HD200, PlayOn and Hulu

April 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm Leave a comment

A while back I experimented with my SageTV HD200 essentially downloading transcoded versions of a few Hulu shows via PlayOn.  It’s a pain to do this, though.

A few weeks ago they released a new Beta firmware.  I just downloaded it a few days ago.  Through looking at the forum, I’ve discovered that there is actually a telnet server within the HD200.  You can telnet to it, login as root (no password), then navigate to PlayOn from the command line.  It’s still slow to navigate, so I suggest queuing up any content you want and then going to your User Queue directory.  Like so:

cd /var/upnp/PlayOn (your playon server name here)/Hulu/User Queue

*NOTE*:  In my experience, the HD200 will let you telnet into it when it is “asleep”, but I’ve had very poor luck at getting complete shows that way.  When the HD200 was active (even if it is playing content from the SageTV server), I have almost always gotten a “good” file.

Once there, this command will show you all the shows in your queue:

ls -l

When you are ready to copy something down, just use the copy command:

cp Showname.mpg /tmp/sagetv_shares/[Path to your network share here]/file.mpg

*NOTE*: The filenames are quite long.  After entering the first few letters of your show, hit the TAB key to auto-complete as much as you can.  If you’ve queued up a bunch of shows that are episodes of the same series, they will all start with the same characters, so you’ll have to enter something in to differentiate the particular episode you want, then hit TAB again and it should auto-complete the whole thing.

Ok, after putting the copy command in, you’ll be stuck waiting around for a while.  Once you get a prompt back, it is done.

Now, one thing I don’t like about this method is you end up with huge MPG files when you are done.  With the latest HD200 firmware, the resultant files are playable as-is.  There is something not quite right about the time, though.  The programs I’ve tried to play them in seem to think they are longer than they really are.  In order to conserve space (for the shows I’d actually want to keep), I’ve tried HandBrake to convert them to MKV files.  This fails, as HandBrake freezes within the first few minutes of transcoding (this is repeatable).  MPEG StreamClip doesn’t work either.  Transcoding to AVI worked in Handbrake, but the audio was out of sync badly.  I was just about to give up hope on this when I happened across a news item about a new version of VLC.  It mentioned that VLC can transcode, so I tried it.  Even though VLC itself indicates that it’s not a great tool for transcoding, it worked.  I set it for H264 video transcoding at 1024 with no audio transcoding and the resultant file is about 430 MB (down from 1.7 GB!)

So, doing this is still a pain… But it does seem to work, at least, until Sage comes out with a working interface to Hulu directly.  (Heck, I’d be pretty very if they just made it so that stuff watched via PlayOn wouldn’t restart when you hit FF or RWD)

Update:  Well, even this isn’t perfect.  I just used the HD200 to play back an .mp4 file made with this method.  The video looked great, but the audio was out of sync by a second or two, making it difficult to watch.  In VLC, however, the audio is perfectly sync’ed up.  Perhaps selecting a different format to convert to within VLC will result in a good video.  More experimentation, I suppose…

Update #2:  The latest version of MPEG Streamclip (1.92, as opposed to 1.9 that I was using) seems to work much better.  I’m using it do to an export to MPEG-4, limiting it to 1024 Kbps (2048 for widescreen shows), selecting the H264 codec, unselecting the Deinterlace settings (at least, for shows that aren’t interlaced), and leaving the audio settings at default.  At those settings, it creates an MP4 file that is about the same size as the one made by VLC (slightly smaller, I believe)… AND, it plays back in SageTV in sync.  (Ok, at least, one episode has so far).  The down side is that it takes about as long to process in MPEG Streamclip as if I were to watch it in real time.  I’ve read somewhere that MPEG Streamclip supports the Elgato Turbo.264, so that might be one option to speed up the transcodes.

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Entry filed under: General.

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