Put Media Center Recordings on Your WP7

For those of you interested in taking recordings from Windows Media Center and putting them on your WP7, commercial free:

To get started, you’ll want to visit these two sites: Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Information (if you want to buy Studio) or just download Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 (if you want the free version).

The free version of Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 will allow you to encode your videos to a .wmv file.  If you want to encode to an .mp4 file (which is preferred for the best quality and smallest file size), you’ll need to purchase an upgraded version.  If you’re going to buy software to convert your TV show from Windows Media Center to a Microsoft Windows Phone, I’d strongly suggest buying a full version of the Expression Encoder 4 Suite.

1. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder where your recorded TV is being saved.

2. Locate the file for the TV show you wish to convert.  Windows 7 records all shows with an extension of “.wtv”.

3. Right click the file, then select “Convert to .dvr-ms Format”.  This will probably take at least a few minutes, and will result in a file with the same name but with an extension of “.dvr-ms” instead of “.wtv”.

4. Open Microsoft Expression Encoder.
5. Click File –> Import.
6. Navigate to the folder where your recorded TV is being saved, and select the “.dvr-ms” file that you created above.
7. In the pane on the right side under Presets, select “Encoding for Devices” –> “MP4” –> “H.264 Zune HD”.  (If you only have the free version, select “Encoding for Devices” –> “WMV” –> “H.264 Zune HD”).  This will set the output resolution to 480×272 for 16×9 widescreen content.
8. Click the “Show cut regions” button.  (See picture)

9. Drag the playhead (the slider) around in order to find the commercials.  Find the start of the first commercial break and click the “Insert an edit at the playhead” button.

10. Drag the playhead to where the commercials end and the TV show starts back up, then click the “Insert an edit at the playhead” button again.
11. To remove the commercials now, drag the playhead between these two markers you just created, then click the “Remove this clip under the playhead” button.  The video between those 2 markers should now show up red- meaning it is cut.
12. Perform the preceding 3 steps for all of the commercial breaks.  You can also use these steps to scrub the beginning and ending of the show.
13. Time to encode!  Click the “Encode” button.  Depending on your processor speed and other factors, this may take an hour or longer.

Quick FAQ:

Q. Why is the volume of the output file too quiet?
A. Before encoding, under the Presets pane, click the “Enhance” tab.  Check the box for “Audio Leveling”, then set the volume to around 6 to 7.  Do some trial and error to find your perfect volume.

Q. My WP7 has a resolution of 800×480.  Why am I encoding at only 480×272?
A. We can’t encode a TV show at full 720p resolution (1280×720) like we can for the Zune HD because the WP7 won’t allow it. While we could encode the video higher than 480×272, why would we care when there is no official video output on the WP7 yet? Keeping the output file at this lower resolution allows for compatibility with most Zunes, iPods, and PSPs.  Also, the size of the encoded file will be smaller and not take up as much valuable space on the WP7 while only sacrificing a little quality.  When WP7 fully supports 720p, I’ll start encoding my Windows Media Center TV shows at 1280×720.

Q. Why do I convert the file from a “.wtv” to “.dvr-ms” when Microsoft Expression Encoder will work with a “.wtv” file?
A. In my experience, you don’t need to convert the file prior to encoding it, but the encode time will be multiple times longer if you don’t!  It’s worth spending the 3 minutes to convert the file from a “.wtv” to a “.dvr-ms” as this alone will dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes for encoding.

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