Padding is the fine art of adding extra recording time to the beginning or end of a show so that you don't miss anything. Some shows/networks are notorious for starting a few seconds off the hour/half-hour, or ending off-time. For instance, if you record Friends without padding, you will frequently miss the little ending punch line scene that runs alongside the credits. The official means of padding is done using the Record option called the Overtime Scheduler. This feature, found under Recording Options, lets you choose the Start Recording Time (from "on-time" up to 5 minutes) and Stop Recording Time (from a "on-time" up to 3 hours after). This process has become known in the TiVo community as "hard padding." It's a wonderful feature, but it has its drawbacks. Adding one minute to the end of Will & Grace will let you have the last laugh, but if you have something else scheduled to record immediately after the show, TiVo will see this one minute overlap as a conflict and not record your next show. If you watch the show after Will & Grace on NBC, no problem; you just skip the padding, record the two shows as normal, and watch the last few seconds of Will & Grace at the beginning of Scrubs (or whatever). But if what you want to record next is on another channel, you're out of luck. This had led TiVo users to come up with all sorts of ideas for future padding options (and coined terms for them all: soft padding, semi-soft padding, negative padding, just-in-time padding, smart padding, and on and on). The idea behind soft padding is that TiVo would only record the requested x-minutes over if there were no conflict with another scheduled show. This is a much-requested feature, and hopefully something that TiVo, Inc. will add to future versions of the software.
Obviously, the handiest use of hard padding is to add space on the end of shows that traditionally run into overtime (such as the Grammys, the Oscars, the Super Bowl, and sports in general). For these special events, be safe and add at least an hour (if you don't have other must-view shows following on other networks).
The Semi-Soft Padding Hack
One of the Tivocommunity.com members (ccwf) came up with an ingenious method of pseudo-soft padding, dubbed "semi-soft-padding." Here's how it works:
Let's say, you like to watch Survivor at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, followed by The Swan at 9 p.m. on NBC. Survivor can sometimes run a few seconds over if the ousted person's final thoughts are long-winded. If you add five minutes of hard padding, you're not going to be able to record The Swan as well. To create semi-soft padding for this situation, you would:
Create a regular Season Pass for both Survivor and The Swan.
Create an auto-record WishList item for Survivor and set it to 5 minutes on the Ending Time selection in Recording Options. You have to use a WishList item for the second Survivor listing because you can't create more than one Season Pass for the same show on the same network.
In the Season Pass Manager, prioritize the three listings so that The Swan is first, followed by Survivor, with padding, followed by Survivor with no padding. This way, if both Survivor and The Swan are on, they will start recording at their normal times. But if NBC has monkeyed with its lineup, as they are wont to do, and The Swan is not on, Survivor will record with padding (see Figure 3.10).
Figure 3.10 What a semi-soft padding list looks like.
You can do a manual record semi-soft padding in situations where shows overlap a minute (such as CSI (9:0010 p.m. on CBS) and ER (9:5911 p.m. on NBC). Here, you'd create a regular Season Pass for both CSI and ER and a Manual Record for ER from 1011 p.m. You would then prioritize them in this order (CSI, ER, Manual ER) in your Season Pass Manager. If both shows are on, you will get the full CSI and miss the first minute of ER, but if CSI is not on, you'll get every scalpel-wielding-minute of ER.
If you use these tricks too much, your Season Pass Manager will get very bloated, but luckily, there aren't too many instances where it is needed. We'll have to be satisfied with this little hack until soft padding becomes a real TiVo feature.
Other Types of Padding
So what about some of those other flavors of padding?
Negative Padding is the ability to start and/or end a program within its timeslot (for instance, a minute into it or a minute before it ends). The only way to do this officially is to use the Manual Record feature. If you're on a TiVo using version 3.0 of the software, and have access to the TiVo's command prompt (see Chapter 13, "Accessing Your TiVo's Linux Bash Prompt"), there's a script (called padhack.tcl) you can install that will allow you to use negative padding. If you're interested in this script, go to tivocommunity.com and do a search on "negative padding" in the TiVo Underground forum.
Just-in-Time Padding (a.k.a. "Smart Padding") is a requested feature for future TiVo software that would adjust the recording times dynamically if shows were running over. So, with JIT padding, you wouldn't have to try and guess how long the Super Bowl was going to run over the scheduled time. Your TiVo would be talking to the central TiVo servers, and if a show was going over, your TiVo would be told to automatically change the recording time.