Palagpat Coding

Fun with JavaScript, game theory, and the occasional outbreak of seriousness

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Electronic Film Reviews: Customize your viewing!

Long time no blog posts in this corner of my domain. I'll try to do better. Tonight I finally got around to watching Speed Racer with my car-obsessed 6-year-old son, since it hit RedBox earlier this week. The story dragged in a few places and a couple of the scenes were a bit too intense for him, plus the script was a bit too free with cuss words I'd rather not have him repeating: enter the EFR project! I've been working on this software for several years (on and off) with good friend, mentor, and professor Alan Melby at BYU Provo. In a nutshell, it gives you the ability to take any off-the-shelf DVD and make your own, totally customized playback experience: you can skip scenes, blank or mute bits you don't want to see and/or hear, flip between different audio tracks and subtitles on the fly, or even play clips out of order if you want! I did all the editing for Speed Racer in the space of about 2-1/2 hours last night after he was in bed, only just slightly stretching the 2-hour runtime of the movie as I edited while pre-screening it with my son's needs in mind. (In retrospect, I should have cut more of the talking-head parts and just left in the mind-blowing race scenes. But I digress...) Anyway, if any of this sounds intriguing and you wanna "kick the tires" and give the software a test drive, hit the URL up above for the download package. A couple of things to bear in mind, however:
  • the authoring system isn't included in the above link -- if you're interested, email me and I'll send it to you. Eventually there will be a full installer for the authoring suite, but we're not quite there yet.
  • it doesn't yet support Windows Vista (or non-Windows operating systems for that matter. Sorry, Mac & Linux folks.)
  • You need to already have a working DVD decoder on the machine you're going to use this on -- the EFR applications simply build on top of them.
  • This isn't a plug-and-play system like ClearPlay and others of that stripe -- you need to either create an EFR (Electronic Film Review) for a film yourself, or acquire one from someone else and create a playlist from that, customizing it to your tolerances
That last bullet point bears expansion: this software isn't for people who just want to put in a DVD and have a set-top player decide what to show or not show. It requires a bit more forethought and effort, but ultimately I would choose this approach even if I wasn't personally involved in the effort - it gives you the ultimate control and flexibility, because after all, who knows your viewing preferences better than you yourself? ;) Enjoy, and please feel free to leave me feedback if you like it, don't like it, can't make it work, etc. Things like this always get better the more they're used, and the more reports / feature requests we get from people. Happy viewing! Oh, one final note: here is the EFR and associated playlist (CDL) that I made for Speed Racer, just in case anyone wants to use it as the starting point for their own.



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