to your PC or backup drives. I don't have any first hand experience with the Elgato, but popular units like the AverMedia are definitely not encrypted.

    The system of individual unit hardware locks/keys coupled with encrypted HDDs seems to primarily afflict devices with onboard tuners. Most such devices that have either internal HDDs (or offer a "record to USB drive" feature) will lock the drives to that unique device. This applies to many current HDTVs with USB recording feature, all consumer BluRay recorders ever sold, and most off-air PVRs marketed by brand names like Panasonic and Samsung.

    Small, simple, low-budget generic USB PVRs like the Homeworx/Mediasonic with no internal drive bay tend to be unencrypted: aside from "game recorders" these are the most common non-subscription PVRs available new in USA/Canada. More advanced big-brand off-air encrypted PVRs with multiple internal tuner/timers are sold in Europe: North America is far more subscription-dominated by proprietary cable/satellite services. We never even saw the now-discontinued BluRay/HDD decks of EU/Aus/NZ, and our off-air TiVOs vary widely in their encryption implementations (some allow grudging file transfers, many newer ones don't).
    Last edited by orsetto; 10th Jun 2021 at 11:38.
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  27. There will likely never be a solution to recover videos from the HDDs inside proprietary boxes like cable service PVRs and DirecTV satellite PVRs (or for that matter any other encrypted file systems like the frustrating USB recorder features of some current HDTV screens and standalone tuners). Encrypted is encrypted: no developer is going to knock themselves out trying to unlock those file systems while they remain proprietary and legally protected.
    So you confirm that all these devices use some kind of encryption ? In that case everything I wrote above is pretty much moot... oh well... é_è

    At that point, if no one is interested in defending the encryption IP
    What does “IP” stand for here, intellectual property perhaps ?

    If one goes out of business, the others remain to enforce the encryption IP. You'd probably need Spectrum, Charter and ComCast to be in the same coffin with DirecTV before any chance arises to beat the PVR encryption.
    In situations like this, isn't there any hope that some tech wizard cracks the damn thing for his (let's add “her” for theoretical completeness sake, although these kinds of endeavours are essentially the stuff of lonely men with a ridiculously high I.Q. and poor social skills ! :^p) personal use, then releases a script or a crude utility on some shady corner of the Internet ? (As it more or less happened for standalone DVD/HDD recorders, as it was explained earlier in this thread.)
    Or aren't there ways to fix those boxes, at least for the most common causes of failure ?
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