Hauppauge Colossus: Internal PCIe HD PVR. Hi-Def Video Capture Device with Hardware H.264 Video Encoders & HDMI in
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One of the popular uses for the Colossus is for recording video gameplay. As said on GeekTonic: Now I think anyone watching me play videogames is a sure-fire way to put them to sleep - or at least laugh at my videogame performance. But I know there is a very large number of videogamers using the HD-PVR to record their video gameplay. The Colossuss amazing recording quality allows personal archival of your favourite TV programs. Record your TV programs in HD, then burn them onto a standard DVD disk (up to tw
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Functionality, or rather, "So what can it do?"
As far as the box, manual, tell me, it can do a -lot- of things:
- Record TV from an HD source, in HD
- Work as a PVR, with its own blaster, to change channels when you wish, to be able to record from an HD set top box (though, historically IR blasters and pace boxes haven't gotten along, as pace boxes don't use standard IR but some serial protocol..long story, cut short, if you have a pace telewest box or sky box, the IR blaster may or may not work. I don't have one any more, so can't comment further on that)
- Record yourself playing the xbox, ps3, or any other HD source.
- Record standard composite input, like an older set top box or an older console. Composite is the red/yellow/white RCA plug.
- Pass through of AV signal (composite). But, this seems strange as I'd have thought you could just use a splitter, but hey, it's there. So you can hook your console, set top box, etc via the PC and into the TV. Note that I'm not sure if the pass through would function when using an hdmi input, as there's no hdmi "passthrough" and I would be surprised if it converts hdmi into HD composite (I may be wrong!)
- Optical audio input and passthrough.
- Remote control.
- Burn HD recordings to blu-ray.
What it can't do:
- It's NOT a tuner or receiver of any sort. So, you can't plug a tv aerial into it and expect it to record freeview.
- It's not supported by linux as far as I'm aware.
Out of the box:
Well, the first thing you notice is the mass of cables you get included. One set of high quality looking hd component and sound cables. Two little input dongles with component/sound connectors for the hd composite input and output (passthrough). You also get an IR wiring, with blaster and receiver on the same cable (though you can place the two about 3 metres apart!).
In addition to this you get a comprehensive looking remote control and batteries. And a driver CD
Those who arent tech savvy or don't pay attention to specs should note that this card is a PCI express card. Not to be confused with a PCI-e or PCI card. This is the first pci express card I've seen, luckily my board has the slot. It's short, just a few centimetres long. If you don't have one of those on your board, you may be out of luck here.
The card fits into the pci express slot just fine, although if your slots on your PC aren't perfectly aligned you may have to fudge to get access to the slots for the component dongles. I managed. I expect you will too.
The device doesn't install itself in Win7. It comes with a CD containing drivers and software. Historically, I've always found wintv software horribly slow, unstable and clunky, albeit I've not used any for a few years. Install wasn't "hands off" as I'd have liked, I did have to confirm a couple of dialog boxes for permissions, some of them appearing half behind the splash screens, a bit clumsy to be honest. Nevermind..
The driver install took an unacceptably long time to perform. I still have no idea why it took so long. Around 20 minutes total I believe. Nonetheless, it's something you only need do once, and as such, it doesn't matter. More important is how long it takes to start on cold boot.
...which I was able to test straight away as a reboot was necessary after install
After reboot nothing happened. Which, is usually good news. On the desktop was a wintv7 icon which I guessed was where I should go next. At this point, I hadn't hauled any set top boxes or consoles up to my pc, and realised I probably should, as it now asked me to set the device up.
Setup is pretty simple, so long as you realise that "STB" means set top box, and know your hdmi from your component.
I did feel forced to provide setup data that I would rather have added later, it wasn't obvious that you could revisit these setup screens, which you can, by going into settings->devices->tuner setup.
Sporting a machine with 8GB ram and a quad core, with geforce 240 graphics card, not exactly a "gaming" pc, but should be plenty for this sort of application, I would not have expected any slowdown, hanging, or other apparent "delay" issues or troubles. There would be no excuse here.
The wintv program certainly started acceptably quickly.
First up to test was a goodmans freeview HD upscaling set top box with hdmi out. This was where I hit my first problem. wintv was telling me that there was no signal...on composite. I had told it the box was hdmi. I managed to find hdmi by pressing the up/down arrows, but this annoyed me. I also found that it still said "no signal". Clearly time to...read the manual. Aha, up sprang ITV1hd. What I was doing wrong? You have to add a channel for it to work. I didn't understand, but hey, I had a picture, and it was a very nice picture too. Very sharp indeed. With sound. All working fine, no stuttering, no sound issues, no picture issues. That was easy. Now, about the PVR functions? Well, I'm still working through them. One of the problems I'm having is repeated crashes of the set top box, something it didn't do when connected to the tv (hmm), which is hindering my progress at setting up the box. So, I'll go through the theory.
In essence, you tell the scheduler what you want to record in the "old fashioned way", like programming an old VCR. So you'd be entering start time, end time, channel. And that's where it gets a bit smart, because in theory, the IR blaster on the device will change channel at that point, so that your set top box is on the correct freeview/sky/etc channel for recording. So, you do need to spend some time telling it which channel is which, and setting up the IR blaster...
...Setting the IR blaster as far as I can tell is done via a seemingly crude (in my opinion) program called Blastcfg.exe. You can guess by the name that we're talking "afterthought" here. Anyway, it's on the start menu under hauppauge wintv, if you're struggling to find it. The thing is, for me, I was looking for a way to control aforementioned freeview box, and it looks like I have to program each key in one by one because theres no codeset for a goodmans set top box (unsurprisingly). I've tried this learning one by one, all I got was "failed", no matter how I tried. So, another technical issue here. Or I'm "not doing it right". :)
Second up, the xbox 360. Lets do it. Again, only hdmi, I realise the x360 has a few versions, but on mine I use hdmi. Nevermind, lets plug it in, and fire it up. First thing I noticed was an awful buzzing coming from the sound. Clearly it wasn't working. Back to the manual. Nope. Never figured it out. Even tried another hdmi cable, and even tried 1080i and 720p. Same.
Eventually I found the component cable, and after more "faff", I managed to get it to output at 720p, then 1080i which worked, with sound, just fine. Note that the card does not support 1080p.
Recording is done via Arcsoft ShowBiz, which is perfectly capable of doing the job. You can also record via wintv, but Arcsoft seems to have more features, including a youtube thingy.
Recording is easy enough, with options to replay on ps3, xbox, etc. The quality of playback is excellent, although on my tests I did spot some mild interlacing effects on fast moving objects.
Some pretty major technical issues which I could never get to the bottom of. Probably/possibly not the fault of the card.
It's excellent at capturing gaming video, nothing much will compare with its ease of use/quality of capture.
It's OK at being a PVR [from what I can gather], but I think you'd probably be better off buying a set top HD pvr if that's all you want, and you don't need to be moving videos around after recording, because it's a lot of a faff compared to a set top pvr box.
I can now see why hauppauge did not market this as a PVR, I think if they had, they'd be getting a lot of returns.
LAG is an issue. The "delay free" is only on the passthrough. So, don't think you can play games on your pc monitor, you can't. There's around 1 second of lag. For its intended purpose, recording, of course it's not a problem.
You pretty much want to use component, and not HDMI, if you plan to use this device. This is not only because of the problems I had, but because of the hdmi copy protection mentioned in the manual (ps3 and sky boxes only, I think). This means your TV will have to support component too.
Unboxing gives you a mass of cables, driver and video editing software cd, remote and a small cardbord box containing the colossus itself. Hauppage even provides an HDMI cable (cheap and on the shortish side)
Installation was simple and just make sure you screw in the card after aligning it to the back plate, the input ports are tight and will not handle the stress of connecting and disconnecting ( hint about my fail moment). The mass of inputs are confusing and refer to the instructions regularly so there is no mistake.
Be aware that the same mass of cables that came with your Colossus will mostly be sticking out the back meaning you are commiting your computer to a TV setup. This is ideal for the HTPC but to fulfill the dedicated graphics requirement I can't see most small form factor cases being able to accomodate both graphics card and the Colossus. It becomes increasingly difficult to explain to your spouse why the computer (screen and all: for editing) is next to the living room tv for instance.
When you get it right it is nothing short of a miracle. There is a small lag but this shouldn't affect your video capture or editing I have seen Youtube footage where the guy is playing from the live input/recording screen. Quality is crisp and faithful. You can actually hear conversations during the game but not your own unless you hook your mic setup to the rig. CPU usage is incredibly low, which is a MAJOR selling point, as your GPU does most of the work 'on the fly'. Of course the latest graphics card drivers are always recommended. AVCHD format is used allowing you to burn to disc (again refer to my point about small factor rigs)
Screenshots are a click of a mouse away.
There are better ways to screen capture without dismantling your PC but the quality and ease of editing should satisfy the purist. Hauppage has come out with its dedicated PVR for this purpose but to actually edit and post footage obviously takes a few more steps. Hauppage trumpets that you can turn your videos to HD format but that's not really HD (as your source isn't) and I count that as a missell.
If you are a purist/ video game reviewer: go for it. I actually wish that more pro-gamers would have this et up in tournaments so the footage could be posted.
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