Make Your Own Phantom Edit with Mplayer

by Kyle Rankin

Related link:

Ahh family movie night... If you have ever had a family movie night with children of mixed ages, it can be rather interesting finding a movie that is suitable and enjoyable for everyone. It seems no matter what movie you choose (unless it's rated G) there's always that one scene that you wish weren't there. Chances are you end up pressing the Mute button or Fast Forward button at least once to skip past some questionable content. Chances are also good that when you do this, you will edit out dialogue only to unmute right as a character curses or blows something (or someone) up.

I've used mplayer as a media player under Linux for a long time, and while browsing through their steadily growing documentation, I came across the Edit Decision List (or EDL) feature. An EDL is basically a text file with each line containing a start time and end time in seconds, and an action. If the action is 0 mplayer will skip the scene, if it is 1 mplayer will mute it. Here's a sample file from the mplayer documentation:

5.3 7.1 0
15 16.7 1
420 422 0

This EDL would tell mplayer to skip between 5.3 and 7.1 seconds in a video, mute between 15 and 16.7 seconds, and skip between 420 and 422 seconds. It might seem a bit cumbersome to create this file, but mplayer provides a shortcut. Start mplayer with the -edlout option:

$ mplayer -edlout test.edl file.avi

As mplayer goes through the video, when you see a scene you want to edit or skip, hit 'i' and mplayer will write down the start time in the file and set it to skip for 2 seconds. When you finish the movie you just go back to the file and tweak the timings to suit you. Once the file is complete run mplayer with the -edl option to use your file:

$ mplayer -edl test.edl file.avi

What's nice about this type of feature is that it gives the consumer control over what censoring occurs in their movies. You can have the R movie you watch with adults, and the PG-13 edit you watch with your children.

Now this feature isn't just limited to families with children. You could use this to edit out comment that isn't necessarily offensive, but just plain annoying. For instance, you could create your own custom "Phantom Edit" of a movie where instead of cutting out Jar Jar, you cut out whatever other character or scene annoys you. Or, you could use it to cut out commercials from a TV broadcast without firing up the video editor.

What's even better about EDLs is that since this is a simple text file, it would be rather easy to create your own EDL and then share it with your friends or even the rest of the Internet. I can forsee some sort of web service that would collect and host EDLs for everyone's mutual benefit.

Kudos to the mplayer team for adding this feature. I look forward to seeing what some creative people are able to do with it.

So, what movie would you use EDLs for?


2005-07-29 07:08:58
Phantom Edit Web Service
> I can forsee some sort of web service that would collect and host EDLs for everyone's mutual benefit.

I've been thinking about doing this for years. Most PC DVD players have the ability to do this with "time codes" or "bookmarks", but nobody has ever taken it to the next step. Last time I looked into it (about 7 years ago) someone had "patented" the idea about 15 years ago, and wanted to employ a programmer like myself, but his intentions were less than favorable in my opinion.

At that point it seemed the only way to make it work without exposing yourself to litigation from this questionable character is to make it an open source project.

The problem is that it needs to be embedded into a dedicated DVD player, which plugs into the internet somehow, giving them convenience access to the database. Convenience is key - if you don't make it convenient it will never fly.

Personally, it seems to me that this is a technology that the FCC should be very interested in.

2006-03-15 08:44:32
clearplay does more or less the same as this. but you need to buy a clearplay dvd player (that hooks up to your pc/internet).

i hope edl makes its way into vlc,xine, and maybe even wmp as well, more widespread support is important.