Working, reliable install of Tablo Ripper/MCEBuddy/Comskip/Plex?

Does anyone here in the forums have a reliable workflow in place where they watch their recordings exclusively in Plex after they have been exported from Tablo and had commercials removed overnight? I am a Plex pass subscriber and my wife and kids are used to using it regularly. My ideal scenario is that all content live in that one place, one less app/interface for the family, OTA content unified in one interface with DVD/Blu ray collection, recordings backed up against hardware failure properly, etc. Tablo would only use a small hard drive that stores for less than 24 hours until the overnight process runs moving everything to my permanent storage appliance.

The Tablo Ripper part of the equation is a complete non-issue, works just as you would hope. I understand the MCEBuddy/Comskip part of the equation has a lot of variables, but man, it just seems like I’m fighting an uphill battle. I’ve so far jumped the hurdles of the mp4 unprocessed, extra 5 minutes on the end of recordings, but I am still fighting battles of horrible audio/video sync issues, entire segments of recordings being cut from before the opening credits, and the fact that it’s taking more than 2 hours just to process 1 hour long network primetime show.

I find lots of threads/posts talking about how people tried and eventually gave up on this workflow, but none on anyone who has it in place and working. Unfortunately for me I sprung for the 30 dollar donator MCEBuddy at one point of troubleshooting, so I’m not feeling great about giving up yet. I’m hoping there is a kind soul out there on the forums that can say “yes, I fought through those remaining issues you have, and have this in a workable state now, and enjoy it.” Does anyone out there want to say they fought through these remaining battles (with any tips), and let me know it’s worth plugging forward? Thanks!

@bmslynch

I gave up on MceBuddy. Takes too much computer power (I need my computer working other things) and too long to process.

I think it’s easier just to skip through the commercials now that we have thumbnails.

Chas

I have setup what you are describing but without any commercical skipping. I gave up on that cause it was causing to many issues and missing sections of shows as you noted. It just seems to have to many dependencies on the broadcasters doing what they are supposed to do as far as gaps and such to signify the transition. I also find that it depends alot on the show too. Shows like Jeopardy are problems when shows like 60 minutes always seem to work.

I use the SurlaTablo script to extract from Tablo to my Plex media server running on my FreeNAS box. I run that script every 30 mins at 5 and 35 after the hour. Then it triggers a refresh of my Plex library so the content shows up.

As with Spunky3, I opted for SurLaTablo to move data into Plex.

I have looked deeply into automated commercial removal. From what I can tell, there are no good solutions out there. The best ones I’ve found rely on video fingerprinting to identify what is a commercial (from it’s fingerprints) and identify candidates by splitting the video into parts based on the screen going black. SurLaTablo lacks the fingerprinting (at least it doesn’t use any of the advanced stuff).

The audio/video sync issue took me ages to figure out. For me it wasn’t even consistent. For example, playing a .mp4 in VLC worked fine and everything stayed in sync. Forcing Plex to transcode the .mp4 sometimes solved the issue.

As for “what is the issue”. I finally found that. .mp4 (and many container codecs) use key-frames to keep the audio and video in sync. This is especially needed for .aac audio (the default for tablo and most .mp4 files). If you cut a .mp4 video on anything that isn’t a key-frame, you need to transcode the whole video (slow process) or use an optional feature of .mp4 that specifies what the offset from the key frame is between the audio and the video.

Here’s the kicker. Many network media players (Roku in my case) don’t support that optional offset. So, instead of starting the audio early to sync (or starting the audio late), the Roku starts both at the same time. This creates the offset issue.

VLC does support the optional feature. So, everything works fine. What you notice (if you pay close attention) is that there will often be a static image with audio for a fraction of a second and then the video starts moving in sync with the audio. Or if the audio starts late, there will be a fraction of a second with no audio while the video plays. Then everything runs smoothly again.

In order to add key-frames, you need to transcode as you chop the video up. Of course, this causes a loss of quality as the video is decompressed and re-compressed as part of the transcoding.

My solution to this was to put my commercial-removed videos into a .mkv container (still h264, aac). The .mkv also has an offset but it is not optional (or at least it is honored by my Roku). This lets me cut without transcoding and it plays properly on the Roku.

As for removing commercials, the only reliable way I’ve found is to do it manually. I haven’t found anything that does it automatically in a reliable manner.

Mostly, I just watch from the Tablo and fast forward through commercials. I only bother pulling shows off the Tablo if I want to keep the series long term.

EDIT (2017-03-24): You can find a more complete description of my setup at: https://github.com/cyclej/TabloRipper/wiki/Using-TabloRipper---MCEBuddy---Comskip-and-Plex

I have, what I think, is a reliable workflow for TabloRipper/MCEBuddy/Comskip and Plex.

Only with a couple of episodes have I run into issues with Audio Sync. It was limited to playback on a Samsung Smart TV (KU6290). The same episodes did not have a sync issue when watching plex through the browser.

There is usually a 1 or 2 second flash of a commercial at each commercial break. So the removal is not perfect.

I have not done anything to deal with the last 5 minutes of recording. It stays in the final recording, in Plex I just mark the video as ‘Watched’ once we are done.

I have noticed a couple of shows where there is a recap before opening credits that sometimes get cut out, but I have never been left with the feeling that I am missing something important. That said, I haven’t gone back to the original recordings to compare so I could be missing more than I realize.

Timewise: One hour shows are taking about 20-22 minutes to process through ComSkip. I upgraded to the Donator version of ComSkip and conversions went a whole lot faster. (http://www.comskip.org/ contains instructions for the Donator version and how to add it to MCEBuddy)

This is also done on a laptop. (i5-3210, 16GB ram) and all files are on a portable usb drive.

Basic Approach:
Tablo Ripper writes to: E:\TabloRipper-MCEBuddy-WorkingDir\Working\
MCE Buddy Monitors: E:\TabloRipper-MCEBuddy-WorkingDir\Working
MCE Buddy has 2 Conversion Tasks: Movies and TV Shows

In separate posts I will share screenshots of my configuration. (2017-03-25: I have removed the screenshots, now that the config is at the TabloRipper wiki)

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If you have a Plex Pass, why not try the Plex DVR with a HDHomeRun tuner?

This way you’ll record in the native MPEG2 video and native AC3 audio, which I’m sure will result in less sync issues when removing commercials.

Also this way you won’t have to do any overnight ripping of the recordings using an unofficial 3rd party software.

Thank you so much for posting your configuration! I have similar timing results, and the pipeline works really well for me (it’s not perfect, but plenty good enough).

You can define an ‘activity window’ in TabloRipper, deferring the performance drain to off-hours. MCEBuddy can’t start until TabloRipper completes each rip, so the process won’t affect primetime usage.

Worst case, you can save the money on MCEBuddy and ComSkip and just do as @cthompgh suggests.

Thanks again!

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I think that sums up my experience as well.

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Now you tell me. I already have my Tablo.

Thanks so much Bruce! This is awesome - glad to hear (and see screenshots) from someone who has a good working install. Like I said, I understand comskip can’t be 100% perfect, but I’d like to make it a part of my setup if I can get it somewhat close. I was close to giving up, but I’m going to keep going with the idea now.

I noticed that in your screen grabs you had absolutely no adjustments for any audio/video sync issues. I thought that was going to be my breaking point, as all my tablo recordings look like bad Japanese horror films. It turns out I didn’t have a problem at all. For whatever reason, the local windows 10 video player plays regular tablo rips just fine, but anything passed through MCEbuddy/comskip shows the sync issue. Again, for whatever reason, the same video played through plex shows no issue at all, no audio/video adjustment needed. Since I only plan on plex viewing, it’s a non-issue, I just had originally not moved them to plex because I thought I had a problem. A couple other things:

  • I recommend the 5 minute adjustment to knock off the extra 5 minutes at the end of the recordings explained in that thread, it has been a good fix and given me no trouble.
  • Thanks for the recommendation and walkthrough on how you are splitting movies and TV. That was part of my plan down the line, but your help will let me knock that out much quicker.
  • I got an idea for the next couple months - I’m going to do two libraries in plex. I’ll call one something to the effect of “tablo with commercials” and “tablo without commercials.” That way, if the wife notices an important part of Scandal was cut off before the title sequence, she can check the other library and watch that part. Hopefully over time we’ll learn if the comskip add on is a good or a bad thing. I’ll just have to clean out the unused library folder a few times a year, no big deal.

Either way, the transfer to Plex is still a win, single place for all media, offline viewing, protection against hard drive failure, etc. Thanks everyone for the great discussion!

I understand this is a valid recommendation, but I already had a Tablo with a lifetime subscription long before the Plex DVR/HDHomeRun solution was announced. I’ve got an extra PC laying around, so setting it up to be the “go between” Plex and Tablo for ripper and MCEBuddy is no big deal. Also, I believe the Plex DVR is very much a beta at this point, and if I’m not mistaken isn’t a great solution at all for live tv viewing. Also, I don’t think you can get the 4 tuner setup in one box like you can with Tablo. This would be a lot of holes currently for a “whole family” solution, where Tablo already has matured quite a bit more for that need.

Bruce,

MCEBuddy installed Comskip for me during it’s install. How do I contribute to Comskip to get the faster processing?

http://www.comskip.org

Then follow the directions on that site related to mcebuddy.

Thanks CycleJ. Just to be clear, I download the comskip donation version and then replace what MCE installed with that version? Sounds like you are asking me to replace MCEBuddy.

EDIT: Replaced comskip with the donation version and I went from 2+ hours to about 15 minutes for a one hour show.

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@mostlychris sounds like you got it sorted out. Thanks @CycleJ

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@Bruce this may be a dumb question, but how does MCEBuddy know the difference between a movie and tv show when processing out of just one directory?

Not a dumb question… I had to look at my config to see how it is done. There is a Show Type selector when you create the 2 conversion tasks.

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EDIT: I figured it out by doing my first show into a folder called “Tablo TV” inside my main plex TV Shows folder. It picked up exactly what the show was. I’ll do a similar folder inside my Plex movies library(folder) and be golden. But if you have other tips I’m sure we’d all love to hear them :smile:

@Bruce Perfect. One more that I can’t figure out. Is your Plex Tablo folder a separate library from your standard ones? I noticed you used the same folder for Movies and TV. I guess I’m wondering if I need to create a Plex library just for Tablo recordings or if I can put the folder within my TV shows library and the folder within my Movies library and still see ach separated out? Any other tips for best organization? Right now I have Plex with TV Shows, Movies, Kids Shows, Kids Movies for easy locating for not just me but my wife and kids too. Thanks!

@TheFivePack. Glad to hear that you got it going.

Thanks for your questions. Rather than answering directly in this thread, I have converted my config to a wiki page hosted on the TabloRipper Wiki

The configuration listed is based on my setup but I have cleaned up the directory structures a bit, based on your observations, to make it easier to follow.

On the wiki page, check out Conversion Task #3 that tries to show separating your Kid’s shows into a dedicated Plex library.

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