I have been thinking a lot about DVRs lately, mostly because I saw the Nueros OSD and thought it was pretty cool, but I started thinking about what would be the perfect networked DVR and here’s what I came up with.
The DVR would have an ATSC tuner and a H.264 encoder, this way the programs recorded onto the DVR would be in H.264 and would be able to record that way on the fly (not saved in MPEG-2 and then exported as H.264 later).
I want the device to have easily removable hard drives so that I can either replace a bad hard drive with a new one or upgrade the hard drive later on. Now the coolest idea I had was the idea of the DVR being completely headless, so the way that you would schedule recordings and change settings would be with an application installed on other computers on the same network as the DVR, or maybe even a browser based configuration tool. The application would list to you all of the TV Shows that are available to you that will be airing in the next week and then present them to you as a list with check boxes next to them, you could then choose which shows you want to record all episodes of, only new episodes of, or don’t record at all.
The DVR would automatically tag the video files with the correct information, episode name, show name, season number, episode number, etc. using information taken from somewhere like TV Guide or even Schedules Direct (a organization that came about to give open source software program guide information). Because of this guide information whoever builds this DVR could charge users a monthly fee of $5 or so (similar to how Tivo works), and with that they may also be able to charge less for the DVR itself.
All recordings would be saved in an iPod friendly format 640×480 H.264, unless the program is in HD in which case it could also have the option of saving it in Apple TV friendly 720p H.264.
Once the programs are recorded they are shared over the network through iTunes (like) sharing so that Apple TV’s could watch the programming or anyone on the network with iTunes could watch the programming (you would also have the option of password protecting the content. With the DVRs configuration program though it would also present to you a list of all of the programs recorded and you could transfer those files to the computer you are at and also manually delete them or change settings on when they are automatically deleted, which could be things like, one week after recording, one week after play count changes, or manually deleted.
As you can see I have thought a lot about this and I really think that someone could make a lot of money selling one of these boxes. To be honest though someone could probably build the software right now and using a Mac Mini, a TV Tuner, and the Turbo.264 (a USB H.264 encoder) make it work right now. And, I guess I probably could get most of this working right now too, but I think I would need to know some programming to get the remote management working and the auto deletion working exactly how I would like it to.
If anyone wants to actually build one of these things be my guest, but I hope that since I gave you the idea for it, if you’re going to be selling them maybe you could send one my way free of charge.