Home > Movies, TV, Uncategorized, Video > Forget the Hopper, I have the Destroyer

Forget the Hopper, I have the Destroyer

So, the networks

Aren’t

Too

Happy

with the Hopper from Dish Network.

Specifically, they are not happy that the service allows users to easily skip commercials.  I got a Replay TV (Actually, a Panasonic Showstopper PVR) in 2000 that I used until they pulled the “lifetime” channel guide a few years ago. I paid a fortune for that, we need to work on the definition of “lifetime” I guess. The Replay TV had a button on the remote that would jump forward 30 seconds.  Of course, Replay TV kind of flew under the RADAR, but it was a very handy feature when commercials came on.

It is my understanding that Tivo never has a button like that. Well, now, the Hopper allows users to watch TV Commercial free:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 9.29.31 PM

Looks Fairly Limiting, Actually

But, this isn’t an article about the Hopper. This is an article about something even better. I describe how with very little effort, I watch what I believe to be legal television without any commercials at all. (Not a lawyer, but I think I’m on pretty good ground here.)

Admittedly, this is not something that is going to go mainstream, the way I am doing it requires a fairly significant investment, and I’m actually thinking of tweaking it to take it to the next level, but for now, this is covering almost everything I need.

My tools:

  • Apple iMac. (You can use almost any relatively fast, modern Macintosh computer.)
  • EyeTV Hybrid
  • Apple TV
  • Lot’s of Disk Space

As I said above, you need a relatively fast Mac, and it helps if it’s not doing too much other stuff. TV is real-time, and skipping can happen if you bog your Mac down too much. Also, the exports can take time, so a faster Mac will help there too. I’m using a Quad-core Intel i5 21.5″ iMac with 16 GB of RAM and a 3TB hard drive. You’ll want a lot of disk space, but if you have a terabyte free, you’ll be good for quite a while.

The Apple TV is what I am using to watch the shows once I get them processed.

The magic happens with the EyeTV Hybrid.

This thing looks like a slightly large USB stick with a coax jack on the end.

features_sticks

EyeTV Hybrid

I am a Time Warner subscriber and in my area, I still get all of the cable channels in SD in analog. The EyeTV Hybrid can pick those up and record them. But, that’s not really what I’m after. The EyeTV can also pick up Clear Qam channels that are on my cable too. These are high-def channels that are broadcast unencrypted on the cable. That’s the good news. The down side is, they only include the channels that you could pick up over the air on there, so your choices are limited. You could use a good HDTV antenna to do this also.

Using cable or an Antenna should be able to get you most network programming. Which is good. If you are into content on cable and don’t want to limit yourself to SD content, there is a better option, this is actually something I am considering upgrading to, but it isn’t cheap.  Elgato (the makers of the EyeTV Hybrid) also make another device the EyeTV HD DVR. It’s actually not much more expensive than the Hybrid, but in order to really use it, you would need to have a dedicated cable box for it. And the cable box would need to have component output.  You cannot use HDMI because it is encrypted.  Using this approach would only allow 720p HD, but I’ve been converting my output to that, and the difference is not noticeable. (At least to me.)

B003MVYTBU.01-1807930531.LZZZZZZZ._SX300_SY257_

EyeTV HD DVR

The other expense is the monthly fee for the channel guide. The first year is free, but after that, it’s like $20 per year.

All of that to get content into your computer. The EyeTV software works fairly well, and it is pretty easy to set up series to record. Once the show is recorded, it takes me about 5 minutes to manually mark the commercials.

There is a program called eTV Comskip which tries to skip the commercials automatically, but I was not happy with the accuracy of it, so I decided to take a few minutes to manually mark the commercials in each show.

The built-in editing software allows you to mark the beginning and end of the commercials.  You can quickly scrub through thumbnails of the show. When you get to a commercial, you click the mark button.  That creates two handles, one for the beginning of the mark, one for the end. Drag the end handle until the show is ready you start, and then drag the show scrub until the next commercial.  Repeat until you get to the end, and you end up with something that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 6.10.26 PM

The Striped Areas are the Evil Commercials

After you have all of the commercials marked, there is a function to remove the marked content, but you don’t really need to do that.  Just close the edit window and export the video. The export will skip the marks and you will get a TV show without commercials.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 6.11.16 PM

Notice the 19:58 Duration, 30 Minute Show without Commercials

The export dialog even has a button to automatically open it in iTunes. The meta data from the program guide gets added to iTunes and then it pops up on my AppleTV ready to watch.  The whole thing takes about half an hour to mark and export the show, so it does require a little more of a delay before you can watch it, but it’s not too bad in most cases.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 6.10.50 PM

iTunes Season 6

We are really enjoying being able to just sit back and watch shows without commercials, and not have to deal with buying the content the next day from the Apple Store.

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