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Archive for the ‘Media Center PCs’ Category

Speeding up album art display for SageTV extenders

Posted by onlydarksets on February 1, 2009

On my SageTV HD-100, it was taking 3-5 seconds to scroll through each page of videos or music.  Turns out there are three things required to fix this:

  1. Turn on hardware caching in (enable_hardware_scaling_cache=true)
  2. Reduce the User Input Timeout (Settings | Customize | Inactivity Timeout and OSD AutoHide | Configure)
  3. Enable album art caching (SageMC | Enhancements | Cache Album Art)

Now it’s smooth as silk.

Posted in SageTV | Leave a Comment »

Importing archived WMV videos into SageTV’s “My TV”

Posted by onlydarksets on January 12, 2009

I have a ton of archived TV shows recorded in Vista Media Center that I processed with DVRMSToolbox (i.e., removed commercials, converted to WMV, and copied over all of the metadata), but they didn’t fit in well in Sage’s “Videos” structure.  After converting a few shows using SageMC, I realized that you can have pretty much any video file type show up in “My TV”, so I spent some time figuring out how to migrate all of these shows using a VB script.

Turns out you can access most of Windows Media Player via WSH, so that made it pretty easy to grab all of the metadata once everything was loaded into WMP – you just have to know where to look.  The XML layout for the Sage Webserver is pretty well documented, although the source code to Andy’s excellent MigrateMCtoSage utility made it much easier to figure out the bare minimums.  The hardest part was actually finding the XML writer for WSH.

Note that this should also work for AVIs, which is the other main container format supported by WMP.  However, AVI tagging is pretty abysmal in WMP, mostly because it doesn’t write the tags back to the file.  I have found a couple of apps to do this, but nothing I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Backup you wiz.bin file before proceeding – you need to shut down the Sage service to do this properly.

  1. Download and unzip CreateVideoXML.vbs
    Optional: Open in a text editor and edit the output and temp files
  2. Import your videos into WMP and clean up the metadata
  3. Run CreateVideoXML.vbs
  4. Open Sage Webserver and import the resulting XML file (by default: C:\Playlist.xml)
    1. Check the Import TV files box
    2. Check the Overwrite Existing Show Information box
    3. Check the Overwrite Existing Sage TV File Information box
    4. Check the Use imported Airing data to determine startTime option (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT)
    5. Uncheck everything else

After import, your videos will show up under “My TV”.

Posted in SageTV, Windows Media Center | 2 Comments »

Watching Blu-ray discs on the Sage extender

Posted by onlydarksets on January 11, 2009

I picked up a Blu-ray drive for the Sage server and a couple of BR discs.  I don’t use the Sage server as a client – I have a HD-100 extender for viewing (with a HD-200 in the pipeline).  Since I don’t have a stand-alone player, the only way to watch the movies I have bought is to rip them.

After going through this thread and all of its suggestions, I have found that some discs work with no modification, while for others the audio won’t work unless manipulated first.  Generally, if the first audio stream is AC3, it will work. So, I have come up with the following workflow for getting the movies to play on the extender.  Basically, I start with the easiest method first, and work my down through successive steps as necessary:

  1. Play the m2ts file as it was ripped from the BR disc.  With many discs, this just works.
  2. Delete all streams from the m2ts file except the main video and audio streams.
  3. Demux the main video and audio streams from the m2ts file, downmix the DTS-HD stream to AC3, and remux in a MKV container.

In each case, there is no converting of the video stream, so there is no quality loss and the processing time is relatively minimal.  Details after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in SageTV | Leave a Comment »

Media Center and Vista need a divorce

Posted by onlydarksets on January 5, 2009

Long Zheng posted a link on his blog to a Microsoft-produced retrospective of the last decade of Media Center versions (also posted by Brent at GeekTonic, which reminded me to write on this).  It’s time for Microsoft to uncouple Media Center from the OS.

I jumped ship from Vista Media Center almost 6 months ago, and one of the biggest reasons was a  persistent bug with an identified cause resulted in many of my recordings having an incorrect duration, which made it difficult (although not impossible) to use the files.  To date, the problem has still not been resolved, because Media Center updates are tied to the OS release schedule, which does not permit quick release patches for non-critical bugs.  If they get it wrong, it’s a whole new cycle before they can send out another patch.

Microsoft already realizes that baking everything into the OS is not always the best idea, because it creates a bloated OS and reduces flexibility and limits the options for the individual apps (see here, here, and here).  Given the much richer experience I have had with SageTV since August, I think that applies to Media Center, as well.

Posted in Media Center PCs, Microsoft, Windows 7, Windows Media Center, Windows Vista | Leave a Comment »

Converting SageTV recordings to Zune/iPod/iPhone, version 2.0

Posted by onlydarksets on January 2, 2009

I posted a method for converting SageTV files to iPod/iPhone compliant files a while back, but a number of the files weren’t converting properly.  I also had problems with mencoder cutting commercials out of the files.  So, I retooled the approach, and I am now getting 100% success, using the approach outlined below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in DVRMSToolbox, HowTo, iPhone, SageTV, Windows Mobile, Zune 2 | 6 Comments »

Last day for lifetime upgrades with AnyDVD

Posted by onlydarksets on December 31, 2008

UPDATE: Slysoft has extended the offer until January 11, 2009.

As of tomorrow, Slysoft has a new licensing policy for AnyDVD:

As of January 1st, 2009, Slysoft will change its update policy from free lifetime updates to an annual subscription fee. All license purchases made before January 1st, 2009 will not be affected by this change; as promised, all licenses purchased before 2009 will still be honoured under Slysoft’s free lifetime update policy.

Presumably the cost will go down tomorrow, but you will have to pay it each year.  To offset that a bit, you can also get 20% off through today, as well (same link):

Until Wednesday, December 31 2008 Slysoft offers a 20% discount on all software products–except upgrades. If you are entertaining the thought of purchasing one of Slysoft’s products, now is the right time to act!

So, if you want to back up your Blu-Ray discs and you abhor annual fees, act fast.

Posted in Media Center PCs, SageTV | Leave a Comment »

Cheaper alternative to TMPGEnc*

Posted by onlydarksets on December 30, 2008

Just came across Badaboom Media Converter, which appears to be a cheaper alternative to TMPGEnc Xpress for DVD/Blu-Ray/video conversions – with three major caveats:

  1. It requires a CUDA-enabled Nvidia GPU (TMPGEnc also supports CUDA, but does not require it)
  2. It only outputs to H.264 (TMPGEnc outputs to almost anything)
  3. No batch mode (TMPGEnc does)

So, if you don’t have a CUDA GPU, you need WMV, or you need batch, skip it.  Otherwise, it’s only $30 v. $100 for TMPGEnc, which, let’s face it, is overkill for most.  I don’t have a CUDA GPU, but I’m considering it since my last video card melted.

Posted in Media Center PCs | Leave a Comment »

Commercial Viewer: Another great tool from babgvant

Posted by onlydarksets on December 26, 2008

UPDATE: Andy has already released an update.  Get the binary here.  I have updated the screenshot below.

Andy has posted yet another great tool on his site: Commercial Viewer.  This tool loads a video file and its associated EDL commercial file and lets you modify the values to fine-tune the commercial segments.  This isn’t a tool for every show that gets recorded – I use this for shows I want to archive indefinitely.


In the screenshot above, you can see the app.  Once you select a video, it also loads the associated EDL file (of course, you have to run SA or ComSkip on the video file first).  You can preview the video, although you can’t jump to an arbitrary spot (i.e., there is no slider) and you can jump to an arbitrary spot by clicking on the green/red slider (updated per Andy’s comment below – the perils of 5a posting).  You can select a commercial segment using the list on the right.  The two text boxes display the start and end times of the commercial segment, and you can jump to either of those spots.

Get it here.

Posted in DVRMSToolbox, SageTV | 2 Comments »

ABC is 60fps in DC

Posted by onlydarksets on November 26, 2008

I’ve been testing out the new release of Handbrake to convert my SageTV recordings, and I couldn’t get the file to load to my iPhone via iTunes.  Thanks to G-Spot, I remembered that ABC shows are 60fps here in DC, and the iPhone tops out at 30fps.  A freaking error message would have been nice.

Posted in iPhone, SageTV | Leave a Comment »

SageTV extenders and Blu-Ray playback

Posted by onlydarksets on November 21, 2008

I was researching Blu-Ray players, when it occurred to me it would be much easier to just get a BD drive for the PC, rip the disc to the SageTV server, and play it back from there.  However, Sage does not appear to support this natively yet, either in the client or the extender.

One alternative, though, seems to be to remux the audio/video streams into a MKV container.

  1. If the blu-ray has DTS audio use tsremux to remux the .m2ts to .ts with AC3 audio. If the blu-ray has AC3 audio skip this step.
  2. Demux the .m2ts (or .ts) into elementary streams using tsmuxer.
  3. Use mkvmerge to put video and AC3 audio into .mkv container. Make sure you specify the proper frame rate for H.264 files or the audio will be out of sync.
  4. Move to Sage import directory and enjoy. No reencoding at all so video is perfect blu-ray. No menus of course.

Here is another set of instructions:

  1. Put bluray in, rip to disk using anydvd hd.
  2. Go to the bdmv\stream folder. look for the largest m2ts file. its usually 16-25gb or so. some say this doesnt work as the movie is split into multiple files….i have not seen it yet after 14 blurays.
  3. Run “eac3to.exe bluray.m2ts bluray.mkv” this will break the audio and video into seperate files.
  4. Run mkvmerge.exe -o FINAL.mkv bluray.mkv bluray.ac3″ This will mux all the files together.

Now here is the hitch, when you first run eac3to on the m2ts, it will result in several audio tracks. most will be ac3, some may be flac. the flac would be DTS audio or even HD audio. I have not been able to get these to work on the HD100. you will need to run “eac3to.exe bluray.flac bluray.ac3” to convert the audio.

Not quite ideal, but better than nothing.  The search continues, though…

UPDATE: OK, here’s another option that appears to work most of the time:

  1. Installed Swiss Army Knife (SAK) on the PS3. This is a tiny little Linux program that is extremely simple to install using a simple USB stick. It’s not a full blown Linux OS that requires Linux knowledge. It basically just loads and gives you about a half dozen options. One of those options is…
  2. Ripped the BD to my windows machine over the network. Just tell SAK the IP and folder name of a shared folder on a networked Windows machine and press Enter. The end result for me was a roughly 18gb .iso file of Michael Clayton. (Obviously you can skip this step if you have a BD drive. I don’t, but now I know I don’t need to buy one.)
  3. Mounted .iso as a drive and ripped/extracted it to a new folder called “Michael Clayton” using AnyDVD HD.
  4. Pointed my HD100 to the big fat .mt2s file in the Streams folder and hit play, fully expecting some sort of problems, the kind that would make people go through all sorts of muxing/demuxing/mkv’ing. But it just worked! No stutters, no glitches, beautiful picture, it was all there! (This is a VC-1 1080p disc from what I can tell. It sounds like VC-1 movies are the kind that tend to give people the most trouble, so I don’t know why this seemed to work so easily for me. It makes me wonder if for some reason the HD100 is better at playing .mt2s files than .mkv files?)

Posted in SageTV | 10 Comments »