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Archive for the ‘Zune 2’ Category

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.

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

Convert Sage recordings to iPhone

Posted by onlydarksets on September 19, 2008

I have posted an updated method.  I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU USE IT INSTEAD!  I leave the below for posterity…


NOTE: mencoder is not cutting commercials properly on my system.  Everything else is working fine.  I’ll post an update when I get it working.

Here is how I’m converting SageTV recordings to iPhone-compatible (and Touch/iPod-compatible) MP4 videos.  This will also work for the Zune!

At a high level, the steps (and applications used) are:

  1. DVRMSToolbox: monitor the recordings directories, identify which shows to process, grab the metadata that is later written to the MP4, and control program flow
  2. comskip or ShowAnalyzer: Scan for commercials
  3. mencoder: Cut commercials
  4. ffmpeg: Convert to MP4 (note: I had problems with the latest Windows build of ffmpeg, but the one from worked fine)
    1. Option 2 is to use mencoder to cut out commercials and convert to MP4 in single pass, and then use NicMP4Box to fix the MP4 container to make it iPod-compatible
  5. AtomicParsley: Write metadata to identify as TV Shows (plus any other info we have)

I am assuming basic familiarity with DTb, so I’ll talk about how to setup the Profile to process a Sage recording, but I am not addressing installing DTb or setting up the processing condition.

More after the break…

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Posted in DVRMSToolbox, iPhone, SageTV, Zune 2 | 14 Comments »

Hard reset for the Zune

Posted by onlydarksets on February 5, 2008

IF YOUR ZUNE 30GB FROZE ON DECEMBER 31, 2008, read this post.  The information in the comments is all pretty much the same – everyone’s froze at 12:00a PST. Apparently this is a Leap Year issue that will resolve itself on 1/1/2009.  Of course, a firmware patch will be required for those few Zunes that live 6 years, but hopefully everyone’s Zunes work in the New Year.

Here is the original post:

WARNING: A hard reset will delete everything on your Zune.

  1. Press and hold the back button
  2. Press and hold up until it reboots
  3. Depending on which Zune you have, immediately do one of the following:
    1. If you have a Zune 4 GB, Zune 8BG, or Zune 80GB, immediately press and hold the Back button Back at the same time as you press the right side of the Zune pad and the Play/Pause button. Continue to hold these buttons until the Zune device restarts and you receive the following message: “Clearing contents. Please wait.”
    2. If you have a Zune 30GB, immediately press and hold the Back button Back at the same time that you press the right side of the Zune pad and the center of the Zune pad. Continue to hold these buttons until the Zune device restarts and you receive the following message: “Clearing contents. Please wait.”

Sources: ZuneThoughts; ZuneUser

Posted in Zune 2 | 187 Comments »

The Zune talks, but is anyone listening?

Posted by onlydarksets on February 2, 2008

Looking through the paper today, I see that Microsoft has dropped the price on the Zune 8gb by $20, down to $179.  Personally, I think this is a brilliant move by MS – right now, at a high level, the Zune has failed to distinguish itself from the iPod.  Yes, there are feature-by-feature differences, but the bottom line is that you can get a 80gb iPod for $249, or a 80gb Zune for $249; same with the the 4gb iPods/Zunes ($149) and, up until today, the 8gb iPods/Zunes ($199).  Now, though, there is a distinction – price point.  Until the Zunes deliver the next “killer” feature (which ain’t wifi, btw), this is a great way to draw a distinction without underpricing itself – drop the price on its mid-range offering.

I think the most interesting part will be to see if Apple responds.  I think it will not, since it never has in the past.  Dropping the price on the iPod would be a show that it considers the Zune a threat, and I don’t think that’s how Apple rolls.

Posted in Zune 2 | 2 Comments »

Best resolution for playback on Zune and VMC?

Posted by onlydarksets on January 12, 2008

My video source is NTSC via DVR-MS.  I am converting using DVRMSToolbox, natch, (which uses DVR2WMV), and a custom PRX (found here).

Has anyone found a single set of video conversion settings that will allow proper aspect ratios on both the Zune and through Vista Media Center (or an extender)?

DVR-MS SD shows are natively 720×480.  If I maintain the aspect ratio when converting to WMV, the file plays fine on the Zune, but it is letterboxed.  If I lower the resolution to 640×480 during conversion, it looks perfect on the Zune, but the AR is obviously wrong when I play it on VMC or an extender.

I am looking for a conversion setting that will allow the video to display with the proper aspect ratio, regardless of where it is played.  Alternatively, is there an option on the Zune to “stretch” the video to fit the screen during playback?

Posted in DVRMSToolbox, Zune 2 | Leave a Comment »

Video on the Zune – DVRMSToolbox

Posted by onlydarksets on January 9, 2008

Maybe it’s because I’m already running DTb, but this was easy as pie. I installed it on my laptop, opened up DTbGUI, set the input and output files, and then selected the “Cut out commercials, convert to WMV” profile. It took about 10 minutes, and spit out a 1700Kbps WMV3 file of a 30 minute show with the commercials removed.

That said, the 21 minute video (at 720×480) was a 280MB file, which is far too large for SD.

I lowered the video bitrate to 800Kbps (by using a text editor to modify the PRX file in the C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\prx directory), and the resulting WMV file was about 165MB. To change the bitrate, make a copy of cbrNTSC.prx and open the new file (I called mine cbrZune). You need to update the “Video Stream” <streamconfig> tag, and the <videoinfoheader> tags with the new bitrates:

<streamconfig majortype=”{73646976-0000-0010-8000-00AA00389B71}”
streamname=”Video Stream”

<videoinfoheader dwbitrate=”900000″

The resolution was 720×480, but it should be 640×480 to get the right aspect ratio. So, I modified the <rctarget> and <bitmapinfoheader> tags to reflect the correct aspect ratio.

I also tried to lower the audio from 160Kbps to 96Kbps, and it reduced the size to 155MB, but the audio was completely hosed (skipping in and out). I’ll have to look into that, but it’s 10MB, so I’m not horribly worried about it.

If you are interested, you can download the PRX here.

So, that’s great – I’m not even going to bother looking at the other solutions, because DTb works great for SD, it’s already installed, and I’m familiar with it. If it breaks down in the future, then I’ll consider it, but, knowing the developer behind it, I have faith it will keep chugging along (at least, until he defects to Apple ;)).

However, this solution doesn’t work for HD (ATSC) sources. More on that later.

Posted in DVRMSToolbox, Zune 2 | 1 Comment »

Transcoding DVR-MS files for the Zune

Posted by onlydarksets on January 9, 2008

Most of the blog and forum postings out there for converting video for the Zune are for manual conversions. I haven’t found a whole lot of discussion on automatically converting from WMC DVR-MS files to a Zune-compliant format, and I have found next to nothing on converting HD DVR-MS.

First, for manual conversion, there are a few options out there that will create Zune-compliant WMV files (see this clearinghouse list):

However, the Zune now supports MP4 and h.264. That opens up the options to any software that supports DVR-MS as an input and either of those codecs as an output. A partial list:

Since I’m looking at solutions that can be automated, it will probably come down to DVRMSToolbox, ZuneTVWatcher, Encode360 (which has a command line), and ffmpeg.

Posted in Zune 2 | Leave a Comment »


Posted by onlydarksets on January 8, 2008

Just signed up for a ZunePass for our Zunes.  Turns out you can install it on up to 3 computers and sync it to up to 3 Zunes – pretty sweet for $15/month!

See section 14.2:

Posted in Zune 2 | 2 Comments »

Recalibrating the Zune battery

Posted by onlydarksets on December 30, 2007

Here is a good post (which, in turn, is based on this MS KB article) on how to get the battery indicator on the Zune to more accurately display the battery level.

Here is an excerpt from the KB article:

For Zune 4GB, 8GB, and 80GB devices, the battery icon may not accurately represent the battery charge that is available until the battery has been fully charged and then discharged one time after you update the device. To properly cycle the battery, follow these steps:

1. With the battery at a half-full charge or less, connect the Zune device to a power source.

2. After the battery icon appears green (battery full), disconnect the Zune device from the power source.

3. On the Home screen, select settings, and then press the center of the Zune pad.

4. Select display, and then press the center of the Zune pad.

5. Select backlight, and then press the center of the Zune pad to toggle through the settings until the backlight is set to always on.

6. Select brightness, and then press the center of the Zune pad to toggle through the settings until the brightness is set to high.

7. Press and hold the back button until the Home screen appears.

8. Select music, and then press the center of the Zune pad.

9. Select genres, albums, artists, or songs. Then, select shuffle all.

10. Set the Zune device aside.

11. Once the Zune device turns off, press the play\pause button.
Note If the Zune device turns back on, wait until it turns off again, and then press the play/pause button. Repeat this step until the Zune device no longer turns on.

12. When the Zune device no longer turns on, connect it to a power source.

13. Change the display settings back to your preferred choices.

14. Fully charge the device until the battery icon appears green (battery full).

Note Remember to set backlight and brightness to their previous settings. The default settings are 15 seconds and medium, respectively.

Posted in Zune 2 | Leave a Comment »

How to Embed Album Art for Zune

Posted by onlydarksets on December 28, 2007

Turns out the Zune 2 software won’t autotranscode WMA Lossless to WMA lossy for you. Sooooo, I have to convert my entire library, and then use that with the Zune. Not a huge deal, except for the fact that I used WMP11 to associate album art with each of my tracks. Why is that a problem?

Well, it turns out that WMP11 doesn’t actually embed the album art in the WMA file – it creates a series of JPG files in each album folder that it marks as Hidden/System. Yes, that’s right – art for each track is stored at the album level, so if you move a track to a different folder, you are hosed.

So, I’m going through the process of embedding album art for all of my tracks. Basically, that consists of:

  1. Deleting the Hidden/System files.
  2. Figuring out which WMA tracks (or MP3, AAC, etc.) don’t have embedded art already.
  3. For those tracks, finding and embedding the art.

Deleting the Hidden/System Files

WARNING: This will affect not only the files in the current folder, but also in ALL SUBFOLDERS. PROCEED WITH CAUTION!!

NOTE: I suggest backing up all of the “Folder.jpg” files first, just in case you can’t find the album art again.  Do that between steps 2 and 3.

  1. From the root of your WMA folder, type:
    dir *.jpg /A /S
    This will display a list of all JPG files in all subdirectories. You should see some (or all) of the following:

    1. AlbumArtSmall.jpg
    2. Folder.jpg
    3. Album*.jpg
  2. You can’t delete or move the files until you remove the Hidden/System attributes. The following command will do that for the current directory, and all subdirectories:
    attrib -S -H *.jpg /S
  3. Finally, delete all of the album art files from the current directory and all subdirectories:
    del /S *.jpg

Finding the Tracks Without Art

I love MediaMonkey.  Fire it up, then select the Album view from the tree on the left, then select”View” and then “Show Album Art with details”.  Anything without a picture on it needs embedded art.

Embedding Album Art

There are two options: let MediaMonkey do it for you, or find the image and paste it using MediaMonkey.

  1. Let MediaMonkey do it for you:
    1. Select the album
    2. Press Ctrl+L (or right-click and select “Auto-tag from Web”)
    3. Click the “Auto-Tag” button
  2. Do it manually:
    1. Find the album art from:
      1. Google Image Search
      3. Artist’s home page
    2. Select all track in the album
    3. Press Shift+Enter (or right-click and select “Properties”)
    4. Click the “Album Art” tab.
    5. Right-click and select “Paste”
    6. Select “Save image to tag (if possible)”
    7. Click “OK” twice to finish.

Posted in Zune 2 | 8 Comments »