Home TV Server



From the web, I can access the two web cameras that I have installed on the home computer network.  However, I also have several closed circuit TV cameras whose outputs are modulated onto unused TV channels in the home.  This allows any TV to view these channels (such as the front door, kids rooms, etc).  However, I also wished to be able to see these cameras from the web.

I tried several products, but the only one that I found that would allow streaming of both audio and video and that allows the user to select any available channel using a web interface was a product from Snap Stream called "Beyond TV".

TV Wonder VE board
Shot of the TV Wonder VE board.  It has an RF input (F connector),
video input (RCA phono jack), and the audio output
which feeds into the PC's sound card.

For the tuner card, I selected the TV Wonder VE from ATI Technologies.  It was inexpensive ($40 after rebate), and available at the local Best Buy store.  Another option that comes highly recommended on the Snap Stream site is the Hauppauge PVR-250, which has a hardware MPEG-2 encoder.  This hardware off loads the PC from this computationally intensive task, but it is not possible to stream the TV channel as the streaming uses Windows Media Player format.  Since my main use was as a streaming server, the PVR-250 is unsuitable for my use.

Sample of Snap Stream screen
Screen of the Internet Explorer window when connected to the Tuner Server.
The remote user is able to watch TV (with sound) and change channels.

I downloaded a trial version of the Snap Stream software, to try the web interface.  This function is compatible with Microsoft's Internet Explorer only, and opens a window similar to Window's Media Player.  The user is able to stop or pause the live stream, and change channels.  I like the "thin client" aspect, which allows me to run the interface from anywhere without installing software.  The full version of the software costs $60.

The installed hardware also allows me to set up automated recordings of any channel.  I have not used this feature yet, but it essentially implements a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) such as a Tivo unit.  The programming of automated recording and the viewing of the recorded program can be controlled with the web server interface.

In addition to the security cameras, I can now stream to the web any available channel including the VCR, DVD player, etc.  As for custom settings, I found that I had to limit the streaming bandwidth to below my DSL uplink speed and  I also had to open up two ports on my router to allow connection from the web (HTTP Administration port and Live TV Streaming Server port).  The Beyond TV software also encodes MPEG-2, so I may be able to burn DVD's in the future.

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