Converting TV Recordings (PC) to playable

I’ve known for years how to convert TV recordings (“mpeg-2”) to PC files (avi, mkv).  But yesterday I dived back in and learnt a few things:

  1. My tiny Raspberry Pi media player struggles with raw TV recording playback
  2. Windows batch file programming has a strange way of handling “ things in names

The Underlying Problem:

My main PVR (hard disk recorder) in the TV room is great. But it’s developed issues with Channel 10 recordings. Either the tuner or the aerial/cable struggle and the live picture breaks up and the recording stops or gets corrupt. Thus my weekly dose of Have You Been Paying Attention? suffers.

My PC room also has a TV aerial socket, but unused for 5+ years. I hunted down my USB TV stick and plugged it all together. I was still licensed for the excellent DVBviewer software. Amazingly it all worked first time, both live viewing and recording.

I then tried to play back the .ts (mpeg-2) raw recordings on the Raspberry Pi media centre (Kodi). It struggled a bit and the CPU was high.

Prepare, Convert then Automate

The upshot is I spent a while re-learning how to properly prepare then convert the large .ts file to a smaller .mp4 file (with AVC video and AAC audio).  Then finally automate the whole thing.

Prepare: The raw .ts file usually has hiccups as bits go missing and timecodes go out of sync etc. So I run it through the free Java program Project-X to sort these out and re-mux back into a new, ‘clean’ .mpg file

Convert: I then encode this .mpg file into a much smaller mkv file, with the free ffmpeg converter.

Automate: Both have command line options, so I wrote a script (Windows batch file) to automate and hooked it all up to enable ‘drag and drop’ via the magical Drop-It free program.

It kept failing!  Turns out that there was a hiccup with filenames “That_have spaces in_them like this.ts”   – when you pass them as .bat variable to programs like ffmpeg. The upshot, I learnt, was you have to use an obscure batch file command to remove the “ from the filenames (which have to be there to pass the whole filename to the .bat file).  It involves this line to reformat the variable containing the filename:

set fileName=%fileName:”=%

News to me.   But it worked.  All good now. One drag and drop and it’s done.

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