A Look At The Hauppauge Colossus

by Damian on April 20, 2011 · 22 comments

in Reviews

Back in December I wrote an article about pulling recorded content off a set top box using the Hauppauge HD PVR. Since then, the Hauppauge Colossus has been released. The main difference between the two is that the HD PVR is an external USB connected device whereas the Colossus is a single slot PCIe card meant to be installed inside a PC. I decided to upgrade to the Colossus and sell my HD PVR on eBay (so I was able to break even). The main reason for me was since the HD PVR was an external device it took up space in my AV cabinet and required an external power source. The Colossus I could tuck away in my HTPC and not even know it was there, as well as freeing up a power outlet on my power conditioner.

Today I will take a look at the Colossus to see if the experience is the same as when I was using the HD PVR for pulling recorded content off my set top box. I won’t be looking at using the Colossus as a capture card for recording live TV (such as integrating with SageTV) because my setup at home doesn’t really allow for it. To connect the Colossus to my set top box requires connecting the two together via component cables. However, my cable box connects to my TV via component cables as well, so to use the Colossus I have to manually switch the cables (introducing a component switch would really be unnecessary for my setup). Check out Andrew Van Till’s (also known as babgvant is some of the darker corners of the world) excellent review of the Colossus over on Anandtech for more insight on using as a TV Tuner (I believe currently the Colossus only works with SageTV and Media Portal 1.2 as front ends).

Tools Used:

  • Set Top Box (Scientific Atlantic 8300HD)
  • Hauppauge Colossus along with included Showbiz software
  • tsMuxeR(optional, used for video encoding, will explain why this was needed)
  • MKVMerge(optional, used for video encoding, will explain why this was needed)
  • Handbrake (optional, used for video encoding)

A Look At The Hardware:

The Colossus came with nearly the same compliment of cables and accessories as the HD PVR. Included is a Colossus PCI Express full height board, Hauppauge remote control, A/V cable adapters (two sets supplied), Component video cable set, IR blaster/receiver cable, Installation software on CD: WinTV v7 and Arcsoft ShowBiz application, and Quick Installation Guide.

Looking at the Colossus there is an HDMI Input (will only work with un-encrypted HDMI video sources), A/V Input, A/V Output, Optical Input, Optical Output, and IR Blaster Output

Below is a picture of the Colussus installed in my HTPC (The green board). As you can see it is the same height as the full sized Graphics card behind it, and slightly shorter.

Here is a picture from the rear of the HTPC with the Colossus installed.

Here is a picture with the A/V cable adapter connected

Setting Up The Colossus:

Setting up the Colossus on my HTPC was fairly straightforward. Using the included CD I decided to install both the drivers and the included software (WinTV and Showbiz). Once installed the Colossus was recognized with no issues.

Capturing Video With The Colossus:

With the Colossus now installed it is time to pull some recorded content off my STB. I connected the Colossus to my STB using component cables (YPbPr) for video and Optical for audio (needed for 5.1 unless you are using HDMI). I would have liked using the HDMI input but unfortunately my STB does not support unencrypted HDMI.

The first mistake I made is I didn’t realize that I couldn’t use the Total Media Extreme software that I still had installed on my HTPC for use with the HD PVR, so launching that software actually froze my PC. Once I sorted out that little problem and realized that ShowBiz replaced Total Media Extreme I was in business. Although Showbiz has a different look then Total Media Extreme the functionality is nearly identical.

Since I am looking to capture recordings from my STB, I clicked the Capture tab which brought up the Capture Module. If the Colossus was installed correctly it should be automatically detected and whatever feed is coming in from the STB should now appear in the preview window. The settings for capturing are similar to what I was using with the HD PVR. I chose to go with AVCHD as my video output which based on the settings I chose would output a 1080i 5.1 ts video file (Jake and the Never Land Pirates was the choice of the day, Yo Ho Ho!).

One bug I ran in to, when I finished one capture and wanted to start another I would lose audio. The only way to get audio back would be to close out of ShowBiz altogether and reopen. Doing so would restore audio. This was a bit annoying since I was trying to capture multiple recordings. Hopefully this is something that gets resolved in future software updates. I didn’t find any of the other options in ShowBiz (Edit/Produce) particularly useful so I didn’t bother with.

Encoding The Capture:

As I discussed with the HD PVR writeup, I like to encode down the captured videos. A typical 25 minute TV Show takes up nearly 2GB. Since I am looking to archive these recordings that is way too much space that I am not willing to sacrifice when you consider you could have a large number of episodes per TV series. I don’t know if this is a bug or not, but with the HD PVR I was able to take the created ts file, drop into Handbrake, and encode away. With the Colossus created ts file, when I try to drop in Handbrake I get an error message that the file is damaged or corrupt. Unfortunately to get what I needed I was forced to demux/remux the ts file first.

The first tool I used is tsMuxeR, which is a small application that can be used to demux (i.e. remove contents from) a ts file. It is as simple as dropping the ts file over the tsMuxeR GUI, select “Demux” in the Output section, and click “Start Demuxing”. When done you are left with the individual audio and video files that are contained in the ts file.

Next up I decided to combine the demuxed audio/video files into an mkv using mkvmerge. Once again, it is as easy and just dragging the files over the mkvmerge GUI. One caveat, the Colossus encodes the video stream as a 1080i AVC/H.264 stream. When bringing into mkvmerge you will see a message that mkvmerge cannot determine the frames per second (fps) of an AVC/H.264 stream, so it will default to 25 fps

In order to ensure that the correct fps is used (in this case the 1080i stream is 29.970 fps), you need to select the video stream in mkvmerge and manually edit the fps (you can either type in 29.970 or using the 30000/1001 option yields the same result). If you are unsure about the correct fps you can use MediaInfo on the ts file first.

Once this is done I am left with an mkv file which now works perfectly in Handbrake. I don’t know if this “bug” is Colossus or Handbrake related, I will have to ask around to see if anyone else has encountered this.

Final Thoughts:

So now for the big question, was the move from the HD PVR to the Colossus worth it? In my situation it definitely was. Getting rid of the HD PVR freed up space in my cabinet. Where in the past I had to power on/off the HD PVR I no longer have to do this with the Colossus, as long as my HTPC is on I have full access. Otherwise the experience was nearly identical. I did encounter a few bugs, which for better or worse is expected when a new product is released. The unfortunate thing about the bugs is that each time I use the Colossus I have to deal with them, and although not major, they do add a few extra minutes to the entire process. Hopefully over the coming months we should see the software/drivers mature and put all the bugs behind us. At some point I wouldn’t mind looking in to integrating the Colossus into a PVR type setup, but that will probably be something for down the road and will require me getting an additional STB (as well as waiting for the Colossus to add support to Windows Media Center).





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 22 comments }

Mike April 20, 2011 at 11:17 am

Doesn’t the Colossus have component pass-through capability if your PC is powered on? I’m curious why you didn’t try out that setup.

Damian April 20, 2011 at 11:24 am

Honestly I didn’t even think to try that. However, I keep my HTPC powered off much of the time so that wouldn’t do me much good. The other issue is still since the room where the Colossus/STB sits is our main TV room, so I can’t take the chance if trying to use for Live TV where the HTPC/Colossus would take STV while my wife was trying to watch TV. Really the only solution I can think of would be to get a STB dedicated for the Colossus and set up in another room.

Luke April 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Hello Damian,

I read your post in the remote potato forums you are going to do a write up on remote potato, looking forward to reading your thoughts on their product.

Damian April 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hi Luke,

Crap, you saw that??? Now I guess I have to do a writeup :-)

Actually I was going to have my writeup posted today. However, my writeup was done based on the “stable” release, and the admins suggested that the beta is stable enough to use, so I am going to redo my testing on the beta for the writeup. Shouldn’t take me any more then a day or two

Luke April 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’ve been using the beta releases on remote potato for a while now and they are pretty stable. I only wish RP could work on the TV streaming a little more. The work around is not so great and the video seems to have interlacing issues? Anyway looking forward to reading your article.

Damian April 25, 2011 at 11:24 am

The interlacing issue is what I noticed as well that killed the experience using the stable RP version. I only noticed this though when streaming to a PC, when I tested on my iPad it wasn’t present. I was hoping the beta version cleaned some of this up, but sounds like it hasn’t.

Ricardo April 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

Great info Damian. On another note have you done a review or anyone else on the new HD Homerun Prime cablecard turner? I’ll be interested to know how that works. I’m currently running the dual turner and its great.

Damian April 25, 2011 at 10:39 am

Unfortunately not. I think right now the Prime is only available to beta testers and not the general public (I did apply to be a beta tester but no luck here). I am running the HDHR dual tuner as well, and will gladly switch to the Prime if it ever gets released

Ricardo April 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

same here. The dual turner is great. I love it so far. Anyways thanks i’m pretty new to your site (about 3 months) and you guys are doing a really good job. The postings are really interesting and informational. Keep up the good work.

Damian April 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

Hi Ricardo,

Great to hear you have been enjoying the site. We will definitely do our best to keep the content flowing :-)

Nick August 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm

You missed a VERY important point. The biggest difference between the new Colossus card and the older HD-PVR isnt’t the fact that the colossus is now an internal device as opposed to the HD-PVR being an external device. The biggest difference is the fact that the HD-PVR had a maximum bandwidth of 13.5 Mbs and the Colossus has a maximum bandwidth of 20Mbs, the latter being much closer to a professionally authored Blu-Ray bandwidth of 22.5Mbs. This means far lower compression which results in much improved video quality, especially scenes containing more motion such as sports. This is the real reason why the Colossus is an upgrade over the HD-PVR.

Damian October 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for pointing out Nick. There was an issue with the software at first where Mbs settings wouldn’t even stick, so I didn’t even look in to further.

Once again, thanks for bringing to my attention.

Jesse September 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Hi I recently installed the Colossus and instead of recording tv shows, I’m recording video game footage. I’m having trouble getting the best quality for some games, but when I see footage of someone using the PVR with the Total Media Extreme, they seem to get way better quality than I am with Showbiz. You state that it’s practically the same, but I find that the quality is competitively better using TME. Is there some setting that I am overlooking that is preventing me from capturing identical quality as the game itself? Please help! I’ve been searching for months for any solution.

Damien December 9, 2011 at 6:37 am

did you figure it out?

I want so badly to record video games from consoles and I hesitate between this card and the complete PVR,

If it’s the same quality, or even better as said Nick, it’s also cheaper, so I’d like to get this one,

how did you connect it? using hdmi ? do you need two hdmi cables going out of the console!? one to the card and one to the Tv?

thank you!

Jon October 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I just got one of these cards and get it to keep functioning past 10-15 minutes. After about 10 or 15 minutes the card just stops responding. I have tried it in two computers with the same problem and I tried both the latest ‘stable’ driver and the beta driver. I updated all the drivers in my system. It’s 64-bit windows on both machines. I’m posting this here to see if anyone else has an issue like this. It seems like a really great card and the quality is great fo the 10 or 15 minutes I can capture video. I just wish I could figure out what is causing it. I hope I didn’t get a lemon.

Darrell March 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Jon,

I’ve been having the same problem. Recordings stop after 15 minutes (almost exactly) in WMC. I’ve swapped out a 256MB Video Card for a newer 1GB Video Card, but the problem still occurs.

Once the recording stops I get “No TV Signal” in WMC and WinTV and have to reboot to get the signal back.

Shane April 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Just got this card TODAY and I am also experiencing the 15 minute shutdown. Only a full reboot will restart it.

The only reason I need this card is to record output via HDMI … Component isn’t an option.

Did anyone figure this out?

Also, I had to throw an older video card in because I couldn’t get both my high end card and this card in next to each other. Anyone using a riser or PCIe extension?

In happy to return it and get a new one if this is an isolated issue.

Thanks

Tom April 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I am also experiencing the 15 minute shutdown. Only a full reboot will restart it.

walter June 25, 2012 at 12:16 am

I’m also having the same problem. win 7, 64bit, 16g ram, 1g memory card. did any one find a solution to the problem yet?

Greg July 13, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Release notes for colossus_30151_release:
-Fix for video freeze after 10-20 minutes.

So… you need to install driver update from the link below. This resolved the issue for me as I was experiencing the 10 minute freeze as well.
http://www.hauppauge.com/site/support/support_colossus.html

magnum07 April 10, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Has anyone had any issues with recorded pictures being grainy, the recorder stopping and then starting or the picture being more black and white for long periods of time while recording?

magnum07 April 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Has anyone had any issues with recorded pictures being grainy, the recorder stopping and then starting or the picture being more black and white instead of color for long periods of time while recording?

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