Watching Recorded TV Outside of Media Center – 7MC as a back end recorder

 

I have been a UK Media Center user since 2005 and as some of you know I recently stopped using it as my main method of consuming broadcast TV and switched to a Virgin Media HD Cable DVR.

The reasons for this are for another discussion but I still use Windows 7 Media Center to record some shows as a backup or for TV I wish to archive. The HTPC is not connected to any TV in my house and I used to use two Xbox 360 extenders for Media Center. These have since been replaced with two Popcorn Hour A-200 units which are great little network media players that play back pretty much any format you throw at them.

My goal therefore was to find a way to retain the ability to playback TV shows that I have recorded in Media Center on the Popcorn Hour. Obviously they don’t work as extenders and they do not not playback the proprietary WTV format. They do support DVR-MS but the files I have tried seem to have aspect ratio issues when played back and besides DVR-MS cannot hold the h.264 video that BBC HD broadcasts in so the format is a non starter for me. My first solution was to use MCEBuddy, which I used to convert the WTV file into MP4 with the added bonus of being able to cut out commercials along the way.

Unfortunately in it’s current incarnation MCEBuddy does not support remuxing content from h.264 WTV sources (although this will be a feature of version 2.0) so I would still need another solution for BBC HD and ITV1 HD recordings. Whilst browsing the forums on The Green Button looking for another solution I came across this thread about a ‘Remuxtool’ for WTV files and the GUI called MC-TV Converter. I have found this to be a fantastic solution. ‘Remuxtool’ has solved the problem of remuxing WTV files (including h.264 HD sources) directly into another container, in my case, into a TS container which plays back perfectly on the Popcorn Hour.

The MC-TV Converter GUI makes the process even easier and adds other features such as transcoding the sources by the use of other back end programs. It supports folder watching too which means the whole process of getting recorded TV content to my Popcorn Hour is now totally automated. When a show has finished recording the tool will remux the show and send it to a folder of my choice and I have set up Media Center to delete recordings over a week old (the tool does not auto delete your original recordings) so I don’t fill my hard drive with WTV files. I can now watch BBC HD recordings in SUPERB quality on the Popcorn Hour. The Xbox 360 extender could never play back BBC HD recordings from DVB-S sources without problems so it is a breath of fresh air to be able to do this!

The developer of MC-TV Converter is currently working on version 2 of the tool and even though it is a great tool as it is there are a couple of things I would like to see included that I can’t seem to find easy solutions for at the moment.

1) Integrate commercial cutting into the tool somehow. I am struggling to find an automated solution to cut commercials once the files have been remuxed to a TS container. I know I can use DVRMSToolbox with Comskip or ShowAnalyzer for SD recordings (by converting to DVR-MS first) but this will not work with HD h.264 sources.

2) File renaming using the metadata in the WTV file. This would be very useful as the default naming scheme for 7MC recordings isn’t the most user friendly when not viewing inside Media Center.

I look forward to future updates!

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