needed to write this article, so here goes.
One of the most asked questions on the TiVo Help Forum is whether you can watch one program live while the single-tuner standalone TiVo records something else. The answer is essentially, "yes," there are setups
to do this, but the real answer is that there are good reasons not to set up the TiVo this way, and the question itself arises from a misunderstanding
of the way TiVo is different from a VCR.
With the introduction of the new Dual Tuner tivo, you can use the DT to watch one program live (with tivo trickplay) and simultaneously record another channel. Some new DT users have been asking how to watch one program live while recoding two
others. I'll talk about DTs further on... for now, I'm talking about single-tuner tivos.
Folks ask if they can watch something live while TiVo records something else because they are used to the way their VCR operates. The VCR cannot play back a recording while it records something else
, it is difficult to program correctly, and is not random-access. In other words, to get to a program you want to watch, you have to fast-forward or rewind the tape to the beginning of the program before you can start watching it. As a result, people generally use the VCR to either (a) record a low-priority program that is in conflict with a highly desirable program that will be watched live, or (b) archive programs they really like. A VCR user watches TV live most of the time, and a recording only rarely.
TiVo is different in a critical way. Unlike the VCR, TiVo can play any recording while it simultaneously records something else.
It is also very easy to program, knows when repeats are shown, automatically resolves programming conflicts, and is random-access. Programming is so easy that most TiVo users record everything they ever want to watch, and only rarely watch TV live.
This way, you can watch TV "how you want, when you want." TiVo users watch one thing while recording something else all the time--- by watching recorded programs while TiVo records other things in the background.
ways to bypass the cable past the TiVo so that you can let it record something while you watch something else live. But in reality there is rarely any need to do this, and while watching truly Live TV, you don't get the benefit of TiVo's trickplay features and the ability to skip commercials.
Firstly, let's say that you want to watch program A and program B which are on at different
times. You do this by setting Season Passes for both A and B, and then watching them at your leisure later. No problem.
Now let's say you want to watch programs C and D which are on at the same
time. In the vast majority of cases, either C or D (let's say D) will be repeated later in the day or week, usually at 4 in the morning. Again, no problem. Set Season Passes for both programs, and give C a higher priority than D in the Season Pass Manager. TiVo will record C when the programs are in conflict, and then pickup the repeat of program D later on.
You then watch them both at your leisure. For more info on the ways to avoid program conflicts, see this TiVo FAQ.
The only case when you would ever need to watch-Live-while-recording is the case when you need to watch programs E and F which are on at the same time and never repeated.
In 2 years of owning a TiVo, I have never come across this problem. I watch mainly PBS and premium movie channels, however. If you watch much more commercial network TV than I do, your mileage may vary. The "correct" solution would be to get a two-tuner DirecTivo.
Some users prefer to watch sporting events and sometimes news live also. However, if you record these events ahead of time and start watching a half-hour or so into them, you can skip commercials and catch up to Live just at the end of the game.
The other situation in which watching-live-while-recording might be necessary is channel surfing. Some people like
to channel surf for its own sake, but it's maddeningly slow with TiVo. For me, the combination of TiVo's Suggestions and the TiVo Channel Guide more than makes up for the lack of time-wasting channel surfing. But if you are a diehard channel surfer, you may need to watch-live-while-recording.
OK, so you might be able to come up with other scenarios when you might want to watch-live-while-recording, for instance watching a program when the TiVo is already full of programming! But the point is that it's not usually a pressing issue, and is necessary much less often than with a VCR.
There are also reasons why setting up the TiVo to do this might be more trouble than it's worth, too. We've already seen how doing this prevents you from using trickplay and skipping commercials on the live program. But also, setups that allow watching-Live-while-recording always involve splitting the cable, and this tends to degrade the signal into the TiVo. Because the standalone TiVo uses MPEG compression, it is very sensitive to defects in the incoming signal. Thus you want the best possible signal input for the TiVo.
If a splitter degrades that signal, your TiVo picture might end up looking bad. Even if the signal looks perfectly fine directly to the TV, TiVo can have a problem with it. It is possible to improve the signal quality to the TiVo in this situation with a $20-$50 line amplifier from Radio Shack, so it's not an overriding issue. Still, $50 is $50.
The normal setup for this is Coax cable from the Wall -> Splitter, then
Splitter Out #1 -> TV RF IN, and
Splitter Out #2 -> Cable Box -> TiVo -> TV VIDEO IN
Using S-Video cables is preferable to RCA cables, and RCA is preferable to coax. (See TiVo's Diagrams.
) This setup will allow TiVo to watch all available channels, while you watch analog cable channels live. If you wish to set up to watch all digital channels live, you will need to buy another decoder and setup:
Splitter Out #1 -> New Cable Box -> TV .
You will also need to "tent" the TiVo's cable box, allowing it to receive only commands from the TiVo's IR blasters, and preventing it from receiving commands sent from your cable remote intended for the second box. You will also need to cover up TiVo's "Big Eye" which is also an IR blaster, to prevent it from interfering with the new "watching live" cable box.
To add a VCR, use TiVo's multiple outputs to setup:
Splitter Out #1 -> VCR RF IN -> TV RF IN, and
Splitter Out #2 -> Cable Box -> TiVo -> VCR LINE 1 IN -> TV VIDEO IN 1
|--> TV VIDEO IN 2
This will allow the VCR to record analog cable as normal, and archive TiVo-recorded programs when it is tuned to "LINE."
Alternatively, if you use an A/V receiver, set up
Splitter Out #2 -> Cable Box -> TiVo -> Receiver VCR 1 IN.
The only other way to watch-live-while-recording is to use antenna only or cable without a cable box. You wire the cable from the wall to TiVo's RF in, then TiVo's RF out to the TV. You can then put the TiVo in Standby mode
(Messages and Setup -> Standby), the equivalent of a VCR's "TV/VCR" button. You will be able to use the TV's tuner to watch live whatever you like while TiVo uses its internal tuner to record whatever you've asked it to.
Watching One and Recording Two With the DT Tivo
With the Standalone DT tivo, the standard setup is always:
Cable from wall -> Splitter
Splitter Out #1 -> TiVo RF IN
Splitter Out #2 -> Cable Box -> TiVo Svideo/RCA IN
Tivo RF OUT -> TV RF IN
Tivo Video OUT -> TV Video IN.
with some adjustments for VCRs or A/V Receivers if you have them. For daily usage on the DT tivo, you should be watching all TV (live and recorded) though the tivo, with the TV set to receive its VIDEO input. If you need to watch one while recording two
(in other words, if you have **THREE** programs that air simultaneously and never repeat), then you can use standby mode. Set the DT Tivo in standby, and then pick up your TV remote to tune a third live basic cable station.
Summary: you can watch Live TV (without trickplay or commercial skipping) while TiVo records something else, but this is not the pressing issue it is with a VCR.
The setup for this would be the same as the setup for your VCR. However, it is hardly ever necessary or desirable because with TiVo you can watch one recording (with trickplay and commercial skipping) while recording something else.