Has anyone made a mini-headend at home?

olliec420

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Has anyone done this in a cheaper way than buying a bunch of these VECOAX MINIMOD-2? They look great but the 10 pack blade is over 5k. I guess thats not bad if you think about that is only a little more than 2 years of cable service.

Combining all the fav channels from all the fav birds to ATSC then combine in the OTA locals... would be a pretty sweet setup. Need a lot of receivers but the cheap-o's like several v7's or something would work on a budget.

Does anyone know of any old cheap surplus headend equipment (like something from the 2000s that no one wants anymore) that will do this better/cheaper? Those probably only have SDI input as opposed to HDMI so I would need receivers with SDI output. Maybe pc dvb-s2 tuners would be better?

If anyone has such a setup at the house, I'd love a photo/video tour of it!
 

cpalmer2k

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I actually picked up two ATSC modulators last December with the intention of setting up something like this but just haven't gotten around to it yet. You can find them on eBay used (and reasonable) occasionally if you watch the listings. All of the local TV stations in our area have to complete their repack by September 6th. I had originally planned to set it all up this summer but I was so late doing it I just decided to wait until all the stations here finished swapping OTA frequencies so I could set it up once and be done with it. My plan is to give the two modulators frequencies in the higher end of the UHF spectrum that has been "repacked" so they won't interfere with any local stations.
 

olliec420

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I actually picked up two ATSC modulators last December with the intention of setting up something like this but just haven't gotten around to it yet. You can find them on eBay used (and reasonable) occasionally if you watch the listings. All of the local TV stations in our area have to complete their repack by September 6th. I had originally planned to set it all up this summer but I was so late doing it I just decided to wait until all the stations here finished swapping OTA frequencies so I could set it up once and be done with it. My plan is to give the two modulators frequencies in the higher end of the UHF spectrum that has been "repacked" so they won't interfere with any local stations.
What brand and model are they? Id like to do some reading on them and then see what some similar options are.
 

comfortably_numb

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My plan is to give the two modulators frequencies in the higher end of the UHF spectrum that has been "repacked" so they won't interfere with any local stations.
Is that legal? I'm assuming this will be very low power, like a low-power FM modulator, but it's still probably a good idea to check!
 

cpalmer2k

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Is that legal? I'm assuming this will be very low power, like a low-power FM modulator, but it's still probably a good idea to check!
Yeah these don’t broadcast like FM modulators. They just transmit the input video on the frequency and channel # you set through the coax hooked to the modulator. Think of it more like the RF modulators from the early DVD player days that put the DVD player on channel 3 or 4, or that function that was built into VCRs
 
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harshness

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Has anyone done this in a cheaper way than buying a bunch of these VECOAX MINIMOD-2?
It comes down to how many tuners you're trying to combine. The cost of satellite tuners and switch gear to matrix everything together is likely to be a big part of the cost that it doesn't appear that you've considered.

Chances are pretty good that a matrix HDMI solution with some sort of receiver control system is going to be a cheaper solution than modulating a bunch of tuners tuned to different channels.
 
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pacificrim

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There are not any cheap options for HD modulators. I've built a few 24-40 channel head ends for hotels and used ZeeVee boxes for QAM HD. They are used in digital signage in the US because the US DMCA prohibits unencrypted cable systems in hotels or businesses. Hotel systems are super expensive and need decryption, meaning special TVs or STB. Because of that, the digital signage boxes are all we can use and the price is still high. The DMCA does not apply in Canada, so we can build hotel cable systems with straight QAM.
 

cpalmer2k

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These are the modulators I bought. Thor Fiber H-HDMI-CC-RF
They put them on a Black Friday sale last year and I bought them then. You can find a "knock off" version for around $385 though on eBay with roughly the exact same interface so I assume it is probably made by the same company that makes them for Thor.

PVI also has a newer, smaller modulator that is 720p only called the Pixel. It is controlled by a series of switches on the case.
 

olliec420

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There are not any cheap options for HD modulators. I've built a few 24-40 channel head ends for hotels and used ZeeVee boxes for QAM HD. They are used in digital signage in the US because the US DMCA prohibits unencrypted cable systems in hotels or businesses. Hotel systems are super expensive and need decryption, meaning special TVs or STB. Because of that, the digital signage boxes are all we can use and the price is still high. The DMCA does not apply in Canada, so we can build hotel cable systems with straight QAM.
Interesting about the hotel systems.
 
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pacificrim

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These are the modulators I bought. Thor Fiber H-HDMI-CC-RF
They put them on a Black Friday sale last year and I bought them then. You can find a "knock off" version for around $385 though on eBay with roughly the exact same interface so I assume it is probably made by the same company that makes them for Thor.

PVI also has a newer, smaller modulator that is 720p only called the Pixel. It is controlled by a series of switches on the case.
Cool. That's a lot less (though not cheap) than what I was using. Still, for only twice the price of SD it looks good. Small too.
 

IntelPennny4

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I use to have a mini-headend in my front 12x10 room. i got out of it because it became expensive. i start out with 10 channels and then i wanted more and then more. i have to stop so i got out of it. sold most of my stuff. i injected channels into my cable line-up i had for i could get the program guide info. i dont have any pictures of the room. i used zeevee mods i never had problems with them and pick them up cheap. but after buying 10 well they where not cheap anymore lol. i have some more stuff if you want to buy it for you can get into it. i used the little v7 stb i had over 150 of them they work ok. you will find out that heat in the winter for the room will be over kill. i never turn the heat on in that room for the winters. i used the MC channels to listen to music in the house and outdoors too that was nice. well got to stop talking making me want to go back to it lol
 

olliec420

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I use to have a mini-headend in my front 12x10 room. i got out of it because it became expensive. i start out with 10 channels and then i wanted more and then more. i have to stop so i got out of it. sold most of my stuff. i injected channels into my cable line-up i had for i could get the program guide info. i dont have any pictures of the room. i used zeevee mods i never had problems with them and pick them up cheap. but after buying 10 well they where not cheap anymore lol. i have some more stuff if you want to buy it for you can get into it. i used the little v7 stb i had over 150 of them they work ok. you will find out that heat in the winter for the room will be over kill. i never turn the heat on in that room for the winters. i used the MC channels to listen to music in the house and outdoors too that was nice. well got to stop talking making me want to go back to it lol
Very cool! Wish you had some pics, that'd be cool to see. Id be interested to know what you have left but I don't know if I'll be buying them. I need some land for some more dishes first!
 

pacificrim

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The only thing I still have modulated is analog CSPAN from a DSR 4500X- going into a channel modulator and into my TV. I had a stack of other DSR models set to different ZK and FP standard def channels, each going to a modulator, then into a combiner and into my TV. It was fun to build, but hardly used and heavy on electricity, so I pulled it apart leaving only CSPAN.
 
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olliec420

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The only thing I still have modulated is analog CSPAN from a DSR 4500X- going into a channel modulator and into my TV. I had a stack of other DSR models set to different ZK and FP standard def channels, each going to a modulator, then into a combiner and into my TV. It was fun to build, but hardly used and heavy on electricity, so I pulled it apart leaving only CSPAN.
Oh, yours were SD. That makes it a lot simpler BUT yes, heavy on the electricity. Not to criticize but I have to ask, why CSPAN? Its an awfully slow show! lol
 

pacificrim

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My home system: My mini headend channels were DC2 SD and CSPAN analog. Commercial receivers don't include modulators, so I used agile commercial modulators to send to my TV.

The hotel head ends which I've built were a mix of HD and SD channels, using Holland SD modulators and ZeeVee HD QAM modulators.

CSPAN is the last analog channel and awesome to watch!
 
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ancient

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I get what you are trying to do but you may be thinking about this the wrong way. If the idea is that you want all the satellite channels you can receive to be viewable on all the TV's in you home, and that you can select the channel to view from a cable-like guide interface, then here is an approach that will work, particularly if you have room for multiple dishes.

First you could equip each dish with a dual output LNB and run two coaxial cables from the LNB outputs into the house, this helps you avoid scheduling conflicts.

Inside the house the cables should connect to DVB-S2 capable PCIe tuner cards, that are installed in a PC. Several companies make these, but TBS seems to be the most popular in North America. I would get quad input cards if you can afford them, to support more LNB's and again to avoid scheduling conflicts. The PC itself can be running Windows or Linux, and which you choose will in part determine which PVR software you can use.

Then on the PC you will need to run what is called backend software, on Linux you can run Tvheadend or maybe MythTV (Tvheadend seems to be easier to use), while on Windows you could run MediaPortal or NextPVR or something similar. This software will stream your live and recorded programs to your frontend clients.

Then at each of your TV's you run a media center PC and on that you will probably want to run Kodi or something similar. Alternately, if using MediaPortal I think they have their own frontend software. You connect the TV to the HDMI output on the media center PC and go into Kodi to watch TV. In Kodi you can either select a channel to view live, or you can view a recorded program from the backend, or you can view any video stored your hard drive or a network share. The program guide in Kodi can look very much like it would on a cable TV system, if you set it up that way and choose a Kodi skin that you like.

The way this works is, when you want to watch a program from the satellite, you go into Kodi and go to the Live TV menu and select a channel to view - you can even do this using a remote control if you like. Kodi then requests the channel from the backend system, and the backend system instructs the satellite tuner card to tune in that particular channel and then it streams it to the Kodi software or other frontend software, which in turn sends it out the computer's HDMI output to your TV. Of course this is an extremely simplified overview of the process, but at no point do you need to convert the signal to ATSC. In fact technically you don't need to play the received signal on a TV at all; it will play on whatever display device is connected to the computer.

The computer running the backend software doesn't have to be very powerful although the power supply needs to be large enough to power the tuner cards. But a several year old desktop computer often works just fine. The computers that are acting as frontends don't need to be super powerful either BUT since some of the signals on the satellites are in 4:2:2 format, which can't be decoded by most GPU chips/cards, you will need a frontend with a decent CPU since it will do the work of decoding those channels. If it were not for that issue you could probably get away with using something as small and cheap as a Raspberry Pi 4. but if you try doing that you will find that on some channels your either get no video or you'll drop a lot of frames. By the way you can run a backend and frontend on the same computer, but if you do then it has to be powerful enough to run the frontend software, so your old Windows Vista box probably won't cut it in that case.

I don't know if you'd be interested in going that route but media center PC's may not be much more expensive then ATSC modulators, the picture quality will definitely be better, and since the signal is being sent digitally you don't need to worry about coaxial cable loss. If the tuner card is getting a reliable signal then that's what you'll see at the TV's, provided you are running gigabit Ethernet in your home (I don't really recommend using WiFi in this application although I'm sure some people do). My suspicion is you'd get pretty much everything you are trying to achieve and more, just not in the way you're trying to do it now. Also, if you buy ATSC modulators, at some point ATSC3 will become the new standard and then new TV's may not have the capability of receiving the older ATSC standard anymore (do new TV's still have the ability to receive NTSC? If so I'd guess it's only because some people still connect VCR's and watch their old tapes!).

There are a couple of downsides (besides the initial cost if you have to buy everything new rather than repurposing older equipment), one is that it will take you a while to figure out how to set everything up, and the other is that if you have any users that can't figure out how to operate a cable box then they won't be able to use this either. As I said you can use a remote with Kodi but the setup isn't exactly straightforward. Another little fun thing is getting guide data into your backend software; you can do it (for free even) but it requires additional software. So there are all these little things you need to learn how to do to make it all work, so if you get frustrated easily and want everything to just work now then this is not the solution for you. But if you can persevere and figure it all out, I suspect you'd like the result much better than what you are contemplating now, unless for some reason users absolutely have to be able to change channels as if they were watching OTA TV channels off of an antenna.
 

olliec420

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Then at each of your TV's you run a media center PC and on that you will probably want to run Kodi or something similar.
Thanks for all your time on that post. I may end up doing this at some point but now I have an elderly father who can no understand anything except channel up and down, volume up and down. Thats why I wanted it over ATSC or QAM, to use the tv's tuner.
 
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ancient

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Thanks for all your time on that post. I may end up doing this at some point but now I have an elderly father who can no understand anything except channel up and down, volume up and down. Thats why I wanted it over ATSC or QAM, to use the tv's tuner.
Ah, okay. That makes sense. There is probably a technological workaround for this (so he could continue to use his existing remote but have it control a frontend program) but if so I don't know what it is offhand.
 
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