Converting Topfield .REC files into DVD compliant format is a somewhat tricky process. There are many ways to do it, which some are easier than others, some involve commercial solutions, and some are totally free. The approach to take in the conversion process depends on many aspects, like the amount of time you wish to spend, which operating system you work on (Linux or Windows) and how long is the actual recording. This article consists of several mini-guides to get you going. It does not contain every possible detail, but this should be enough to get you started. This guide is made with Topfield PVRc-5100 MasterPiece, but should apply to pretty much all non-HD models.
This guide may also applicable to other brands of PVRs that produce a similar standard program stream.
Step 1: Tranfering files from Topfield PVR to PC
Topfield PVR of this model range offer a USB connection for file uploads and downloads. The PVR however is not recognised as an external USB media by Windows or Linux systems, so you will need to use a special tool to transfer the files.
Windows: You need device drivers and Altair file transfer software, both provided by Topfield. Plug your Topfield to your PC, and point Windows to the directory where you have the Topfield drivers downloaded and extracted. Start Altair to transfer files.
Linux (recommended): An open-source alternative to Altair is Guppy. No drivers are needed and everything works out of the box (tested with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala). In my experience the Guppy is more usable and more reliable than the Windows alternative.
On both platforms the transfer speeds are equally slow. On Guppy and Altair you have Turbo Mode which improves the transfer speed, but disables other PVR functionality at the same time (recordings, remote control). Keep in mind that transfers can take hours, so make sure you don’t miss any recordings due to file transfers running in Turbo Mode.
Step 2: Converting the .REC files to DVD format (several alternatives)
The .REC files as such usually appear unrecognised by operating systems, but luckily they are rather standard program streams which most many video applications accept as such. You can play the files directly by using the VLC player (Linux and Windows).
Step 2.1: Fast and easy conversion using ConvertXtoDVD (Windows and Linux)
- Download and install the ConvertXtoDVD by VSO Software.
- ConvertXtoDVD accepts .REC files as such, and automatically converts and burns them to DVDs. The process is very simple, fast, and almost completely automated. In program settings you can apply 2-pass encoding (since v4 and newer) to optimise quality, sacrificing speed.
- Pros: Very easy and quick process. Idiot proof results
- Cons: ConvertXtoDVD always performs full re-encode of the material which may have an impact on quality. ConvertXtoDVD is shareware, but well worth the investment if you do a lot of video conversions.
- Linux: ConvertXtoDVD is a Windows program, but is usable with Wine emulator under Linux
Step 2.2: Fast and easy conversion using DeVeDe (Linux and Windows)
- Download and install the DeVeDe by Rastersoft
- DeVeDe supports .REC files as such and automatically converts and burns them to DVDs. The process is rather simple and somewhat automated. In settings you can apply 2-pass encoding (v3.16 and newer) to optimize quality, sacrificing speed.
- Pros: Free and open-sourced solution. Quite simple to use.
- Cons: DeVeDe loses to CovertXtoDVD in all aspects: Quality, speed, and ease of use. DeVeDe seems to have problems hitting the DVD-R target size (4.4GB) accurately – the end results are sometimes too large (not possible to burn on DVD-R), and sometimes too small (sub-optimal quality). You can work this around by adjusting the file size slider bar on DeVeDe UI, but then you need to perform the conversion again, taking a lot of time. DeVeDe always performs a full re-encode of the material which may have an impact on the quality
- Windows: A Windows port of the application is availble, but we have not tested it so no guarantees.
Step 2.3: Conversion using ProjectX and AVStoDVD for optimal quality (Windows)
The ProjectX is a free multi-platform tool for demultiplexing the .REC streams into audio, video and subtitle files. AVStoDVD is a freeware Windows application for converting video files to the DVD format. It offers more flexibility in settings and provides best results using HC Encoder, or by skipping the re-encode process if not required (multiplex compliant files straight to DVD format)
- Download and install ProjectX and AVStoDVD
- Start ProjectX, open the .REC file and hit QuickStart to demux the program stream into video, audio and subtitle streams (if any).
- Start AVStoDVD and add the *.m2v file created by ProjectX. The application will notify you of audio stream(s) of matching file name, and add that to the project as well.
- There are couple of settings to take care of before launching the conversion process
- In the audio stream properties, tick Keep DVD compliant files. There is no need to re-encode the audio as the DVB broadcasting audio should already be suitable for DVD usage as such (at least in my home TV network).
- In video stream properties, tick Keep DVD compliant files only if your audio and video streams combined would fit the 4.4GB DVD-R capacity (or 8.5GB if you are using dual layer). If your files are larger, then this box must be un-ticked as the files need to be re-encoded to achieve a smaller file size. In encoder settings, choose HC Encoder (should be the default choice).
- With these settings in place, you should be ready to start the conversion. Review your settings in the presented dialogue before conversion starts. You can output to .ISO DVD image file, burn directly or choose a DVD folder structure to burn the video DVD manually.
- Pros: No quality loss whatsoever if no re-encoding takes place. AVStoDVD uses the HC Encoder which provides the highest video quality conversion. A free and partially open-sourced solution.
- Cons: Added complexity to the process, in comparison to the two other alternatives. More chances to make an error in configuring the settings
- Linux: ProjectX is available for Linux but AVStoDVD is not. AVStoDVD does not run under Wine (at least not without special configurations?), so in order to use it on the Linux platform you’ll need a Windows installed on VirtualBox or VMWare.
Conversion from Topfield .REC files to a DVD is more complex process than one might think. Plenty of transformations stages take place in the process, but luckily ConvertXtoDVD and DeVeDe have these nicely automated. The Step 2.3 is recommended for the more advanced users and quality enthusiasts, which have Windows operating system available. Step 2.1 using ConvertXtoDVD is the best choice for the average user, as the overall results are the best of the pack: It provides ease of use, speed and decent results with minimal effort.