Simple DIY OTA TV Recording and Viewing Options

We all want a simple DIY OTA TV recording solution. Watching television over the air is nothing new–people have been doing it for decades. Having the ability to bring a high definition signal into your home, record it and–in some cases–remove commercials, is definitely a game-changer in this space.

OTA TV Recording

The era of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube TV, have made cord-cutting virtually painless, as viewers can dump their pricey cable bundles and cable box rentals for cheaper streaming television services. But the questions has always been, what do I do about my local channels?

This guide will explain a few options for you to setup OTA TV recording, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars a year.

How To Cord-Cut Without Losing The Convenience of Cable TV

The easiest, but not necessarily cheapest, way to cord-cut is to find a streaming cable service to replace your local provider. Services such as SlingTV and DirectTV are your best options for an Internet-based provider. These services can provide most of your local TV channels, as well as popular options for cable news and entertainment. The experience is virtually identical to tradition cable companies, and can even provide you with cloud DVR options for a small additional fee.

All of the options within this guide will require you to run stand-alone apps and / or a piece of hardware to store apps. For example, you would access the SlingTV service via an app on your smart-TV, or if your TV cannot run apps, you would need to purchase a streaming box, such as a Roku player or Amazon Fire TV.

Note: The streaming players will cost more money up front, but often provide a better viewer experience.

Setup Your Own DVR For Antenna TV Recording

Your second option for cord-cutting is OTA TV recording. This will require some hardware included below.

  1. A TV Antenna.
  2. A TV tuner to grab the signal.
  3. A piece of hardware to process the signal and perform DVR functionality.
  4. Miscellaneous cables, which could include coaxial, Ethernet and HDMI.

OTA Antenna Types

The type of antenna you will need will be determined by your environment and proximity to a large city. If you are close to a metropolitan area and do not have many physical obstructions between you and the skyline (trees, building, mountains, etc.) you can get away with a simple window mounted interior antenna. Try this TV station locator tool to determine what type of antenna you’ll need.

If you are close to a city but have trees or buildings all around you, you can probably get away with an interior, attic-mounted antenna.

If you are seventy-five, plus miles from a city, you will likely need a powered, exterior antenna mounted on your roof.

TV Tuner For Watching And Recording OTA TV

A TV tuner converts the signal received by the antenna into images and sounds so you can watch television. It also allows you select channels to watch, such as ABC, NBC, CBS among others. If you simply wanted to watch TV, you can use the antenna and a basic digital TV tuner and plug it directly into your television.

In this case, we are putting the tuner on our home network so we can watch and record TV from an app on our streaming player or even a portal device. There are many companies that provide stand-alone TV tuners that can connect and stream to a television. The HD Homerun Connect is a product we reviewed when creating our Plex guide for OTA recording. You can setup a Plex server on an old computer or a Network Attached Storage device such as a Synology or QNAP. These NAS devices allow plugins such as Plex to be installed. You can then use Plex to watch and record live TV.

A better option for most consumers is the Amazon Fire TV Recast. Unlike setting up a Plex server, the Recast requires very little technical expertise. Simply plug the antenna into the Recast and use a Fire TV streaming media player to view and record local TV channels.

Our Recommended OTA TV Recording Setup

Now that you know all of the pieces involved in viewing and recording over the air television, we’re going to give you our recommended setup for people with intermediate and expert technical expertise.

Expert Computer And Technical Experience (or if you know a person).

Antenna: Attic mounted, mid-range antenna.

Software: Plex

TV Tuner: HD Homerun Connect

Streaming Media Device: Amazon Fire TV Cube or Amazon Firestick

App on streaming media device: Plex

Basic To Intermediate Technical Experience

Antenna: Window or set-top antenna if you are within 25-30 miles of a city.

TV Tuner: Amazon Fire TV Recast

Streaming Media Device: Amazon Fire TV Cube or Amazon Firestick

That’s it.

If you do not want to live in the Amazon ecosystem with the expert setup, you can swap out the streaming device for a Roku streaming player. Either way, we recommend buying the same type of device for every room in your home so the experience is the same as you move about your house. The spousal approval factor for cord-cutting requires simplicity and ease of use.

Once you have your local channels setup to view and record, you can pair this with an inexpensive streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu to fill in your entertainment needs. Or, if you’re already an Amazon Prime member, you get movies and show for free with that service!

If you have any questions regarding OTA TV recording or how to setup any of these devices, please join our free PCTechBytes community forums and ask!

About the Author: Dave

David is a tech professional with over fifteen years of experience in the IT fields of hardware, software and system administration.

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