How does a digital video recorder work? Before on-demand watching was popular, you would need to record the programs that you wanted to watch just in case you didn't have the time. Digital video recording, or DVR, made it easy for anyone to watch their preferred programs at any time, re-watch favorite television episodes, and even skip all those annoying commercials.
In the USA, the most popular DVR on the market was TiVo. The use was so widespread, the term eventually became a verb, so it became common for people to “TiVo” their favorite television shows when they were at work so that they could still watch the episodes when they got home! Eventually, even large cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner jumped on the trend and started selling cable television packages that came with a DVR.
The Basics of a Digital Video Recorder
Simply put, a DVR is a type of hard drive that’s compatible with your television or entertainment center. A DVR is typically connected to your television through a variety of jacks used to capture audio and video.
A DVR would take in your television signal through satellite, cable, or antenna. How does a digital video recorder work? The signal would pass through the built-in tuner inside your DVR. If the signal were analog, the DVR would pass the signal through a MPEG-2 encoder to convert the signal from analog to digital.
After the signal has been converted, it would pass through the DVR’s hard drive for storage. After the signal has been stored, it would pass through a MPEG-2 decoder to transform the signal back into analog. Finally, the analog signal would be sent to the television screen where you can watch the show.
High-end DVRs can have dual tuners, which would allow you to record different programs being shown on different channels. Some units even allow you to record two separate programs while using the DVR to watch a third pre-recorded show!
How Is a DVR different from a VCR?
How does a digital video recorder work? How is it different from a video cassette recorder? Here are some differences between DVRs and its predecessor, the Video Cassette Recorder, or the VCR:
Built-In Recording Tool
In DVRs, the machine is both the recording tool and the media, while in VCRs, you have a separate recording tool. For VCRs, you need to have a blank cassette that you put into your VCR.
Limited Storage Space
Since the media is already built into the machine, you won't be able to expand the storage space in your DVR. In VCRs, you only need to buy more blank cassettes if you wanted to record more media. However, with DVRs, you'll need to erase old recorded media to make room for a new one.
Home Network Integration
VCRs were no longer popular by the time-integrated home entertainment systems became the norm. Depending on the model and the brand, you can synchronize a DVR with your home entertainment system. This allows remote access into your DVR, so you can turn it on and record a show even if you’re not home!
With DVRs, you can rewind, fast forward, and watch any part of a video that's finished recording, even if it is still going. With VCRs, however, you will need to wait for the program to finish being recorded before you can play it back.
Great DVR Features
To further understand, “How does a digital video recorder work?” When DVR became available on the market, two features made it immensely popular, namely:
Pausing Live TV
According to the advertisements for DVRs, you could "pause live TV" and continue watching at your leisure! However, the ads were a bit misleading. While you could technically hit pause and have the image on the screen stop, the show itself would not. Your DVR would continue recording the show while still showing the paused image. Thus, when you came back and restarted your DVR, you would merely be watching the continuation of the recorded show, but not the actual show itself.
All DVRs on the market offer search tools. These search tools would help you find an episode or show that you want. You needed to type in the name of the program, the lead actors, or the genre. Some brands also offered "Watch List" and "Season Pass" features.
Watch List features allowed you to input keywords that you wanted to watch out for; for example, if you're a fantasy fan, you can input words such as "fantasy" or "dragon," and the DVR will feature any program or movie that fits this tag.
On the other hand, season passes allow you to program your DVR to record every episode of a certain series. If you're a fan of "Sex and the City," for example, your DVR will record every episode of this series. You can even program your DVR further by commanding it to record only first-run episodes.
DVR Memory Capacity
While DVRs have anywhere from 35 to 300 hours of recording capacity, the number of hours you'll be able to use will depend on the quality of the programs that you are recording. The lower the quality, the more hours you can record. Lower-quality images are smaller compared to high-resolution images.
For example, the TiVo will allow you to record your programs at four different quality levels, namely basic, medium, high, or best. If you choose the basic quality settings, you will be able to enjoy around 40 hours of recorded programs. However, if you choose the best setting, you will only be able to record around 11 hours.
So, now that you know the answer to, “How does a digital video recorder work?” You’ll be able to decide whether it’s something that you can use. Granted, because of streaming services and on-demand videos, DVRs are no longer as popular, but it still has its uses. If you miss the nightly news because of work or your favorite cable show is not being shown on any streaming service, you can use a DVR to record these shows and watch them at your leisure.