They don’t make it easy. In fact, in many cases they don’t even make it possible. DIRECTV is in the process of implementing HDCP on many channels, meaning that recording the output of a DIRECTV DVR will get harder and harder. HDCP is a technology that requires a TV to be in constant communication with the DVR or the only thing that goes out is a black screen. You can use the component connection on a DVR to get an HD picture but in some cases HDCP will interfere with that too; if the HDMI cable is connected but it’s not getting the proper information it could even black out the image on the component cables.
In the past, you’ve been able to use a device like this game recorder to capture the output from your DVR and record it onto a hard drive. That option is still open to you if you record things from an over-the-air antenna because that signal is required to be unencrypted. However, more and more companies are joining Disney (ESPN) and Time Warner (HBO) in requiring that their signals be encrypted.
What can you do? The honest truth is, not much. You can get a decent SD capture and grab that easily and inexpensively. You can set up a high-end PC and some sort of streaming device like a Slingbox and capture the streamed video from it. You’re better off hoping that the program you want is available for purchase or for free streaming, and getting it that way. It’s not a great solution… but it’s better than pointing your phone at the TV and recording it.
Why is this such a hassle? Blame those content providers who really think that someone somewhere is going to record their programs and stream them for free to the entire world. I mean, that goes on anyway, let’s be honest. I’m not convinced that all this content protection stuff makes one bit of difference to the people determined to pirate programming. It just makes it hard for honest folks to save a permanent copy of that time someone they knew was on The Voice.
It’s the fact that you can get a more or less perfect digital copy that bothers these companies. They cared a little when everyone used VHS tapes, but those get a lot worse with every copy so there was some sort of logical limit. Now, one digital master can go out to billions of people and each one will have the same quality. It can happen at lightning speed, too. That’s why there is so much talk of content protection and why it’s just so hard to copy things from your DVR now.