Wednesday, March 04, 2009

even though I swore off Media Center…

…and have been happy with the switch, there are a few reasons I still use Media Center:

  • occasionally there is a conflict between my shows and my wife's shows and she gets dibs because she records so little TV compared to me (and doesn't know how to download her own shows)
  • the DCT 6412 that RCN gave me in my HD DVR package only has a 120GB hard drive, so I have seen a few shows get dropped off for lack of space and feel like I'm constantly having to watch shows more frequently than I'd like to keep them there
  • I still don't have pay channels and Big Love is back on HBO

Thus, for the above reasons, I still have SABNZBd+ and NZB TV running to grab a few shows that I would otherwise have missed, or might like to watch on my iPod. Typically I grab XviD versions with MP3 sound, which as I have mentioned before work fine on my Linksys DMA 2100 Media Center Extender.

But, maybe I have watched enough HD content in the last few months, but I find myself wishing I could watch higher-resolution stuff on the extender. I've been here many times and tried many different conversions, usually resulting in multiple steps and many hours of conversion followed by disappointment (skips, halts, no sound, way-out-of-sync sound). But today I noticed Ian's link to an Engadget HD tutorial on automatically downloading and converting 720p quality content via DVRMSToolBox, so that you can just watch it right in the Recorded TV and enjoy skip, FF, resume, etc. at the native resolution of the file. Seemed relatively simple so I gave it a try.

First things first, I knew I didn't need uTorrent or tvRSS since I have the aforementioned SABNZBd+ and NZB TV running to automatically download the TV shows I want. Thus my first step was to download and install DVRMSToolBox.

After messing around with the extensions to be watched (need to add .mkv to both Watched Ext and Video Types, not just the former as Engadget's instructions state), I ran into another problem which is that I think the wrong action ("nativecommdetect" which I'm assuming is the commercial skip processing) is running and my "convert MKV to DVR-MS - mencoder" is never running.

To troubleshoot, I:

  • deleted all actions besides my own new action in the Processing Condition Editor -- it still tried to detect commercials
  • changed Delay Processing from Find Commercials to Ignore (this worked, and as I scanned the comments I found the same advice)

I started the sample file (Big Love 3x06, 1,528MB) at 6:48 PM by dragging it into the Recorded TV directory, and it was done 50 minutes later, with a DVR-MS file waiting in the same directory. In my quick check, it looked fantastic and the audio synced perfectly.

So, later, my wife and I cracked open a bottle of prosecco (someone brought it to a brunch we hosted recently) and sat down to watch Big Love. Less than 10 minutes in, it froze, and then a few minutes later I was offered the chance to reconnect to the Media Center PC. I was unable to do so. After some troubleshooting and cursing, I found that the PC was totally locked up; not even the mouse would move. Coincidence? I hard-powered it off and tried again. I hate to use my wife as a guinea pig but I was pretty curious if this was a usable conversion of the show. Fortunately, I made it all the way through the episode without incident so I downloaded a couple more MKV files with which to test. Having made it through two more, I can say that this is working pretty well for me. Finally, reliable HD content on the extender without having to do a ton of crazy conversion steps!

Thus, my thoughts turned to automating it further, such that the conversion takes place once the download is complete. Since all that has to happen to convert the file is to move it into the Recorded TV directory, I didn't think it would be too hard since SABNZBd+ allows you to launch scripts. My read of the documentation didn't seem to make it quite clear what actions launch the script (besides telling it manually in the web console). Regardless, I set a scripts directory within SABNZBd+ (http://yourserver:yourport/sabnzbd/config/directories/) and created a batch file called moveMKV.cmd in there. The batch file contains the following:

@echo off

echo moveMKV.cmd starting against %3...

if not exist %1\*.mkv goto :nomkv

echo ...moving %1\*.mkv to Recorded TV...

cd %1

move %1\*.mkv "C:\Users\Public\Recorded TV"

echo ...moved

goto done

:nomkv

echo nothing to move

:done

echo ...done.

exit


Marvel at my batch file skills. Um, anyway, if it's not evident, it looks in the path of the newly downloaded file (%1) and if there's an MKV file in there, it moves it to the Recorded TV directory. %3 is the name of the job (which should be "Big Love 3x06" in the example) -- I'm just using it so I know what's running. To test, I just created a fake directory and fake MKV file somewhere and ran moveMKV.cmd twice. It worked both times. I think I might have confused the hell out of DVRMSToolBox with the fake MKV file, though, as it just sat there logging "Waiting to process file:" over and over until I deleted the file.

Then, I turned the batch file on by going to the Switches page (/sabnzbd/config/switches/) and choosing moveMKV.cmd as the Default user script (2nd last option on the right). To test, I searched Newzbin for a small x264 file and downloaded it. The script worked on the first try and moved the MKV file into Recorded TV as I'd hoped, at which point DVRMSToolBox's FileWatcher picked it up. Sweet!

Since I figured this out and wrote up the steps, it's been a couple of days and I've watched a couple more files without any hiccups. The picture is great, the sound is great, and the files start up much faster than XviD files. And the extender seems a lot more reliable and less likely to crash playing DVR-MS Recorded TV than lower-quality XviD files. The only downside is that the XviD content takes like 7 minutes to download and then you can immediately watch it, so it's closer to instant gratification than downloading a big MKV that takes 25 minutes, and then converting it for an hour. But when it's fully automated to happen in the middle of the night, so that stuff is waiting for you, it's really great, and I find myself watching stuff on the extender that I already have on my DVR just to avoid fast-forwarding through commercials...

Enjoy,

--sbreck


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Comments:
Hello,

i was wondering if you had a problem with the dvrmstoolbox pulling the metadata for converted files. It seems that it doesnt want to name the files accordingly. I am using sab to download them and as well it renames tv shows it downloads. Do you also have this problem where the metadata does not get filled. Perhaps you could give me a hand with the metadata script within dvrms. How do you have your naming convention set up in sab.my level of experience with code isnt the highest. Any help?
 
@Guillermo: I trivially solved a DVRMSToolBox problem by editing the "Read metadata" action and making sure I had [s,S] and [e,E] in the regex, and that ContinueOnFail was checked. That at least gave me metadata for a handful of shows, but I still miss metadata on a few. Looking at what I've got, it correctly captured Heroes.S03E17, dollhouse.s01e04, but didn't pull any metadata for life.on.mars.us.s01e13 (presumably the .us throws that) or Eastbound.and.Down.S01E01. If I was to extrapolate the trend I might almost say that this regex only works with one-word titles? and if the episode is numbered as S01E01 rather than 101?

I can live without the metadata as long as the conversion process completes by leaving a DVR-MS file in Recorded TV, so I haven't explored this in much detail.
 
Since you're blogging about Super, you might want to tell your readers where to find it. It's at: http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html

Unfortunately, while they may know a lot about writing applications, they don't seem to know how to make a web site, so the software is impossible to actually download. (This may also explain why their site looks like a ransom note.)

The good news is that, despite their warnings, you can get the current version from Softpedia at:
http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Video/Encoders-Converter-DIVX-Related/SUPER.shtml
 
@sbreck: Recently, i have been using a program called Media Browser. It is an addon for VMC and Windows7 MC. Dependin on how you catalog your library, it will pull fanart and metadata for your movies, and tv shows. I turned the metadata update in this program off but am using media center master to pull the metadata for my library, it works great!
Gives you ample choices to edit your metadata after retrieval. As well it has a watch folder to process shows you download then rename and move them to their correct spot.

And because you aren't reencoding your files from either avi or mkv into dvr-ms, you are saving on space.

you should check it out.

www.mediabrowser.tv
www.mediacentermaster.com
 
Congratulation for the great post. Those who come to read your article will find lots of helpful and informative tips.

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