Commercial detection

The commercial detection system identifies and reports the location of commercials in a given segment of TV recording. Once a database of commercials is created using the interface provided, it is able to achieve a detection accuracy of 100%. There is a command line interface which takes as input a video and outputs the location and contents of each of the commercials. The person who is maintaining the system can then seek through the video and classify parts of the video using a web interface. Once this is done, another command is executed which updates the database with the ads classified by the maintainer. Usually, with good maintenance, the system is able to detect all the commercials on TV.


Input video

All formats accepted by ffmpeg. Popularly MPEG, MP4, AVI, MKV.

Output txt file

The program by default creates a file called output.txt. This can be changed by editing src/ The format of the file is as follows:

start - end = Name of content


00:00:38 - 00:00:53 = ad by jeopardy
00:00:53 - 00:01:06 = ad by jerome's

Working of the entire system

The system works based on the concept of audio fingerprinting. The main logic is, fingerprint the audio of the regions initially hand picked and marked by the user. Store these fingerprints in a database. To identify commercials on an unknown stream of video, we obtain the audio for the given video file. We scan through the audio to detect matching fingerprints in the database. We store these matched segments as commercials in the output and the undetected segments as "Unclassified". A sample output from the system is as below.

00:01:39 - 00:02:09 = ad by honda
00:02:09 - 00:02:16 = ad by eye witness news
00:02:16 - 00:04:19 = unclassified
00:04:19 - 00:04:48 = ad by hbo
00:04:48 - 00:05:04 = ad by el polo loco
00:05:04 - 00:05:34 = ad by Northrop grumman
00:05:34 - 00:06:05 = ad by

Now, it is seen that section 2:16 till 4:19 is unclassified. If a human could watch this segment of the video then the person can tag this segment correctly. Such an option is provided by the web interface (to seek to the required portion of the video and tag the content). Once all such unclassified regions are viewed by the human another command has to be executed, which updates the database with these new commercials.

Generating the database

To start the system, one has to create a file for a given video which has the list of commercials which are present in the video. This file has to be manually created by watching the video. The format of the file, should match the format of the output file as shown above. Once this is ready, the database is generated with the help of the following command.

python -g labels.txt video.mpg

Where labels.txt should contain the location and the content of the commercials in video.mpg. The program updates the database only if a commercial having the same name is not already present in the database.

This part of the program, requires the directories data/, data/audio and data/video to be present. The commercials found in those regions are stored in data/video, their corresponding audio, for fingerprinting purpose, stored in data/audio. The files are created in serial order of the commercials found.

Another file called commercial.csv is also created. This file contains a visual view of the database in excel form. It is best to not edit this file, since the creation of the output file by the system relies on the order of the contents in this file.

Note:When running generate for the first time, see to that there is no file called commercials.csv, the tables songs and fingerprints in dejavu detabase are empty and in db/audio and db/video, there is only file ".temp". If all of these conditions are not met, then it leads to errors

Detection of commercials

The detection of commercials for a given video is done by first obtaining the audio of the video. The audio by default is named temp.wav. It is a single channel audio file. This file is automatically deleted when the program finishes execution. The audio-fingerprinting method obtains a 100% match with just 4 seconds of audio sample obtained from any location of the commercial. VIDEO_GAP, VIDEO_SPAN are two parameters which decide how this analysis should be done. VIDEO_SPAN, how much of the audio is to be taken. VIDEO_SPAN, how much of the audio to be skipped for analysis. The following command runs the detection on the video

python -r video.mpg

The command creates a file called output.txt in the same directory where the command was executed. If such a file already exists, then it over writes that file.

Manually classifying content

The most basic way to tag unclassified content would be to edit output.txt and run the steps to populate the database again. But this is a cumbersome procedure so there is an interface provided to make the entire procedure easy. The interface can be seen using the following commands.

python -l output.txt video.mpg

By default this command searches for output.txt in the current working directory of the terminal, it assumes that this file corresponds to video.mpg and starts a local server where contents can easily be tagged. To change the default setting of output.txt, change the variable name OUTPUT in

To start the web interface, we have to run gunicorn as a daemon, this is done in present in src/web. Run the shell script as follows in src/web:

   chmod +x

This makes gunicorn, run on port

In the web interface, there is are seek and edit buttons. "seek" seeks the video to the required starting point of the block and edit allows the user to edit the tag given to that block. Once done tagging the content, one may chose to click on "Save changes". This saves the changes made and stores it in output.txt. After the changes have been saved, to make the update in the database, run the following command.

python -g output.txt video.mpg

This concludes all the features of the system.

When tagging unclassified content, if it is a commercial, it should start with "ad", this helps the system detect it is a commercial so that it can fingerprint it in the database.

Note: The ads currently present in the database at any time can be viewed by navigating to the folder db/video.

Common unnoticeable bugs

Check if all the versions of the software comply with the system requirements mentioned on the github page. Even if it does not comply, the program will run, but the output will be erroneous. One example is, most ubuntu 12.04 distributions come with ffmpeg installed, but it is version 1.8. This version of ffmpeg has a different way of decoding the video, so even though no errors pop up, the output will be wrong.

Note about the proposal

The GSOC proposal I wrote stated that I would incorporate both audio based and video based methods into the system , theoretically this should give better user interface since the entire video is divided into blocks, which is more easy for the user to deal with.

I implemented the entire thing as per the proposal and it turned out that it became more work for the user since the video+audio based classification method of dividing the video into blocks gave an accuracy of only 94%. Even though this accuracy is great, that 6% of blocks this misses adds a lot more work to the user. Which is why I decided to create a new branch for this part of the code and keep the neat part in the master branch. The master branch hence has code which is more user friendly.

Web interface of the system

The web interface appears as follows, the interface is made as similar to the current interface for tagging content in Red Hen Labs.

The figure below, shows the first screen when the interface is opened.

We can go to each of the labels and edit in place, changes will be made immediately through AJAX. '+' button is used to split a label into two parts. When we click on that button, we get an image, that looks similar to this.

Deploying the system on your local machine

Installing dependencies

This is done by running file. Please edit the file for the corresponding architecture of your machine(x86 or amd64).

General configurations

All configuration can be done by editing the file There is no need in general to edit this file, however, when you are running the system for the first time, you will have to do the following.

  • Create a mysql database named dejavu(preferably)
  • Edit the variable "CONFIG" in to reflect the username, password of the database, also the name of the database too. An example of the config variable is as follows:
   CONFIG = {
       "database": {
           "host": "", #The default mysql IP
           "user": "root", #Username of mysql
           "passwd": "pass", #Password of mysql
           "db": "dejavu" #Name of the database just created

Configuring the web server

I found that deploying the django app on Nginx + Gunicorn is the easiest, Apache gave rise to too many bugs and lighttpd gave some fastcgi bugs which I could not resolve. The following are the steps to follow to deploy your own server.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/nginx.conf

Now, in the config file type the following:

   server {
       listen 89; #Can be changed accordingly
       access_log /new/path/to/access.log;
       error_log /new/path/to/error.log;
       location /static {
           root /path/to/CommercialDetection/src/web/output/;
       location / {
           proxy_pass [](; #Communicate with gunicorn.

Once this is done, we restart the server.

sudo service nginx restart

**Note:The above config file cannot be copied as is, the paths have to be specified. It is best to keep CommercialDetection in /var/www/ where it is accessible to nginx **

Evaluating the system

The system contains a manually tagged database of 60 commercials. The database can be built by running generate on data/filename.txt with the corresponding filename.mpg in RawFilesWithCommercials. It detects all the commercials for 2015-04-28_0100_US_KABC_Eyewitness_News_6PM.mpg, since this was the video that was tested on innumerable number of times during development you can expect the best result from this.

The channels KABC and CBC have been used for generating ads. The remaining channels serve as a good ground for testing the system.

The system can be thoroughly evaluated by doing the following:

  • First clone the system from git
  • Run (If not done already)
  • Run 'generate' on the videos using the labels provided in data/ = This will build a database, which can be verified by looking at the database dejavu.
  • Run 'recognize' on any video.
  • Run 'Manually tagging ads' on the same video, with the output file obtained.
  • Label at least one new commercial, to test the web interface. Also, verify the working of the buttons.
  • Now, the button "save changes" will save the changes in labels.txt
  • Run generate on labels.txt to get new commercials into the db.
  • The content of the db can be viewed through commercials.csv.

Blog report

A commercial detection system was built, which obtained 100% detection of commercials. The system detects the location and the content of ads in any stream of video, regardless of the content being being broadcast and other transmission noise in the video. An online interface was built along with the system to allow regular maintenance.