How To HTPC

True Commercial Skipping in Windows 7

We’ve heard time and time again from many Media Center enthusiasts that they wouldn’t upgrade to Windows 7 until there was a good solution for commercial skipping. The problem with this in Windows 7 is the new file format that Media Center uses. The WTV container has replaced the DVR-MS files that have been around from the beginning of Media Center all through Windows Vista. Just getting a program that could scan the new files for commercials wasn’t the only problem though. Most people would consider the ideal commerical skip setup in Vista was to use DVRMSToolbox’s (DTB) File Watcher service to call Show Analyzer (SA.) Then DTB’s Media Center addin would simply skip past commercials while you watched your recorded TV by reading the xml files that SA produces. When the first beta of Windows 7 was released it was quickly discovered that the DTB Media Center addin did not work. The authors of these two great programs have been busy over the last few months, and they have both released versions of their applications that work with Windows 7. I’ll detail how to get these tools installed and working with a minimal amount of effort.

Show Analyzer

Show Analyzer Scanning
Show Analyzer Scanning

When it comes to commercial skipping applications there have always been two good options, Comskip and Show Analyzer. Comskip is free, but Show Analyzer is considered the better utility and it will only cost you $20 after your trial period has ended. Show Analyzer is also the first and only commercial skipping application that can process the new WTV files. I should note that version 1.0 of SA is currently only available in a closed beta, but I’m sure it will be released as a public beta very soon.

The install process for Show Analyzer is very standard. Just click the next button a few times and it will be installed. If you’re going to be using DVRMSToolbox you actually don’t have to do anything else with SA. You can of course open up the SA application to manually select files to be scanned, and to change the plethora of options that are available. While scanning a file you are presented with details about the file, a progress bar, and the amount of time that has elapsed. There is also a history tab in the program that will show all of the files that have been scanned. As you can see from the screenshot it shows the length of the file being scanned, when it was analyzed, how long the process took, and a color-coded chart showing where the commercials are in the file. Upon closer inspection of the screenshot you’ll notice that SA finds the commercials very quickly. The bottom item in the list that took over an hour was because that file was being scanned while the show was still live, so the scanning process continues until the show is complete.

Show Analyzer History
Show Analyzer History

DVRMSToolbox

While Show Analyzer does all the heavy lifting, it is DVRMSToolbox that makes all the magic happen. Unfortunately DTB is also the more complicated application to install. I’ve done all the work to figure it out for you though, so simply follow the instructions below and you’ll be skipping commercials in no time!

On the second screen in the setup process you will be asked if you want modify file permissions. Just be safe and check the box.

Modify File Permissions - Check the box
Modify File Permissions - Check the box

On the next screen of the DTB setup you will be asked if you would like to install optional components. You don’t need to download and install Show Analyzer as you have already done that. You should keep the second box for the DVRMSFileWatcher service checked. YOU MUST UNCHECK THE ADD-IN BOX! I can’t stress that enough. You’ll be installing the add-in separately.

Uncheck the First and Third boxes!
Uncheck the First and Third boxes!

As usual, just to be on the safe side, select the “Everyone” option on the next screen in the setup process.

Select the "Everyone" option
Select the "Everyone" option

After you have completed installing DVRMSToolbox you should restart your computer. The final installation step is to install the Win7 RC1 DTB Addin which can be downloaded here. Like the Show Analyzer setup you simply need to click the “next” button a few times to complete the installation. Just for good measure I rebooted the computer after installing the addin.

There is one last thing you will want to double-check with the DTB install. To do this run the DVRMSToolbox Settings application. You will find the application in the start menut. It is titled “DVRMStoMPEGSettings.” Go to the File Watcher tab and verify that .wtv is in both the Watched Ext and Video Types text boxes.

That’s it! With the default settings the File Watcher service will tell Show Analyzer to start scanning for commercials five mintues after it has started recording. When watching the show, even on an extender, the DTB addin will read the commercial xml file that SA created and when you get to a commercial the addin will automatically skip past it. If the file has not been scanned you will be prompted to start scanning it. And unlike the other options that people have created that involve converting the WTV files to DVRMS and then removing the commercials from the file, if SA ever messes up you can simply rewind or fast-forward to the proper spot in the show without the risk of missing anything.

Really, does it get any better than this?

Closing Notes

As I mentioned earlier the beta for Show Analyzer is not publically available yet. I’m sure Jere Jones will be releasing it soon though. Also, the latest version of DVRMSToolbox, version 1.2.1.7 Release 3, and the Windows 7 addin are currently only available to Early Access members. It doesn’t usually take very long for Andy Van Til to make EA files public though. If you’re an EA member I would recommend grabbing this version and installing it even if you don’t have access to the Show Analyzer beta yet. If you have DVRMS files, and the corresponding commercial skip files, the addin will work in Windows 7.

DVRMSToolbox Downloads (currently only available to Early Access members)

DVRMSToolbox version 1.2.1.7 Release 3 (released on May 15, 2009)
Win7 RC1 DTB Addin (released on May 15, 2009)

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About the author

Josh Pollard

Josh Pollard

Josh has been writing software since his parents brought home their first computer. His love for gadgets and technology eventually spurred a passion for home theater technology. After starting the DMZ, he received Microsoft’s MVP award for Windows Media Center. Even though the beloved home theater PC platform is all but dead he continues to tinker with consumer entertainment technology. He’s a life-long gamer and DIY smart home enthusiast. He co-hosts the Entertainment 2.0 podcast with Richard Gunther and the DMZ’s gaming podcast, Story Players, with Joe DeStazio.