My Terminator Salvation Review

I saw Terminator Salvation yesterday, and I have to say it wasn’t as good as I expected. It was ok, but it didn’t seem to have the impact as the first two Terminator movies. The special effects was cool, but the story line was a bit slow and uninteresting. The Marcus character was cool, as he was an unknown to the viewers. Also, having Arnold as the Terminator appearing at the end of the movie was great (who needs real live actors any more?).

This movie basically “jumped the shark” for me, so I hope they don’t come out with any more installments unless they have a really, really good and original story.

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Low Audio with TV Recordings

tv_setRecently, Comcast Cable sent out a letter stating that most of the premium cable channels would be moving to digital, as such I was required to use a digital Set Top Box (STB) with my PC Tuner card if I wanted to continue recording my favorite TV shows. You can read about how I made all this work at this blog posting.

One problem I noticed, is that the audio was really low with these new TV recordings. In fact, watching the TV shows “live” on my Desktop PC through the TV tuner card (and Vista Media Center) was also very low in volume. I finally realized that the STB remote control had a volume setting, so I turned up the volume on the STB which seemed to correct the problem. For some reason, I didn’t think the STB controlled the volume (as in most cases, it’s the TV’s amplifier that you adjust for sound loudness), but in this case the STB had some volume control.

So, if you’re in the same situation, try jacking up the volume on the STB to solve the low volume problem! 🙂

Conversion Issues with Windows Media Encoder

videosFor the past few years I’ve been using DVRMSToolbox (Dtb) and its assortment of tools for converting DVR-MS files (recordings from my TV Tuner card) to WMV format for my Zune media player. I’ve set up a “profile” in Dtb to do the following:

  1. Use ShowAnalyzer to detect all commercial segments in the DVR-MS file
  2. Cut out all found commercials and create a new DVR-MS file
  3. Use the tool DVRMStoWMVHD to convert the commercial-free DVR-MS file to WMV format (using specs for my Zune)
  4. Migrate all the metadata (i.e., show title, description, etc)  from the original DVR-MS file to the generated WMV file
  5. Copy the WMV file to my Zune sync folder
  6. Delete all temporary files

It all seemed to work great, until a recent update to the DVRMStoWMVHD software caused the audio and video for the converted WMV file to gradually go out of sync. So by the end of a 45-minute show, the audio was about 6 seconds off from the video (really annoying to watch). So, I decided to use this modified profile for my video conversion:

  1. Use ShowAnalyzer to detect all commercial segments in the DVR-MS file
  2. Cut out all found commercials and create a new DVR-MS file
  3. Use the tool FFMPEG to convert the commercial-free DVR-MS file to MPEG format
  4. Use Windows Media Encoder 9 to convert the MPEG file  to WMV format (using specs for my Zune)
  5. Migrate all the metadata (i.e., show title, description, etc)  from the original DVR-MS file to the generated WMV file
  6. Copy the WMV file to my Zune sync folder
  7. Delete all temporary files

This method worked for me in the past, however, I noticed that on several recent recordings the converted WMV file did not contain all of the TV show material. Normally, a 1-hour TV show will reduce down to 42 minutes when the commercials are removed, but in this case I was getting 19 or 24 minute shows. What’s going on? After doing some investigating, I concluded that ShowAnalyzer was working properly, and the MPEG file created by FFMPEG was the expected 42 minutes in length. It turned out that Windows Media Encoder 9 (WME9) was the bad link in the chain, converting the 42 minute MPEG file down to just 24 minutes. Why… I’m not sure.

So, I’ve gone back to using method 1 along with an older version of DVRMStoWMVHD (1.0.1.0) which doesn’t have the audio/video sync issue.

Automation is great… when it works! 🙂

Another Favorite Show Gets Cancelled…

Seems like a lot of my favorite shows get cancelled prematurely, which is really disappointing. For example, Jericho was a good show that I looked forward to watching every week, but it was cancelled after the 2nd season. It took a huge effort by fans to bring it back for a 3rd and final season, which thankfully the writers were able to provide some closure in the final episodes. Not so for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was just cancelled by Fox after it’s second season on the air. It had a really good cliffhanger season finale, and I guess we’ll never know what happened to the characters. It just seems that the networks are so quick to cancelling shows and airing new ones that nothing gets a chance to take hold with audiences. Instant gratification doesn’t just apply to consumers, but also to producers and the TV networks, I guess.

Comcast Digital Takeover

tv_setI got a card in the mail last Friday notifying me that Comcast will be switching their premium channels over to encrypted digital signal, so that means I’ll need to get a set top box for all TVs which I want to view such channels. Currently, I have set top boxes for two of my TVs, but come June 22nd I’ll need a set top box for my PC which has a TV tuner card. Fortunately, Comcast will provide me with two set top boxes free of charge, so I ordered them online this afternoon. I should get them in 3-5 days by mail, after which I’ll have to configure them to work with Vista Media Center and my PC Tuner card.

Since my TV Tuner card (or PC) can’t change the channels on these set top boxes directly, I’ll need to also get a special MCE remote control with IR emitters (or “blasters”) so that Vista Media Center can change the set top box channels. It’s a real hokey setup using IR emitters, etc. but I don’t have any other practical options. As such, I’ve also ordered a Vista Windows certified remote from Amazon.com ($33.00 US) which should also arrive in about 5 days.

So, once I get everything delivered and working, I’ll post back about my success and/or failure so you’ll know how it all turns out!

New Star Trek Movie Definitely a Fresh Start

I’m a closet “Trekkie”, having watched Star Trek since I was a small boy in the late 60’s. I also watched all the re-runs from the original series (TOS), all the various “Star Trek:” TV shows as well as all the theater movies. When Star Trek: Enterprise came out on UPN, I was hoping that a prequel show to TOS would bring a fresh perspective to the Star Trek anthology, however, Enterprise ended up being as formulaic as ST:Voyager, ST:DS9, and ST: The Next Generation.

star_trekI recently saw the new Star Trek Movie by JJ Abrams, and it certainly was entertaining, and very different from the past Star Trek incarnations. The movie uses familiar wording and phrases (Starfleet, phasers, hailing frequencies, etc.) as the previous Star Treks, and the same character names, but everything else seemed very different. It was definitely geared toward the younger crowd, with fast paced action and a very edgey feel with all the close up shots.

I have to say that my two favorite characters are Scotty and Dr. McCoy, as they were both pretty funny and quite the characters. I won’t give any more away for those who haven’t seend the movie, but the other characters are somewhat different than their TOS counterparts.

I’ll also say that the next Star Trek movie better be well written with a very good story, otherwise it will be a let down after seeing this exciting revival!

Video Codec Checkup Utility

If you want to know what video codec Windows Media Encoder or other video converter program is using, you can try a free utility by Microsoft called the Video Decoder Checkup Utility. It’s a simple utility that will display what video codecs are installed on your system and whether they are compatible with Windows Media Player 10 and/or Windows Media Center. For example, below is what I found on my Vista system:

codec_checkup

You can use this utility to set the preferred video codec to be used, which is convenient when you have several codecs installed on your system. Vista comes with its own video codec for MPEG-2 videos (which is what most DVDs and Windows Media Center recordings use), so I didn’t need to install any other video codec packs.

So, if you’re having issues with your video conversions, I suggest you try using this utility to see what your system is using for the video codec.