While there are still a few PC cards out there capable of external video capture, few can do so from HD sources.
Enter the HD PVR, a box a little bigger than an Apple TV, that sits between your receiver (or games console, camcorder or other device with suitable connectors) and PC letting you capture footage from the former onto the latter.
For HD (and high-quality SD) footage you connect the component output of the source device to those on the HD PVR. An additional set of component connectors on the PVR can then be connected to your television so you can carry on watching as you record.
For SD only recordings there are composite and superior S-video connections but no Scart option.
Connecting to your PC
Coaxial and optical digital outputs are provided for audio capture also with loopthroughs. Getting video onto your PC requires connecting the PVR to a USB port on your PC and installing the software suite supplied.
An IR blaster attaches to your receiver's IR window for channel- changing, the accompanying application coming with preset codes for major manufacturers. Those not supported can be learnt. A remote is supplied for use with third-party apps such as GB PVR.
Recording, playback, conversion and burning to disc are handled by the Arcsoft software suite. The Capture Module application lets you specify the length of recordings which are made in their native resolution in .m2ts format. A Hauppauge application or Arcsoft's equivalent can be used to create more usable MP4 files.
Recording BBC HD from our Pace FTA HD box then converting it to MP4 with the Hauppauge software gave poor playback results. Windows Media Player, VLC, Media Player Classic, our Xbox 360 and PS3 and even Arcsoft's own media player all exhibited stuttery pictures, loss of audio sync or incompatibility messages.
Luckily, SD and HD recordings converted using Arcsoft software were faithful to the source. S-video recordings from our Sky+ HD were predictably better than composite.
The HD PVR is pricey and it's a bit of a stretch calling it a PVR (it has no EPG or hard disc) but it does the job well enough. But FTA sat HD recorders may wish to buy a cheaper HD sat card with PVR software instead.