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.
 





The Software:

WtvWatcher: This program scans my recorded TV folder for the native .wtv file format. It then sends the file through Microsoft’s inbuilt WtvConverter.exe to convert the file to the .dvr-ms format. This is necessary because Lifextender will not be able to interact with the .wtv format.

Lifextender: This program scans my recorded TV folder for new dvr-ms files and scans the file for commercials using Commskip or Show Analyser. It then recreates the file with the commercials removed.

My Script: I wrote this script to move files around based on the name of the file. If the file is a movie, it will be copied to another location to enable Media Center Master to download the DVD cover and other features. My script doesn’t have anything to do with ad removal really, but it is a helpful finishing touch. It will require a little fiddling to get it working though as it is setup for Australian TV. I run this script automatically through a scheduled task.

Click on the title of each for more detail on the setup of each piece of software. Both WtvWatcher and Lifextender have good default settings so they should work straight away. All you will need to do is install the two pieces of software and copy the shortcut of the files into your startup folder.

WtvWatcher and Lifextender work incredibly well together. I found that a quicker computer did achieve better results. There is likely to be the occasional ad or company logo at the end of an ad skip, but the impact is minimal. Much of the time it is hard to notice there was ever an add placed in the gap. Music sometimes even joins up flawlessly, from before the add break, to after.

Voice Control:

On the rare cases that commercials haven’t been removed, setting up voice control will enable you to say “skip ads” or “comskip”. This will move the media forward around two and a half minutes, or roughly the length of a commercial break. If there are still ads, you can say “skip” and the media will move forward a further 30 seconds. Alternatively, you could use the “fast forward” command. These make for a very quick and easy way to skim past commercials. You can even do this with VCR’s and external DVD players if you setup a USB-UIRT.

Life with and without commercials:

There are consequences to commercial removal in the long term, though the good far outweigh the bad. We can be highly manipulated by commercials as we watch them. The repetitiveness of them slowly sinks into our minds and subconsciously impacts us. The decisions on what we buy are often based on what a commercial has told us, rather than the quality of a product and common sense. i.e. The iFrenzy. I do not have the same concerns with online advertising because the Ad companies have managed to make ads relevant to the subject matter of interest, and are generally more of a help rather than a hindrance.

If we all remove our commercials, I think a likely outcome will be the advertisers move to other forms of media to promote their products, such as billboards or online advertising. This will reduce commercial TV’s buying power for shows and in turn, the quality of shows may drop. Advertising on TV will become cheaper to fill the spots. This endless cycle could ultimately bring an end to commercial TV. Commercial TV can’t survive if advertisers don’t want to show their commercials on it. If commercial TV does remain as is, product placement within shows is likely to increase greatly.

Commercial removal will have little impact on government and community funded TV stations. Live sporting events will also remain with regular commercials as these events are generally watched live. It should not impact on Pay TV either. Pay TV was advertised as commercial free when it was launched in Australia and now it is flooded with commercials. It’s unreasonable for us to pay to have our mind manipulated.

Commercial TV might be considered good for people who don’t have the money to buy Pay TV, or are unable to afford DVD’s. By watching adverts, they can receive the TV service for free. This is an important point, but commercials aren’t for me, and I am ready to deal with the possible consequences.

Legalities:

From what I can make out, it is legal to remove commercials in my country (Australia), and is likely to remain legal. For it to be made illegal would be the same as making the skip or fast forward buttons on a remote illegal, or in my case, the spoken words Fast Forward and Skip illegal to say. These are the same functions that have been built into our DVD and VCR players since their inception, they have just become much more efficient. I don’t see any way it could be policed if such a law were to come in.

As more people get technology capable of this in their homes, more and more people will start doing this. A similar example is MP3’s as they were around long before the record companies saw that the copying of them would create an issue. I don’t really see why the government would want to have a say on the topic. It’s up to each individual to decide if they want TV commercials in their home. I don’t believe it will be possible for TV stations to install any technology that would make commercial removal impossible, as TV commercials can be removed from shows using a variety of new and old methods.

Conclusion:

Having my house commercial free over the last year has changed my family’s life for the better. I hope that each person will consider the consequences of removing ads from their TV shows before trying this out. Once you have experienced TV without commercials and have seen how easy it is to set up, I don’t think it likely many people would be able to consciously choose to go back to commercials. Removal would be as easy as uninstalling this software.


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3 Comments so far »
 

  1. James said, on November 16, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

    People don’t realize how much commercials shorten the lifespan. If one watches a 1 hour TV program, there’s 15 minutes of commercials one must sit thru. That’s 15 minutes that you will never recover. I watch via Netflix or I zap the commercials on my Dishnet DVR. I can watch that 45 min tv program and the next 15 minutes is mine to do as I wish, not what the advertizers want.

    If one values his life and well being, skip the commercials. Even if it costs you $20 a month, it’s worth it. Hell, even $100 is worth it when you consider the 20 hours a month that will credited to you from not watching them.

    Jim, Southern California

  2. Chris Duckworth said, on November 19, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

    I did the maths on what I have recorded over the last year. It had removed nineteen 24 hour days of ads. That is a huge figure. Most of what I record I watch so it’s a pretty fair comparison. Not only are the ads sometimes damaging, they make our lives disapear without us realising. We are paying in time to see ads.

  3. hunnypuppy said, on April 26, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

    This is nice but check out MCEBuddy 2.x

    This really rocks, works in the background to remove commercials and also converts the videos so that you can save space and for me most imporatantly stream them to my Samsung DLNA tv to watch on big screen.

    Amazingly simple user interface.





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