DIY OTA DTV FTW!!!

Would you believe September 1st, 2011 came and went I wasn’t ready?!

I had thought about what I was going to do when all the TV stations up north here followed their cousins down south and switched exclusively to digital transmissions. But I hadn’t done anything about it. So now was the time because my wife’s backlog of taped summer shows was running out and the fall season was about to start!!!

I looked into the satellite option, but I felt like I would be paying a lot of money for channels that are basically broadcasting for free if I had the right setup.

The setup has become:

A Viore ATB150V Digital-Analog TV Converter Box that I purchased from Walmart while in the USA. There are alternatives available here in Canada, most notably the Access HD 1080D box but I wasn’t able to get my hands on one. I did get my hands on a Homeworx converter box but a piece of carp! It would loose the lock on even the strongest station, when there was sound it was barely audible, it would freeze up in the middle channel changes, basically: it was carp!

A really nice extra with the Viore is the remote is a universal remote so we can control the TV and the DVR with one remote – although you never know which device your controlling until you screw something up!

The next piece of the puzzle is the DVR: a Magnavox MDR515H. This replaces the VCR so no more tapes lying around, getting knocked over and order all screwed up. It’s a single-tuner DVR which means we can only watch what it is recording OR something already recorded while it is recording a channel, but we can’t flip channels while it is recording. This is why we had to have a DVR and a converter box – so we could record one channel and watch another. There are dual-tuner DVR’s available, particularly the Channel Master CM-7000PAL but it doesn’t have the capacity of the Magnavox (500 GB) and it doesn’t have the DVD burner that the Magnavox has.

Something else about the Magnavox that I think I will like is that has a variety of input sources, not just the antenna. There is a composite video input on the back and another in the front along with a digital-video input.

The coax output on the unit is just a pass-through though, so we connect to the TV via composite video (no HDMI on my TV) and pass the antenna signal on to the converter box – that connects to the TV’s antenna in on channel 4.

Finally the antenna!

Inspired by William Ruckman‘s article at Instructables.com I built a fractal antenna with bits left-over from the basement renovations. The base is a PVC single gang wiring box and the actual antenna is made from 14 AWG copper wiring. I had to buy the PVC pipe that I used as a mast (used loosely since it is only 18 inches long) but the rest was stuff I already had and would have probably ended up in the garbage eventually.


The bending of the wire was simple enough, following a template available from William’s site i bent the four receivers of the antenna and joined them together with two smaller pieces of wire. In my case I soldered the wires together, which will hopefully make a better contact and stronger build than screws. I used a lot of tie-wraps in the construction and mounting, mostly because I had a lot lying around but they’re also easy to work with and easy to re-do if you get something wrong.

The cable comes down from the antenna into the basement, where it goes through a Von-der-Nick amplifier and the heads up to the living room where it joins the DVR.

Currently we get as many stations as with the rabbit ears but I want to say they come in much clearer and more consistent. The orientation is in the middle of what tvfool.com identified as our two biggest clusters of transmitters. I’m not sure if it would be better to have two directional antennas, one pointed at each cluster and then merge the signal. We’ll have to see…

Cross-posted on Schultzter’s blog at DIY OTA DTV FTW!!!

1 comment

  1. Bravo Eric, Sounds sort of neat, but so sorry you have thrown “Ma Bellsl” enterprise under the bus! How do you survive the weekend without football broadcasts?  Must be a very sad household. Imagine a week without Les Als. Linemanal