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Plex's DVR Can Now Automatically Remove Commercials For You ( 75

Plex has updated its DVR, adding a new feature to automatically remove commercials. According to Digital Trends, "The feature was added in an update the Plex team pushed out over the weekend. You'll need to manually enable the feature by heading into your Plex DVR settings and finding the option, labeled 'Remove Commercials.'" From the report: You may not want to turn the feature on immediately without looking into reports from other users. The description in the settings warns that while the feature will attempt to automatically locate and remove commercials, this could potentially take a long time and cause high CPU usage. If you're running your Plex server on a powerful computer, this may not be an issue, but if you're running it on an old laptop, you might want to hold off. This new feature also changes your DVR recordings permanently, removing commercials from the files themselves. This shouldn't be a problem as long as the feature works as intended, but if it detects wrong portions of the file as commercials, you could end up missing out on part of your favorite shows.
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Plex's DVR Can Now Automatically Remove Commercials For You

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  • Can I ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday November 27, 2017 @06:43PM (#55633073)

    ... record the Superbowl and have this delete the game but save the commercials?

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Or watch online. AdLand [] show many early too!

    • by me3head ( 621221 )
      That was actually a feature on the ReplayTV DVR I had circa 2004. Actually commercial skip was what got them sued out of existence by the networks and gave TiVO a virtual monopoly until the cable companies cut them off at the knees... []
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's argue about it on slashdot.

    • by gnick ( 1211984 )

      Piracy certainly simplifies things. BeyondTV was doing this at least a decade ago. It identified commercials and flagged them for a single-button skip (rather than deleting part of your recording), but it detected commercials in the video you'd recorded automatically.

      I use Plex all the time, but not for anything with commercials. Everything I play using Plex has already had commercials removed. What are people 'Plexing' that has commercials?

  • /s

    Cut the cord all the way.

    • by Curtman ( 556920 ) *

      Cut the cord all the way.

      I did.

      I've been using Plex for quite a while. I use sonarr [] to grab shows, and radarr [] for movies (radarr is a fork of sonarr). They scrape torrent and nzb sites for available stuff that I want and feed it them to Transmission or SabNZBd for Plex to import. A nice interface with recently downloaded shows and movies. You can pause what you are watching on TV and unpause on your phone or another TV. It's wonderful.

      When they came out with the DVR feature, I grabbed a Hauppague WinTV card and an Ant

      • I believe what the previous poster was trying to imply was that you should stop watching TV altogether. We have a subset of readers here at the old /. that can't fathom that some people do like a bit of mindless entertainment now and again.

  • Iâ(TM)ve been doing this with MythTV for 15 years.

    • by Anaerin ( 905998 )
      Also, MythTV (by default) uses an Edit List, which is a separate piece of data that contains "commercial start" and "commercial end" flags, so when it's playing and it encounters the start, it'll jump to the end (or you can define remote buttons for "Skip to next commercial flag"). If it's been misflagged, you can hit a button and jump back to watch whatever it classified, as it's not removed from the file. This is seriously something that Plex should look into. And also, as per a comment above, there's a u
      • Exactly. And I stream a lot of MythTV recordings through Plex, so it would be nice to be able to autogenerate some metadata files for Plex. I already use a script that makes a folder of TV show names, each containing symlinks to episodes in "[Showname] S00E00 [episodename].mpg" format. This makes it easy for Plex to fill in metadata.

  • Then the companies creating the boxes decided it was more profitable to sell out the customers to advertisers for a "preferred" fee to push advertisements to them. MythTV does this for free so I'd sooner recommend that as there is no potential conflict of interest.
  • I have not given even one single fuck about any feature added to Plex in the last five years. I want it to handle music metadata properly for non-pop music. That's it. It's not hard. Let me choose to use the Composer, ensemble and soloist tags so I can sort my music properly. They're already on my files. Plex just doesn't do anything with them.

    • The disregard for loyal early adopters is almost universal in these sorts of commercial projects. I guess if you want something done you might be better off contributing to an open source project. If not with your time and software-writing skills, then with your dollars by paying some open source zealot through Patreon that shares your opinion on the priority of features. That might be the most democratic way to steer a project.

      On the technical aspect, theoretically Plex has Plug-ins for their "Freemium" Se

  • With old VCRs taping Black and White movies, you could detect a phase shift in the colour burst in the frame and that could be used to stop recording, but it was hit and miss. Another old system was to note an increase in volume (commercials were louder than the show they're being broadcast with).

    So, other than needing a lot of CPU cycles, how does Plex do it?

    • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Monday November 27, 2017 @07:18PM (#55633307)

      Commercials actually aren't that much higher volume than the rest of the show, it's that traditionally they've made heavy use of compression (in the audio sense, not the data sense) to make them seem louder. This basically shrinks the difference between the quietest sound and the loudest sound so that it's much more uniform. It's the same trick that was used by record companies during the "Loudness Wars" that ruined so many albums released on CD since the late 90s.

      Anyhow, this is fairly easy to detect with analog electronics, and is likely how my parent's VCR did the same thing a long time ago. After recording an episode, it would scan back through the tape, and mark the commercials, then auto-fastforward through them. It worked pretty reliably.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually they were until the FCC passed a rule in 2011 (effective in 2012) [] to require commercials to be at the same average volume as the programs around them.

        I remember many nights where I would be watching TV getting a baby asleep only to have an ad come on that was blaring at a higher volume and would wake the kid up.

    • The primary method MythTV uses is detecting a solid black frame. Most commercials start/end with black, so this works well most of the time. The problem is all the modern drama shows that are near-black for entire scenes or entirely black as the camera passes a solid object.

      • The other way that MythTV detects commercials is by the appearance and disappearance of the network "watermark logo" in the lower-right corner of the screen. Ironically, as networks have started adding banners and watermarks to the show itself, this also makes it easier to detect the transition to commercials.

        • by adolf ( 21054 )

          "Have started"?

          They've been universal-ish for at least a decade and a half.

          And they're called "bugs," not "watermark logos."

          And also it's "crawlers," not "banners." They became universal just after 9/11/2001.

          I'll get off of your lawn now.

          • I would imagine a crawler is moving text like on news, which isn't a banner nor what op was talking about. And I've only heard them referred to as watermark logos, going back to the beginning of TV burn in. Naming them bugs is pretty fucking stupid.
      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        There's visual black, i.e. just very dark, and actual black which is values of 0 for each pixel. But IIRC you're not allowed to do that, you have to keep all values between 16 and 240 - something to do with network equipment, or transmission standards. Could someone with better knowledge chime in here?

        A commercial detector system could also monitor the network signals sent when a commercial break starts and finishes. OTA transmissions send a signal at the start and end of the break so that local affiliates

  • I had a VCR which did this in the 90s for taped TV. I'm not sure how it worked, but on playback it would just physically fast forward through the commercials.
  • Step 1. Wait for excessive audio levels.
    Step 2. Block until audio levels return to listenable levels.

  • The television networks will absolutely lose their minds over this, and sue the pants off Plex for it. As I recall there was quite a bit of negotiating between TiVo and the networks over their DVR, TiVo having to assure the networks that people wouldn't be able to automatically skip commercials (which is why the 30-second skip feature requires a 'cheat code' to turn on; it's off by default), and the capability to prevent fast-forwarding even being built in to TiVo's software.
    • there was quite a bit of negotiating between TiVo and the networks over their DVR

      I'm pretty sure that was when they wanted to get bundled in as TV provider units. The TV provider has to uphold its own contracts (and sells its own ad time too).

    • I actually prefer the extreme FF button of the newer Tivos to 30 second skip--you can see what you're missing in case there's something you wanted, and stop or go back. It's the only button with its paint completely worn off the control on my current unit . . .

      Then again, most of the time I use the green button and get to the next segment. But some shows don't have that, or it recorded a second showing, or . . . but that's why I noticed that commercial breaks hit 5 minutes last fall, but are back below t

  • Tried various incarnations of comskip on and off for years. Best case they unreliably filter out some commercials... worse case the rest of your show is gone.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Sounds like the software you used wasn't very good, a simple heuristic around the typical length of a commercial and that commercials are typically shorter than the show should sort it. MythTV had this 10-years ago when I used it, and iirc it worked on black frames between ads - if the station didn't use them it wouldn't detect commercials but it generally worked fine.
  • I remember when ReplayTV first appeared and had this same feature. It was a simpler mechanism, it detected certain audio tweaks that commercials in the US typically use to make them seem louder through a loop hole in regulations. That easily detected audio fingerprint made ReplyTV able to reliably remove the most annoying commercials. Obviously technology progresses in 15+ years but this is not really new technology, more like the industry grew a new pair of balls to take on the legal aspects of advertiseme

  • by _Shorty-dammit ( 555739 ) on Monday November 27, 2017 @08:05PM (#55633679)

    BeyondTV scanned recordings and marked the regions that looked like commercials, giving you chapter marks that allowed you to skip them. This was safer than automatically stripping those regions from the files, especially in the early versions where it wasn't as accurate as one might like. But eventually it was practically bulletproof. They never did add automatic commercial region removal, but the ability to script things was in there, and you could write a script that did remove those regions. I never bothered since all you had to do was hit the next chapter button and it instantly skipped over them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That they would write out a timesheet file for playback and have it tell the player to skip the commercials with out deleting them from the original data file. You know, non-destructive editing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    it is now an illegal stream \restream \copy because it has been edited and pay some more politicians to make it illegal.

  • > if it detects wrong portions of the file as commercials, you could end up missing out on part of your favorite shows.

    Okay so basically "Plex releases a feature that randomly wipes portions of your recordings."
  • Isn't this an issue that nearly killed TiVO previously? I hope it doesn't kill Plex! =o
  • see legal battle in this entry:

  • VLC Media Player (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    VLC Media player has been doing this for years. Go straight to your favorite TV network webpage. Find the video you want to watch. Use the developer tools of your favorite browser and go to the network section. After the video starts to play, click pause and go to the network section again. Search on m3u8 and find the url that has that in it. Copy that URL into VLC media player network stream. Click play.... Works all the time and there are no commercials.

    Cut the cord.

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