Converting DVR-MS Files For the Zune using DVRMSToolbox

Introduction

I recently purchased a Hauppauge PVR-150 TV Tuner card for my PC to record TV Shows. Since I have Windows Vista Home Premium, the Vista Media Center (VMC) software was included. VMC saves recordings in DVR-MS format (a container for the standard MPEG2 format), and I can easily replay videos inside of VMC. But how can I convert these recordings to WMV format for my Zune? Unfortunately, VMC doesn’t have any provisions for creating WMV files, so I needed to find an alternative method for getting recorded TV shows on my Zune.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a wonderful freeware utility called DVRMSToolbox, which was designed for processing DVR-MS formatted files. Typically, people use DVRMSToolbox (DTb) for automatically editing out commercials and conversion to MPEG2, or other video formats. It has similar functionality to the software called ZuneTVWatcher, but DTb has much more capabilities and can be configured to do multiple tasks.

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Features

DTb uses defined “actions” to do certain operations on DVR-MS files, such as:

  • Scan through a DVR-MS file using 3rd-party applications (ComSkip and ShowAnalyzer) to identify commercials
  • Cut out commercials from the DVR-MS file
  • Convert DVR-MS file to a different video format (e.g., MPEG2, WMV, AVI, etc.)
  • Merge meta data from original DVR-MS file to the edited DVR-MS file or converted WMV file

What’s nice, is all of this can be done automatically. DTb has a “watcher” service that runs in the backgound and monitors a defined PC folder (usually the folder that Vista Media Center stores recordings) and when it finds a completed recording it begins to process it based on certain parameters that you define. This is very handy, since it eliminates the need to manually edit or convert recorded video files.

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Usage

Since my main goal is to have DTb process my new recordings such that I can watch them on my Zune 80, so I created a profile set for DTb to do the following:

  1. Automatically detect new recordings in the C:\TV Recordings folder and begin the processing steps
  2. Identify all commercials in the DVR-MS file
  3. Cut out commercials from the DVR-MS file
  4. Convert the DVR-MS file to WMV format (using a Windows Media Encoder .prx profile file that I defined)
  5. Merge the MetaData from the original DVR-MS file to the newly created WMV file
  6. Move the WMV file over to my Zune sync folder
  7. Copy the edited DVR-MS file (commercial-free) to my 2nd hard-drive in the E:\PVR_Recordings
  8. Delete all temp files that are created in this process

All of the above happens automatically, so I just need to sync my Zune to my Desktop PC in the morning and I have all of previous day’s TV shows on my Zune. Since the MetaData for the TV shows are automatically merged to the newly created WMV files, you don’t need to use a MetaData editor (like TigoTago or dSharpie) to manually enter the show title, description, etc. Everything is handled automatically which is absolutely wonderful!

I’ve also set up certain process conditions in DTb which will process recordings differently based on certain criteria. For example, I want most recorded TV shows to be converted to WMV format and moved to my Zune sync folder, but for some TV shows (such as the Max and Ruby cartoon) I want DTb to cut out the commercials and save the edited DVR-MS file in a different folder on my PC. Again, all of this is being done automatically so I don’t need to spend time pretending to be a video editor.

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Installation and Setup

The actual installation is very straightforward. You simply download the latest version available on the http://www.babgvant.com web site (note, there’s a different version for the Vista and XP Operating System). After the installation, you’ll find four application links in your Start Menu:

  1. DVRMSFileWatcher – This application launches a background process that monitors the a defined folder for new recordings.
  2. DVRMStoMPEGSettings – A user-friendly interface for setting various parameters for the DTb application.
  3. DVRMStoMPEGGUI – This is a user-friendly interface that allows you to manually process selected files or files in a specified folder. Very useful when creating and debugging custom profiles.
  4. ProcessConditionEditor – A utility to create various process conditions which defines how specific video files are processed.

On my Vista System, the FileWatcher application was already running as a background service after I installed DTb, so I didn’t need to start this application manually.

The DVRMStoMPEGSettingsToolbox tab is the location where you will find predefined “profiles” (which contain “actions” to do video processing) to do various things like cut out commercials, convert to MPEG2 format, etc. You can either use these predefined profiles as-is, or use them as a basis to create your own custom profiles. Examining the contents of the various profiles is a good way to learn how they work and what you can do with DTb. To save everyone time, I’m posting my custom DTb profile at the bottom of this page for download. All you need to do is take this profile file (cutcommtozunewmv.dpc) and copy it to the c:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\profiles folder on your system. You can then start up the DVRMStoMPEGSettings application and find it listed here:

dvr_image1.png

If you open this profile for editing, you’ll see the following actions defined:

dvr_image2a.png

It all should be self-explanatory, where you can edit some of the obvious folder locations to match what’s on your system. If you select the “Convert DVR-MS file to WMV using DVD2WMV” action and click the “Configure” button you will see that I’m using the zune_profile.prx file to define the WMV file’s video size, bit rates, etc. (the same .prx file I used with Windows Media Encoder 9).

dvr_image3.png

For DTb to find this file, you’ll need to download it (from the link at the bottom of this page) and copy it to the C:\Program Windows\DVRMSToolbox\prx folder on your system.

The File Watcher tab is where you define settings for the FileWatcher monitoring service. In my case, I used the default settings as they all appeared to be applicable.

dvr_image4.png

For the last three tabs I left everything as-is using the default settings.

The DVRMSToMPEGGUI application is a user-friendly interface to manually process video files. To do so, under the “Process File” tab you can select the DVR-MS input file, define an output file, and pick which profile you want to use (see image below).

dvr_image6.png

When you initiate the processing, you will see various output being displayed in the windowed area. Once the processing is completed, you should see a popup dialog box asking if you want to save the log file. Similarly, you can convert all files in a specified folder under the “Process directory” tab.

Finally, there’s the ProcessConditionEditor application which allows you to defined different conditions to be checked regarding a to-be processed video file, and use a specific profile based on the conditional test.

dvr_image7.png

For example, I adjusted the “Every File” condition to process all video files except those with the show title containing the word “Ruby” using my special Zune profile called “Cut Commercials, Zune WMV” (image below):

dvr_image8.png

The next condition called “No Zune Conversion” will process video files that contain the word “Ruby” using the special profile called “DF Cut Commercial, save MPEG to Alex Folder”.

dvr_image9a.png

The conditions are processed from the top down, so once a condition is identified as a match the video file is processes only using that particular profile. So the order in which the conditions are listed is important.

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Summary

The instructions that I provided may seem a bit complicated, but if you set up everything as I described it should work for you. You might need to adjust some of the different file folder locations to match your system, but most of the defaults in DTb matched my system perfectly.

It certainly is worth the effort to spend 1 or 2 hours getting everything setup since it will undoubtedly save you many hours in the future for having to manually process videos for your Zune.

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Related Files

You can download the DTb profile I used above as well as the Zune .prx file here.

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Related Reference Links

In my description above, I covered just enough information so you can get DTb set up on your system for processing video files for your Zune. For more details on how you can use DTb for other tasks, you can check out these links:

Note, that the developer of DTb is very active in it’s development. I had a few questions regarding various actions, and the developer promptly responded to all of my questions on his forum.

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27 thoughts on “Converting DVR-MS Files For the Zune using DVRMSToolbox

  1. Alex says:

    Is the last steps using ProcessConditionEditor neccasary? I can not seem to edit the options in the last step. Also when I open my windows media center I recieve an error message stating that the windows media center skipped commercial program has stopped working.

  2. zunetips says:

    Alex: You need to use the ProcessConditionEditor to define what DTb profile to use when the FileWatcher service detects a newly recorded show. If you select the “Every File” entry in the list and click the “Edit Condition…” button, what happens? Can you make the change as I’ve indicated on this web blog?

    Are you running XP or Vista OS?

  3. Radan says:

    Hi Zunetips,

    Thanks for your tips.

    All works, but I have one only issue.

    Zune Software doesn’t accept the WMV converted files : Invalid Media File.
    Why ? Windows Media Player (I use Vista) can play this files.

    Do I have install the Windows Media Encoder on Vista ?

    Thank for your help.

    Radan.

  4. zunetips says:

    radan: Strange, as the created WMV files using the process I described above should work. Are you using the latest Zune Software on your desktop PC?

  5. Radan says:

    Using the DTB GUI, Zune Software accepts my WMV converted files.

    I’m going to check the Processing Conditions. Maybe a problem due to priorities…

  6. zunetips says:

    Radan: Also, a new release of DVRMSToolbox came out last week, so you should download and install that version since it has some bug fixes. Also, I don’t think you need to have WME9 installed to use DTb for converting files to WMV format, But I suggest you do install WME9 to make sure you have all the DLLs, etc. on your system.

  7. Jon says:

    I’m actually having a similar issue to Radan. I used DVRMST with your .prx to do automated conversions of recorded TV. The commercial cutting and encoding work fine. However, the resultant file doesn’t import into the Zune software. I get the “Invalid Media Type” error. There’s a zune profile that comes with the DVR software that seems to work, but it has suboptimal compression settings and I would prefer to use yours instead. Using GSpot, the only differences I can see between the file that works, and the one encoded using your prx are the encoding “level” of the video compressor (yours gives “MP@LL” vs. the other profile that gives “MP@ML”) and the “Audio ConformanceTemplate ” is “L2” for the working video, and “L1” for your .prx.

    These files are converted using the FileWatcher. I’m not queuing them manually with the GUI.
    I’m stumped. Any feedback?

  8. zunetips says:

    Jon: What DRMSToolbox action are you using to convert the DVR-MS file to a WMV file? Are you using the exact method I described above, and are you using the zune_profile.prx file that I supplied?

    I’m not sure what “MP@LL” means… If I use GSpot to examine a WMV file that was created using this process, it shows the following:

    Video: Codec = WMV3
    Name: WMP v9 (VC-1 Simple)
    320×240, 708 kbps

    Audio: Codec = WMA v2
    44100Hz, 128 kb/s tot (2 chnls)

    I’m guessing you aren’t using the zune_profile.prx that I provided, so the DVR2WMV program isn’t using the correct settings for the Zune. Just a guess…

  9. Jon says:

    So, I believe I have figured out the issue.

    After letting the issue sit for a few days now, I came back to my media center to sync the Zune, and found that I had a TV show in the queue! It was a random episode of CSI that my wife had recorded. I immediately checked out the file with GSpot, but noted that it had all the same characteristics that the file I made with your .prx. Which makes sense, since your .prx was still active in my profile.

    However, some other recordings I made today didn’t sync in the Zune software, despite having the same profile run on them too. I was stumped again, until I decided to use the Windows property viewer on the files. They were all the same, except for one thing.

    The file that synced wasn’t a “Protected” file, while all the others were.

    [sigh] I hate DRM. Is there an action in the DVRMSToolbox that will strip the stupid “Protected” flag from the file?

  10. zunetips says:

    Jon: I’m not aware of any action to remove the DRM protection. You might do a google search for such a solution, or check out http://babgvant.com/ forums for a possible answer.

  11. Brian says:

    I was wondering if you still had the DTb profile and the Zune .prx file. The link above no longer works and I’d love to get this set up. It looks like you did a lot of work to get this going, thanks!

  12. zunetips says:

    Brian: I’ve updated the download link for the DTb profile and Zune .prx file in the page posting. For your convenience, here is the link.

    Note, that you’ll need to modify the DTb profile to point to your specific Zune sync folder. This setup on my PC has been working flawlessly, and makes syncing recorded TV shows on my Zune all automatic. Good luck with your setup!

  13. Jon says:

    zunetips,

    Your profile won’t show up in DVRMSToolboxSettings for me. I added it to the correct file location.

    I’m using DVRMSToolboxSettings version 1.1.0.8 for Window XP. Which is the only and most recent version I can find.

    Got any ideas?

    Thank you and thanks for the great site!

  14. zunetips says:

    Jon: On my system, I put the DVRMSToolbox profile in this location:

    C:\Program Files\DVRMSToolbox\Profiles

    And it shows up when I start up the DVRMStoMPEGGUI. Did you try rebooting your system?

  15. Jon says:

    I did reboot and even uninstalled/reinstalled everything.

    I put the profile in the same location as you. Did you mean when you start up DVRMSToolboxSettings instead of DVRMStoMPEGGUI? I’m trying to use DVRMSToolboxSettings.

    Could the problem be that I’m on XP and am using a different version than you?

  16. zunetips says:

    Jon,

    Both the Settings and GUI programs should see the profile that I supplied. Just to be clear, there’s two different “profile” files. One is a file with a .dpc extension which is a DVRMSToolbox profile file. The other has a .prx extension which is a profile file for the WM Encoder program. You need to make sure the .dpc file is the one that goes in the folder I mentioned previously for the DVRMSToolbox program.

    No, I don’t think it matters whether the .dpc file was made on a XP vs Vista machine, as I’ve use the .dpc file on both platforms before.

  17. Jon says:

    Hmm, I’m quite stuck then because I definitely put your .dpc file in the correct location for the DVRMSToolbox program.

  18. zunetips says:

    Jon: I just downloaded the DTb profile and tested it on my Vista system and it worked fine. In the DVRMStoMPEGSettings utility, you should see the line “Cut Commercials, Zune WMV” as shown in the figure at this link.

    If you don’t see this after copying the .dpc profile to the DVRMSToolbox profiles folder, I’m not sure what more I can do to help out.

  19. Jon says:

    Well, I installed everything on my Vista system and everything shows up fine. I’ll just network my Vista computer to the PC that my recorded shows are on and that should work out. Thanks for all the help.

  20. Francisco says:

    Greetings! Its good to find a zune enthusiast!

    I think you might be able to help me with something similar, Im trying to create a profile for flv/mp3 videos in the ffmpeg.conf file included in this path: DVRMSToolbox/Applications/ConvertFfmpeg

    I am certain that ffmpeg can handle flv and I have had no problems doing so in command line, but iI cant figure out a way to put the correct parameters in that video tag.

    If you have some information Im eager to hear about it.

  21. zunetips says:

    Francisco: The FFMPEG program should be able to convert FLV files to other formats (except WMV9 unfortunately). So, it should be possible to use DVRMSToolbox to do the conversion. I noticed that there are at least two actions available for using FFMPEG, so you might have some luck. Also, you could run FFMPEG as an external program action (as I did with WME9) to do the conversion.

  22. Susan says:

    I have followed all of your instructions but I can not get it to process any files successfully. The log says:
    InputFile=C:\Users\Public\Recorded TV\All My Children_KGO_22_09_2008_11_58_04.dvr-ms
    Processing actions, this may take some time!!
    Testing “Processed Files”
    Testing “Every Sage File”
    Testing “Every File”
    “Every File” is a match.
    Run Profile = nativecommdetect
    ProcessId = 10160
    DvrmsToolbox Version: 1.2.1.4
    Throttle DVRMStoMPEG
    FWThrottle: C:\Users\Public\Recorded TV\All My Children_KGO_22_09_2008_11_58_04.dvr-ms
    WaitTime: 5 PollTime
    Waiting to process file
    Queue file
    Duration = 00:00:01.0150000
    Waiting for available worker: 9/22/2008 8:39 PM
    Worker allocated: 9/22/2008 8:39 PM
    Get Video Information
    704×480 : 16×9 ATSC=False
    Duration = 00:00:01.3720000
    Find Commercials in file
    Using ShowAnalyzer
    5.72%
    11.69%
    18.13%
    23.85%
    29.69%
    35.45%
    40.95%
    41.1%
    41.29%
    41.6%
    44.34%
    5.2%
    12.91%
    20.56%
    27.61%
    35.39%
    42.32%
    49.78%
    56.75%
    50.17%
    55.83%
    61.7%
    4.79%
    12.32%
    20.21%
    27.05%
    34.86%
    41.92%
    49.29%
    56.25%
    63.59%
    70.8%
    64.37%
    70.65%
    76.12%
    81.31%
    87.34%
    93.37%
    98.5%
    100%
    Finished Commercial Detectection
    No commercials found
    Action did not complete successfully
    Total Duration = 00:03:23.1890000

    Do you have any suggestions for me?
    Thanks.

  23. zunetips says:

    Susan: I had a similar problem recently, and left a message on the http://babgvant.com forums. I believe the problem was a bug in the particular release I was using, and downloading the latest version corrected the problem. I suggest you uninstall DVRMSToolbox and download/install version 1.2.1.4 (Public Release). Give that a try, and if that doesn’t work post a message on their forums (the developer is really good about responding).

  24. Jon says:

    Zunetips,

    I never was able to get DVRMSToolbox to work on my system, but just came across MCEBuddy the other day. It worked perfectly the first time I tried it and has the option to convert for Zune. Now I can finally convert my tv shows to watch on my Zune after months of searching and trying. Maybe you want to review it or something on your blog for others that weren’t able to get DVRMSToolbox to work for them like I wasn’t. It’s a slick little program. Just a thought.

    http://www.mcebuddy.com

  25. zunetips says:

    Jon – DVRMSToolbox isn’t the easiest software to setup, but it’s extremely flexible in what it can do. I’ve heard of MCEBuddy, but at that time it couldn’t do what I needed to do. It seems that they’ve improved it a lot since then. I will take a look at it and write up a blog on it’s effectiveness. I noticed that MCEBuddy uses the same custom converter programs as DVRMSToolbox (obtained from the DVRMSToolbox developer!). They probably put their own GUI on the outside to make it easier to use. Also, their web site looks remarkable similar to the DVRMSToolbox site (http://babgvant.com)

  26. zunetips says:

    Jon – I just installed MCEBuddy and gave it a cursory review, and it definitely is easier to setup and use than DVRMSToolbox. You do loose a lot of advance control with MCEBuddy, but that does make it much easier to setup and use.

    The bad thing, is that the WMV files generated are in WMV8 format, not WMV9. Thus, all WMV files created by MCEBuddy will be transcoded (re-converted) when you sync such files with your Zune. This is probably because MCEBuddy uses the public domain converter program called “MEncoder” to do the conversion, and that converter is limited to producing WMV8 or older formats.

    However, if you select the “Zune” setting in MCEBuddy, the generated file is in MP4 format, not WMV format. Since the new Zunes can accept MP4 format as well as WMV, I can only assume these files will sync to the Zune with no transcoding (I haven’t tested this, though). The only reason why I like WMV format, is that I can add in video tags (i.e., episode title, description, etc) while for the MP4 files tagging is very limited. If you’re ok with MP4 format, then MCEBuddy might be the easiest way to process video recordings for the Zune.

  27. Jon says:

    That was a big concern of mine, but when I synced it with my Zune it synced right up and the Zune software didn’t try to re-convert it again so i was very happy with that.

    That’s interesting, I never knew of the limitations of MP4 format. That’s definitely a bummer. Luckily I can change the tags within the Zune software, but the information is only saved within the software. I guess that will have to do for now.

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