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Entertainment Television Company

Entertainment Television Company (ETC) is the name I’ve given to a project to recreate for my 10-year old son something like the television I watched when I was his age. Of course, there is no actual company, and the programming is for use in our house, on an old console television. The name was chosen just to give the project a network-ish identity like ABC, CBS, or NBC; in this case, I have ETC.

For this project, I’ve digitized my uncommonly large collection of movie and television program DVDs, and have written scheduling software and presentation software in Python that extensively employs FFmpeg subprocesses, mostly for generating teaser videos. I have built a dedicated presentation device for ETC based on a Raspberry Pi microprocessor with a battery-powered real-time clock (to keep track of date and time when the device is turned off), and a large hard drive (to hold all programming for an entire year or more). Any time the device is turned on, my presentation software begins playing the scheduled programming from the current date and time, even picking up in the middle of, say, Gilligan's Island on a weekday afternoon.

 

Given a generic schedule for programming and various parameters for what movies can be shown in what time slots, the scheduling software generates a playlist that includes not just the television programs and movies, but also teasers (which let a viewer know what is coming up), bumpers (which introduce programming, like the opening to a regularly scheduled Saturday night movie), and other fillers.

Because programming rarely if ever precisely fills its alotted slot, fillers are required to, well, fill out the time remaining in the slot after the main program in that slot has ended. For fillers I use teasers I generate for various programs, as well as shorts and certain cartoons (e.g., The Pink Panther, of which there are many individual cartoons available, and Schoolhouse Rock). Which fillers may be used in which time slots is another parameter that is consulted when the schedule is generated.

Which movies will be shown on which dates is unknown ahead of time and only becomes known as the schedule is generated. As a movie for each slot is selected, my software uses FFmpeg to generate the teasers for that movie on that date. There are usually four teasers for each movie (Tonight, Tomorrow, This Week, and Next Week) which are “broadcasted” on the appropriate days with respect to the “broadcast” date of the movie itself. At the end of each broadcast day (which varies, depending on when that night’s Late Night Picture Show movie ends), programming closes with my sign-off video featuring the US space program and US Capitol with the National Anthem as its soundtrack, before presenting a video of static until the next broadcast day begins.

The movie synopses and ratings data, and poster images I use in many of these teasers mostly come from IMDB.

Saturday Night Movie Bumper

I recreated the ETC Saturday Night Movie bumper using mainly Maya and Shake. It’s an homage to the excitement and anticipation I felt as a child when a long-anticipated movie was shown on ABC’s Saturday Night Movie (from which I drew the soundtrack for this bumper, and of which this bumper is a very close copy).

Saturday Matinee Teaser

The Saturday Matinee teaser is also entirely created by me (including the soundtrack) based on a vague memory I had from my childhood. A friend, upon seeing it, immediately identified it for me as derived from the General Cinema Theatres bumper. (Thanks Chris!)

Friday Night Movie Teaser

The Friday Night Movie teaser is entirely original, though obviously with influences from the spotlights seen in Twentieth Centry Fox theatrical bumpers.

Late Night Picture Show Teaser

For the Late Night Picture Show (LNPS), my software retrospectively creates a “week of” teaser (which teases all seven movies for that week) after all the movies for a given week have been selected and scheduled. Thus for a year-long schedule, 52 LNPS “week of” teasers will be generated. Among the paremeters my software uses in selecting movies for the LNPS are genre and decade of release; we have “Oldies Mondays”, “SciFi Tuesdays”, “Western Wednesdays”, and so forth.

Next Five Upcoming Programs

Because the next five programs are always known in advance from the generic schedule, the “next five up” teasers can be (and are) generated in advance of the schedule itself being generated.