Switch to an all Mac TV recording system

For the last several years I’ve been using Windows Media Center with my Microsoft Vista (and later Windows 7 PC) for recording TV shows using an internal TV Tuner Card.  I had a complete system in place to record my scheduled TV shows and use a nifty utility called DVRMSToolbox to handle the identifying of commercial segments (via the app called ShowAnalyzer), removing of those commercials, and converting the edited show to a WMV file for my Zune HD. Everything was automated, where all I had to do was sync my Zune in the morming and I was good to go!

Since switching to an Apple iMac, the only reason to have my Windows 7 Desktop PC still running is to record my TV shows for my Zune. Since I really wanted to shutdown my Windows machine for good, I decided to switch over to an all-Mac system for recording and processing TV show recordings.

To begin, I purchased a device called EyeTV HD made by Elgato for use with my iMac. This external USB device isn’t a TV Tuner, but instead processes a digital TV signal coming from a digital set-top-box provided by my cable TV provider (Comcast). As such, I needed to upgrade my current digital transport adapter (DTA) box from Comcast to one that can output digital component video. So once having the new digital set top box and the EyeTV HD device, I was able to connect everything up to my iMac for viewing and recording TV shows. Fortunately, the EyeTV HD came with an IR remote changer which I connect to my set top box for changing the TV channels via the EyeTV software.

So in comparison with my old Windows setup, the Mac setup is very similar in capability. Instead of using Windows Media Center, I now use an application called EyeTV3 which came with the EyeTV HD. This new app has similar functionality as the Windows Media Center software, however, it is designed to run like a normal computer application rather than being controlled by a remote control sitting on a couch. It uses programming information obtained from the Internet (via TV Guide) which is free for the first year (subscription fee yearly after the first year). I can search for upcoming shows and flag them for recording. I can also have EyeTV3 automatically convert the recorded TV shows to iPad, iPhone, or iPod format and put the converted files in my iTunes folder for syncing. All if this is handled automatically. Also, if the EyeTV3 app is not running, my Mac system will automatically fire up the app if necessary to record a scheduled TV show.

The one thing I really miss is the commercial removal feature that I had with my Windows 7 setup. Unfortunately, using the EyeTV product doesn’t lend itself for automatically commercial removal. I did find some freeware utilities that center around the Comskip program that identifies commercials in a video file, but there isn’t an automated way of removing the identified commercials from a EyeTV3 recording and convert the video to m4v format for iTunes. I did play around with this method a bit, and was able to accomplish the following:

  1. Setup EyeTV3 to automatically initiate Comskip to scan for commercial while a TV show is recording, and save the markers to a file.
  2. Manually “compact” the recorded TV show to remove the commercials (based on the markers found by Comskip).
  3. Manually initiate an “export” of the compacted video to a m4v file and put the file in the iTunes folder for syncing.

So, I was able to do the commercial editing in a semi-automatic method, but it can’t be done completely automatically as with my Windows 7 setup. Of course, I might be able to automate some of this process better by using  Applescript commands, but that’s something I’m going to really have to dig into and get creative. From what I can tell, there’s no way of easily initiating the compacting of the video file other than from the EyeTV3 interface, so that might be a road block in automating the entire system.

However, I am very pleased with the entire setup and how it all works seamlessly. I can now turn off my Desktop PC permanently, and retire my Zune HD in favor of my new iPod Touch (which I should be getting next week as a birthday present from my wife).

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