Every time I see a post about what Microsoft should do to
make Media Center better it never fails that one of the first replies to “record to something other than DVR-MS.” No matter how many times people request this,
it will not happen. DVR-MS is a
necessary format for Media Center for various reasons; the main ones from a
user perspective are metadata, content protection, and hardware resources.
- Metadata –
Metadata is very important to Media Center, as with any PVR. Standard MPEG-2 isn’t going to be able to hold
the same amount of metadata (none, actually).
You might be saying “I don’t need to stinkin’ metadata,” and you would
be wrong. Show title, recording date,
duration, etc are all part of what DVR-MS brings. Remember, DVR-MS is really just MPEG-2 within
an ASF wrapper, so you can strip the MPEG-2 out easily. Having the metadata within the file is
helpful when converting the format to other formats like WMV, and also when
copying the file to other PC’s. The metadata
stays attached in both of these scenarios.
- Content Protection –
You can complain all you want about Microsoft supporting DRM, but it’s not
going to change anything. Supporting
CGMS-A in Media Center since the first version can be seen as the first step to
CableCARD support. It can be seen as the
first step to DIRECTV/Dish support.
Notice how no other PC PVR has these, and then notice the file formats
they record in. PVR’s that record to
vanilla MPEG-2 will be forced to change to a format like DVR-MS to get support
for anything new. Yes, there are
problems with CGMS-A, big ones in fact (post on that coming later).
- Resources – This one never fails too, “I want to record to XviD!” I say “Why?”
It’s important to remember to recording directly to MPEG-4 means that
your CPU is going to be encoding the video on-the-fly. That means lower video quality, and it ups
the system requirements for the PC. Media Center supports two NTSC (or two CableCARD
Tuners) plus two ATSC Tuners. If you
were to record to XviD you are going to be lucky to have support for two
tuners. Even with dual-core and
quad-core processors, it is still going to tax the system to much. When hardware manufactures start including
hardware MPEG-4 encoders on their cards, this will change. However, very few are doing this right now
and I don’t expect it ever to be supported in Media Center. I think we will see the first MPEG-4 capture
come with the DIRECTV solution.
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