Archive for April, 2011

How to: Remove commercials from recorded TV automatically

Difficulty: 1

No SignalAs technology is evolving, more and more people are recording TV shows to watch at a more convenient time. Fast forwarding or skipping through the commercials is becoming a simple task, but it is still a hassle. This article will show you the tools I use to automatically remove TV commercials from my recorded TV files made by Windows Media Center 7. It is a completely hands off process. I am able to watch any show roughly an hour after it is aired with the commercials completely removed.

By watching recorded TV over live TV, we are more likely to watch what we want, rather than choosing the best of what is on TV at that time. It also lets us control when we watch TV. We no longer need to change our own schedules around when a particular TV show is on, as we can now choose to watch our shows at whatever time is most convenient to us. We are back in control.

I made a video to show the many ways you can either currently use, or will be able to use in the future, for removing commercials. You can view this video further in the article. You will also find out about the software required to remove commercials automatically, and information on the legalities and consequences of using commercial removal technology.

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Windows Software: Automatically convert .wtv to .dvr-ms with WtvWatcher

Difficulty: 1.5

WtvWatcherWindows Media Center 7 saves files by default to the .wtv format. This format is capable of storing the highest quality broadcast. The only problem is that it is not compatible with some programs written for previous versions of Windows Media Center (such as Lifextender which only works with the .dvr-ms format). Lifextender allows all my recorded TV to have the commercials completely removed from all my files without pressing a button. I need to use WtvWatcher if I want to use Lifextender to remove commercials. Lifextender is unable to process the default Windows Media Center 7 formatted files, so WtvWatcher converts the file to a format Lifextender can work with.

WtvWatcher SettingsMicrosoft has included a .wtv to .dvr-ms converter with it’s Media Center, but it is only capable of converting one file at a time, and it is a manual process. WtvWatcher uses this utility by finding the files that need converting, and sending them to be processed. WtvWatcher looks after this job very well. It sits in your task tray and converts all your recorded video to the dvr-ms format. I have been using this software for well over a year and found it to be very reliable and stable.

From what I can make out, the two formats are identical, but the .wtv format can handle a broadcast format that is rarely used. This is why I have not noticed any drop in the quality of recorded TV, once the conversion has taken place.

There are very few settings. Simply point WtvWatcher to the folder that contains your recorded TV. It will do the rest. You will want to ensure you create a shortcut to WtvWatcher.exe in your startup folder so that it loads when the computer boots up.

I have used version 1.0.0.21 for this review. I tried the latest updates but had poor results. It is worth trying the newest version and downgrading back to this version if it doesn’t work for you. If you downgrade, you will want to untick the Check for Updates tick box in the preferences.

WtvWatcher is available for free from codeplex.


How-to: Use an arcade controller in your chair to trigger voice control

Difficulty: 2

Picture 253I am very confident that voice control is the way to go when it comes to controlling my home theatre setup into the future, because I am currently using it and benefiting from the huge advantages it offers. I believe a reliable voice control system will be the best way to control any electrical appliance, and that voice control is likely to be in our lives indefinitely. There are huge cultural and environmental problems which need to be addressed for it to work reliably, but the technology that interprets what we say works very well.

After setting up voice control on my home theatre PC, I realised that there needed to be an instant way to trigger the voice control so it would start listening to me. I needed a way to avoid using a traditional Universal remote, or my gadget. I needed a button that is ultra convenient. This means installing a button right next to my hand that will trigger the voice control. The only way of achieving this is by installing a button into my lounge. This may seem a bit excessive, but once it is done, the benefits we receive from it will last us well into the future. I believe all home theatre seating or lounge suites will eventually have the option to add a button into the arm.

There are many different types of buttons on the market, but I have only seen one that I know will be able to last the lifetime of the lounge. It’s going to take a beating, so I needed a button that was strong and reliable. Arcade machine buttons have proven themselves over the years as being ultra reliable. Fortunately for me, they are also cheap.

The end result is a button sitting immediately next to my hand which can activate and control my whole entertainment system using my voice. It’s not going to get much better than this. I expect this configuration to last the life of the couch, and it is likely to be considerably cheaper than having these factory installed. The only DIY work needed to be done for most lounges will be to drill a hole to install the button, and to click the pieces together. My scripts are not perfect yet, but I hope you will agree that it is pretty exciting stuff.

This article will show you how to install an arcade controller board, and a button into your lounge to trigger voice control of your entertainment.

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