Extracting and archiving video from your TiVo
I used to recommend TyTool for video extraction and archiving (and even created some very detailed how-to's), but the program hasn't been updated in well over a year. The developer has had some personal issues, and no one else seems to want to continue developing the application. Back then, it was the Cadillac of tools for extracting TiVo video files, converting them to MPEG-2, and burning them to DVD. The converted MPEG-2 files are a little flaky and only a few media players are able to play them back. TyTool authored DVD's are also a little flaky when played back in a standalone DVD player. While the program was still actively being developed, I figured that the bugs would eventually be ironed out, and there wasn't really anything else better. In time, a couple of better utilities have come along that convert to MPEG-2 files better. Commercial software that edits video and/or burns DVD's have matured, become easier to use, and come down in price. Don't get me wrong. TyTool is still quite functional. I know of no other free application that can edit MPEG-2 files without degrading the video quality. But if there is a chance that you may want to save a TV show or burn it to DVD, you would be better off using the latest software to ensure maximum compatibility and the least amount of problems.
So that brings me to the purpose of this article. This is a broad outline of what utilities are available to download video from your TiVo and make it playable at a later date.
No one utility is better than the others. In my opinion, MFS_FTP is the most flexible if you wish to copy everything from your TiVo to your computer on a regular basis. You can find FTP client software that will synchronize your files. I use a command line program called wget (Windows version), and have it scheduled to run every day. Here is the command I use to download everything on the TiVo to the current directory unless it is already there:
wget -nd -nc --no-passive-ftp ftp://192.168.1.90:3105/ty+/*
Now you can open up and play back the file in any media player that supports MPEG-2 files (ex. Windows Media Player, WinAmp, VideoLAN, WinDVD, PowerDVD, etc).
Editing and Burning to DVD
If you have no budget, your choices are limited. As I said at the beginning, I know of no other free MPEG-2 editor like TyTool. It is not very user friendly. TyTool is also picky about what kind of files it will edit. Leaving them in .ty format is your best bet, but there is no guarantee that the edited file will be playable in all media and DVD players. TyTool uses an open source program called dvdauthor to author DVD's. Dvdauthor is constantly updated, so it would be advisable to take the edited video file from TyTool and run it through the latest version of dvdauthor. There are some nice easy-to-use GUI front-ends to make this easier and more flexible than what TyTool currently offers. The quality of video is not degraded in any way using this method. You are basically just rearranging bits.
If you have no budget, want to edit out the commercials, and reencode it to a smaller .avi file, then look at VirtualDubMod. This open source utility opens MPEG-2 files, but can not save back to them. It is easy to use and has many ways to manipulate the video that rivals even some of the more expensive commercial video editing applications. Video will have to be transcoded to a different format, so quality will be degraded.
At $50, VideoReDo Plus is a bargain video editor. Sadly, it doesn't do DVD authoring (yet), but if you have a badly damaged .mpg file you need to edit and/or archive, this is the utility. It supports both standard and high definition video. If you have a home theater PC that records to high definition transport stream files (.tp or .ts), this is the only program I know of that you can select the sub-channel you want to save, edit the file, and then save it to .mpg for burning. This program does not degrade video in any way, and safely fixes .mpg files that can't be opened in other programs.
For around $100 or less you can get decent software that can edit video, author DVD's, or burn them. Many can do all three. Full featured programs have pro-like editing tools complete with fancy wipes and dissolves, overlay text and graphics, and add special effects. The only problem is, these programs like to transcode your video to a standard DVD format. That means the video quality will be degraded, but the resulting DVD will play in just about any player you come across. Avid is what most television stations and movie producers use. There is a slimmed-down consumer-level version as well. Adobe Premiere is also popular. Look for Premiere Elements which is much cheaper but still has a lot of useful features found in the Pro version. Nero is probably the best CD and DVD burning application available, and also includes a basic editing/authoring program called Nero Vision. These are just a sample of the software that is available. I haven't tried them all, and you may find one that works better than what I mentioned here.
Last updated November 9, 2007