How can you get smooth fast-forward and rewind on a DIRECTV DVR?

This question pops up now and again. These days, most of us have streaming devices and apps. Some of them offer silky-smooth high-speed “scrubbing. Apps like YouTube even give you the option to watch at double speed with the sound corrected. So, people ask simply, how can you get that with DIRECTV? Unfortunately, the answer is just as simple:

You can’t.

Well that was one short article. Unfortunately, though, fast-forward and rewind in DIRECTV DVRs give you about 3-5 frames per second when searching at high speed. It’s been this way since DIRECTV’s first modern HD DVR started receiving and recording programs encoded using MPEG-4. (Over-the-air programs and SD programs, both encoded using MPEG-2, give a very decent, smooth 2x fast forward but that’s about it.)

Let’s be clear here… the modern DIRECTV DVRs could give you a better playback experience. The original HR20 from 2006 probably wasn’t powerful enough, but today’s Genies have more than enough horsepower. This is especially true with the Genie 2, the most powerful Genie ever. There’s plenty of bandwidth to let Genie clients give you a smooth experience. So why don’t they give you the ultimate experience when fast-forwarding or rewinding?

It’s a secret

While the answer is probably really only known to a few people within DIRECTV’s top-secret facilities, it’s probably pretty simple: there’s a perception that people don’t terribly care how smooth FF and Rewind is. That’s probably more true now than ever. Sure there could be even 10,000 “heavy users” who really would love to see a better, smoother fast-forward, but that would leave about 14 million folks who don’t care one way or the other. So it’s probably better to leave the fast-forward and rewind experience “as is” and concentrate on the things people do want to see, like a nice stable experience.

Remember that a Genie DVR can potentially be doing a lot of work. It can be recording up to 7 programs plus 1 on demand, plus providing playback to 7 TVs at once (remember that the Genie DVR does all the work for the little client boxes too.) Add to that the constant burden of “housekeeping” including all the math for getting new shows set up to record and processing all the stuff in the background. It’s a lot to ask.

Hey, I’m on your side

And yet, I’ll admit that I personally would be one of the people who wants smoother performance here. So it’s hard to know why DIRECTV comes up short in this department. One theory I have is that the copy protection in DIRECTV’s DVRs adds quite a layer of complexity to the experience, but it’s also just possible that no one in DIRECTV Engineering is really focused on the problem, because they don’t think it’s a problem.

I’ve been involved with DIRECTV for a long time and I will say that over the years there have been a few — very few — things I wish were changed or improved. Most of them actually have been improved over that time, but this is one that I’ve been hoping for since that first HR20 hit my home in the fall of 2006. What about all of you? Does fast-forward and rewind make a difference to you? Sound off below!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.