Your Audio Will Be Back, Right After This Commercial Break

[LittleTern] — annoyed by repetitive advertisements — wanted the ability to mute their Satellite Box for the duration of every commercial break. Attempts to crack their Satellite Box’s IR protocol went nowhere, so they thought — why not simply mute the TV?

Briefly toying with the idea of a separate remote for the function, [LittleTern] discarded that option as quickly as one tends to lose an additional remote. Instead, they’re using the spare RGYB buttons on their Sony Bravia remote — cutting down on total remotes while still controlling the IR muting system. Each of the four coloured buttons normally don’t do much, so they’re set do different mute length timers — customized for the channel or time of day. The system that sends the code to the TV is an Arduino Pro Mini controlling an IR LED and receiver, with a status LED set to glow according to which button was pressed.

With the helpful documentation from [Ken Shirriff]’s research into IR remotes — yes, that [Ken Schirriff] — [LittleTern] had the needed codes for their TV in hand and a programmed and ready Arduino. They were able to 3D print a project box, attach it to their TV near its IR receiver, and power it off its USB! Bonus!

[LittleTern] has provided their code in their blog post. There’s a little timing tinkering that needs to be done to ensure it works smoothly with a given setup, but otherwise, gone are the days of fumbling for the remote as your program resumes!

36 thoughts on “Your Audio Will Be Back, Right After This Commercial Break

  1. apparently this thing does not listen to advertisements then match and mute them when they become repetitive. barring my imagination and high expectations, the project is good and executed tidily.

  2. Very cool. I’ve always wanted to pass the TV/computer audio off through a Raspberry Pi who’s job is to watch for waveforms matching the start of commercials and mute a device’s output upon finding one.

    A function of this build would be to save the last 5 seconds of audio when a button is hit to add it to the “commercial database” for match checking. (Machine learning could give the incoming audio a confidence threshold of whether or not it’s an offending ad) The user would manually set the starts and ends of an ad to block it and resume audio automatically.

    1. In the US, that was true up until about six years ago. (See: The CALM act)
      Now, do they always match up well? No. Especially when it’s the Cable company injecting local ads instead of the network’s ad.
      But, I wonder if there’s a hint (either from audio or video) that their injection has started.

      1. With most dutch broadcastcompanies the channel logo vanishes when commercial are coming up. Usually a couple of seconds. The logo is always in a specific corner of the broadcast and is fairly static. Thus if in a slecific area lots of changing is happening there are commercials.

  3. And here I was thinking he’d do something fancy such as looking for consecutive dark frames like my old ad-skipping VCR used to do. Nope, it’s just a fixed time out, he still has to press the button to start it! Too bad if the ad is shorter than expected, he has to sit there and wait for his timer to expire!

    1. Seems like, if you were running it through a device with a few seconds of buffer delay, it could still be done.

      I wonder if anyone reverse engineered how TiVo or DVRs did the ad skipping? Seems like the best way so far.

      1. Tivo relies on humans to mark the start and end of ads during a specific program which is why ad skipping is only available after the end of the tv show. This allows the updated database to replicate to all TiVo’s.

  4. I used to tape tv shows and movies and then edit them down to remove commercials. and I rarely watched them again. wasted effort.

    I now just get things from the bay, its all done, its drm free and someone else did the work.

    hey, I’m being honest, at least. there’s zero reason for me to spend any time on a ‘raw’ stream and fix it. kids with nothing but free time on their hands do this for us all. we might as well use what they produce ;)

      1. I refuse to watch ‘news’ (aka, ‘the daily 2 minutes of hate’) anymore. its entertainment and I don’t need ‘news’ to entertain me. if they entertain, they are doing it wrong and these days, they all are doing it wrong. so, its a mixed blessing that the ‘news’ has been ruined for the past 20 or so years (in the US, at least); it means I don’t have to endure that brainwashing and advertising. I feel much better since I cut out ‘news’ from my life. as for cartoons and kids, you can tape those, edit them once and have them watch the ‘tapes’ (etc). not a hard problem to solve and if you let your kids watch unfiltered live tv, that’s more your problem in how you are raising them. personally, I find that submitting kids to that kind of mass brainwashing is near to child abuse, but that’s for another topic entirely.

        1. You can call it brainwashing, but you can also call it learning, it all depends on the source and the ability of the mind exposed to it.
          And having a child only exposed to the parent, especially one who has fanatic tendencies, is not healthy either is it?
          I find that some cartoons do it right in my mind, and some are indeed pretty awful in their droning ‘comply’ messaging.
          Cartoon channel is better than Disney I think for instance.
          But as I said, you can only manage so much and managing can do harm too.

    1. especially if the android device has an ir sender….

      i wonder if google would allow an app like, for example to listen through the mike in x seconds bursts, send the data off to tensorflow and train a neural network, then periodically re-download the neural network neuron mapping to the device. this way, the network both gets better over time, and works offline, with the latest downloaded network mapping.

      though sending raw audio through the network might be a privacy concern many would be unconfortable about.

      maybe you can get the neural net simple enough to train on the device itself…. i cant tell…

  5. I want to like this project but if still has to pick up the remote and hit a button to mute the TV, why not just press…you know, the mute button?

    At best he’s saving himself one button press, the button press that would normally be required to unmute. But given the uncertainty already expressed in other comments (I.E. what happens when you select a longer mute time than the commercial actually lasts) it seems like the occasional overshoot would be more annoying than having to press mute twice.

    Hate to deal in absolutes, but this seems like one of those things that either you need to do automatically or not at all.

  6. This problem/solution has been around since the ’50s. As recall, a project in Popular Electronics called the “Blab Off”, a flashlight shined on an LDR that fired a timer that energized a relay for about 60 seconds, that interrupted the lead from the set to the speaker.
    Dave the Geezer

  7. MythTV’s commflag routines are pretty good at detecting commercial breaks. I’ve been successfully avoiding commercials entirely for about a decade using their commskip routine. I’d wonder if some of their code could be leveraged to make this mute device more capable even on live streams. It uses a combination of network icon watching, blank screen detection, and scene length to judge whether or not a commercial is happening. While not perfect it’s highly accurate with few exceptions (Law and Order and Gotham come to mind with their frequent fades to black).

  8. I only watch TV on my computer (HDHomeRun). When commercials come on I crank the volume down and go off and do other things on my computer. After about 5 minutes of commercials I click on the TV window and turn the volume back up. The problem is not just hearing the commercials but having to sit for so long waiting for the show to resume.

  9. This kind of hack comes up time to time, but there is still an unmet goal. Many people use the TV as a babysitter for their youngest children. Something that would automatically mute commercials aimed at the little ones might get a lot of interest from fellow hackers (and their spouses!). Especially if it would substitute a 2 or 3 minute educational message. Most of over the air and cable channels aimed at the impressionable young viewers run a constant logo except when a commercial comes on. Maybe that could be a trigger to mute and unmute. For the children, people.

  10. It’s all about time, to the second. Ever notice the major networks run their ads at the same time? Flip the channel :another ad. Logging the channel/hour/minute/seconds will do the trick of never having to even hit the mute button. got my project in mind, but hey it’s spring here in PA, might be done by fall.

  11. Reminds me of a hack I saw:
    https://makezine.com/2011/08/16/enough-already-the-arduino-solution-to-overexposed-celebs/

    Looked for closed captioning data for keywords, soon as the words “Kardashian” or “Snooki” came up in the CC stream. It’d mute the tv for X length of time. Gotta say I was tempted by the hack!

    Never really looked at the CC data myself, but maybe there’s something in the syntax that be used? Something that signals the start/end point of the program you’re wanting to hear; mute the rest.

  12. What really sucks is when the TV shows drop in that 2~5 second teaser in the middle of a cluster of adverts.
    Kind of self damning admission that they know it’s been too long and they need to remind us of why we haven’t flipped the channel.
    Try looking at a marathon of shows that originally were for a 1 hr slot.
    They will take a 1 hour & 5 mins slot now.
    Commercials are edited in at every scene change.
    The networks crop off the decay of a word and have no blank/dark frames.
    the commercials will be cropped of any non-speaking pauses also (even mid advert).
    The transition almost looks like that show just morphs into the commercial.
    “Breaking Bad” was done this way, a few months ago.
    I watched about 3 episodes before it drove me up the wall wondering what happened, as scenes changed with lots of missing (non-verbal) details.
    I was at friends house when I saw this, as I ditched cable once I found the internet.
    I check enough cable/TV to see that some decent stuff seems to have drifted over from the internet.
    Maybe the tiers/bundles will get a little better one day & I might go back to the telly.
    Kinda irritates ya to have to pay for espn channels that will never be viewed though.
    Yep. monopoly providers does that here.

  13. I need voice file matching and squelch on our public radio station WBAA. They use no live human spots, everything is recorded. That makes this easy. There are the too numerous pleas for support, pleas to use their applications on my phone, and promos for programs like Ted and all his friends. There are announcers that talk baby talk to us adults.

  14. Maybe useful:

    https://www.networkworld.com/article/2307109/computers/psychoacoustic-encoding–what-nielsen-uses-to-track-tv-viewing.html

    “The psychoacoustic encoding method relies on digital signals embedded in the audio of broadcast TV shows. These signals — which last for a fraction of a second — are slipped into the audio tracks of TV shows approximately every 2.5 seconds, except for periods of sustained silence.”

    “These signals hidden in the active audio include an accurate time stamp — “down to the one-hundredth of a second,” Luff says, identifying when the show was played, the network broadcast it, and the call letters of the local affiliate showing the program.”

    “TV networks and broadcasters use equipment called a NAVE (Nielsen Audio Video Encoder) to “burp” these signature codes into the program audio, which are picked up by devices installed in the 40,000 Nielsen homes — the company’s statistical sample base. Called A/P (Active/Passive) monitors, these cable-box-sized gadgets tie into the audio output of a TV or home theater system and actively decode and store the psychoacoustic signals.”

  15. It’s just information, nobody is chanting “America First”, ok? The post had me thinking how I would go about doing it as a personal project where I live, which happens to be the US. Since I’m busy right now I thought someone else could use the information I found. Maybe there are equivalents in other countries.

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