Hauppauge HD PVR and Mac, Family Friendly

In todays world, the trend is to introduce more and more what would previously termed inappropriate content into movies. Call it adult language or content. Despite what some think, not everyone wants to view or hear such content. In many movies, it is done merely to get a certain rating, it often adds no value to the movie. So, this article is about how the author deals with this issue in his family.
The Hauppauge HD PVR works very well on a Mac system. I personally use a 2010 Mac Mini with HDMI output along with the HD PVR. What I do not do is use the Hauppauge for live tv. This post is meant to show how one person processes movies for use on his system, in a family friendly manner. It certainly won’t work for everyone, nor, will the majority even agree with the methodology. But it works perfect for me!

In my system, the purpose of the HD PVR is to archive movies and other content I want to keep. The material I record comes from satellite, and, OTA. Mostly, it comes from satellite. The quality of the HD PVR recordings is excellent, it more than met my expectations.

I use a variety of software along with the HD PVR. To record onto the device, one has two choices on Mac OSX. You can use EyeTV (not free), and, you can use HDPVRCAPTURE (not free). I chose the former, as, I already owned EyeTV due to using an EyeTV 250+ for OTA recordings, so therefore it was “free” for me. Most of the content in my system goes from satellite to the satellite hard drive (it’s a DVR). That happens very easily on the Dish network system of course. When I wish to keep a program, I simply play the content on the Dish DVR, and, record on the HD PVR. I do this at night, before going to bed. Overnight, it records and when I get up, I have my movie. Very simple, takes a few minutes of times. Used in this manner, I don’t have to worry about fancy remotes, IR devices, and all sorts of other issues.

So, the content is now on the Mac Mini hard drive. Though EyeTV calls it a .mpg file, it’s really a transport stream, a .ts or .m2ts. So, the next step I take is to trim the beginning and end to match the content, and, remove any commercials if there are any. Depending on the movie, I may choose to remove a scene with content I don’t care to view. After that, I have my content, except, I choose to do additional work on it. It’s not good enough for me yet!

I like to remove most of the “adult” language from movies. So, to do this, I have to edit the audio, which is often ac3 audio. The first step in that process is to get the audio out of the .m2ts file. To do that, I use tsMuxerGui (freeware) to demux the audio and video. Demuxing the audio and video splits the .m2ts file into a video file (in my case a H264 file), and an audio file (most often an ac3 file). That is a fairly quick process, and, I of course do other things while that happens. Now that I have my audio I wish to edit, I need an audio editor that can handle the 6 channels. For me, I use Audacity (freeware). I simply import the ac3 audio into Audacity, and, it shows up in the GUI as 6 waveforms. Most of the time, when you have 5.1 audio, it’s nice as the voice is almost always entirely on the center channel, making it easier to remove sections of audio when desired. So, as I do work, I have the audio playing in the background. I am pretty good at multi-tasking, so, while I do programming work, I simply listen for things I don’t want. When I hear one, I can simply switch to Audacity and remove the offending section. Actually, you don’t remove it as that would mean the audio file would now be shorter than the video, I simply silence the part. As mentioned, this is usually only in the center channel, but I make sure that it is not also on the other channels which is easy to do in Audacity. I then start it up again to play, while I go back to work. While this might seem like a lot of work, you would be surprise. Let’s say it’s a 2 hour movie (rare), and I have to remove 10 pieces of audio. This likely takes me maybe 10 minutes of time, that’s it! Some movies take more time, some less.

When I am done editing the audio, I export the audio as an ac3 file. Audacity uses ffmpeg to do this which is sort of built in. Now, I have a new ac3 file to go with my h264 video, and, they need to be re-combined!

To do this, I use Mkvtoolnix, which is you guessed it, freeware! Mkvtoolnix allows me to specify a few file level parameters like aspect ratio, etc. in the output mkv file. It allows me to add a delay for vide or audio if the movie is slightly out of sync. For the most part, and I don’t know why, generally, they are slightly out of sync from beginning to end by a constant amount. Since the output is a mkv file, you might think I am done.

But I am not done. I also believe in compression. While that is a dirty word to many folks, it’s more that they do not understand compression and think compression = bad or loss of quality. That is not the case! Of course, done in the wrong manner, it can be. But, if I have an 8GB movie, and I can make it 3GB, and, the quality is identical, doesn’t it make sense to use the 3GB version? For this task, I use Handbrake. Since I have an extra Mini sitting around, with no monitor or keyboard, I use it for Handbrake (freeware) encodes. I played around for a long time until I found settings that I think work for me with no loss of quality. So, most movies run for most of a day, a few longer. But I don’t care since it’s an old Mini sitting around doing nothing else. When that is done, I simply copy the movie over to the hard drive that drives the 2010 Mini. The drive is not actually connected to the Mini, it’s in another room accessed via AFP over wireless n.

Playback of my content is done via Plex (freeware). Plex allows me to organize all my content and play it back. It has some very nice features, but, you can go to their website to see those. It does allow for an audio delay, or, video delay if it turns out my settings for that did not work. Of course, I could always via demux and remux with the correct delay if need be, either way, it’s in perfect sync.

I have recorded over 100 movies in this manner to date, combined, they use < 200GB of HDTV content. The quality is simply stellar. I recorded these movies in the course of one year. Per movie, total time might be 30 minutes or so, which is worth it to me so as to never worry about “adult” language when company is over.

One thing I will point out about the Hauppauge, and I’ve seen posts on the internet for people with Windows and Linux as well with this issue. It appears that even with the current firmware as of May 2010 (1.5.6.1), for some people including me, that the audio drifts over the length of a recording. So, it may be in sync at the beginning, and out of sync near the end. This is hard to fix in the recorded file! I flashed and flashed the firmware, it would work for a few days, and then fail again. It is simple to tell if a given recording will have this problem or not, using Mediainfo Mac (freeware), it will report 60 FPS instead of 59.94 FPS. 60 = bad, 59.94 = good. Finally, after seeing a post somewhere, I discovered that by going back to a previous version of the HD PVR firmware (1.0.5.301), the problem went away, and more importantly, stayed away!
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