What's long and hard and full of swearing? Subtitling!
February 11, 2012 10:50 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about making and editing subtitles for home use: What software do I want? What's the workflow? Er, that is, how do I do it?

  • Subtitling spoken English with written English
  • For Windows 7 x64-to-DVD player, or Windows-to-Windows
  • What software is easiest/best/your favorite?
  • I have Handbrake, AnyDVD, SubCreator, and Subtitle Workshop.
  • I do not really know how to use them.
  • Please tell me how one does it (or point me at a tutorial) in an idiot-proof "first you do this... then you click here" kind of way.

My dad cannot hear worth a dang, and had been saying that he is watching more and more non-English movies, because these are reliably subtitled. There are tons of movies in English he'd love to watch, he said, but often they don't have English subtitles. (TV, of course, is good -- he has closed-captioning)

I learned that one can get subtitle files online -- made by regular folks for the benefit of humanity, like Wikipedia -- and play them with movies that were not subtitled at release. These .srt files can be made by anyone in a text editor. One makes, or finds and downloads, an .srt file, starts the movie in VLC Player, and opens the subtitle file with VLC. Et voilà! Subtitles!

But available subtitles are often out of sync with my copy of the movie, or not accurate, misspelled, etc. Sync issues often cannot be corrected even by a global subtitle speed/lag adjustment in VLC. My dad can still hear just well enough that this would be as maddening to him as it is to you or me. And I imagine that sometime I will be unable to find any subtitle file for a given movie.

So I want to edit, and create-from-scratch .srt subtitle files. I could use Notepad for this, which is hell-fire tedious, or a subtitling program. I have tried SubCreator and Subtitle Workshop, but I don't really understand how to use them. I'm pretty much like a monkey, randomly poking stuff. If it has to be hear the guy start talking, look at the time, stop, type, rewind... OK -- but it seems like possibly the process could be more efficient than this, particularly when I'm just correcting sync issues or typos.

Ideally, I'd perform my subtitling magic and hand my dad a disc, that he could play in his DVD player with subtitles burned-in (or somehow accessible through his remote?). Next best, he'd have the files I have, and I'd show him how to use VLC (and the HDMI cable he got for Christmas).

So Metafilter... how?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Rather than create, edit, and sync each subtitle by hand you should look at using Subrip. Here is a guide.

After ripping the DVD, feed the IFO from the main title to SubRip. SubRip will use OCR to create an SRT for you. You will need a character matrix file so that you won't have to teach the program to recognize different fonts. Here is a matrix file compiled by the creator of SubRip.

There may be some spelling errors SubRip doesn't catch. For editing, I would recommend AegiSub. It has a built-in spellcheck and exports to several formats.
posted by lilnemo at 1:42 AM on February 12, 2012

*VOB not IFO*
Sorry 'bout that.
posted by lilnemo at 1:47 AM on February 12, 2012

Response by poster: Lilnemo, I'm not trying to rip subtitles that exist to another format -- I'm trying to add subtitles to a movie that never had official English subtitles. These are older, English-language, movies and TV-movies that didn't exactly get the Criterion treatment when released on DVD. If I could just buy the dang things with subs included, I'd do that instead for sure.

I don't really understand what you said, though, so am I misunderstanding? I'll look into AegiSub.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 2:21 AM on February 12, 2012

No you have it right, I just exhibited some very poor reading comprehension. I apologize for that.

If you intend to create a subtitle file by hand, Aegisub is quite good for that, and the manual has a wealth of information on how to do so. If you wish to make use of the transcribed subtitles you find online you may have to adjust the frames per second (FPS) of the file.

If you open the movie in VLC go to the Tools menu and select Codec Information (or Ctrl-J) it should tell you the frame rate of the movie.
Open up Subtitle Workshop, load your downloaded SRT.
Once it is loaded there will be two menus on the left side of the screen labelled INPUT FPS and FPS. The default value in both menus will probably be 25.
Change the value of the INPUT FPS to the framerate specified by the site you downloaded the SRT from.
Change the value of the FPS menu to the framerate number you saw in VLC's Codec Info window, you should see the timecodes for the subtitles change automatically.
Save the subtitles under a different name (using Save As, SubRip format produces a SRT) and then test the new SRT in VLC to see if the change in pacing corrects the sync. This fixes sync problems for me 6 out of 10 times. If the site didn't specify the framerate for the SRT you downloaded (or it is wrong) you may find yourself adjusting the timecodes by hand. Hope this helps. Good luck!
posted by lilnemo at 3:19 AM on February 12, 2012

Can't help with creating them from scratch, but to sync existing subs you can use Media Player Classic's subresync. You play the movie and when the first line of dialog occurs set that as the time for the associated line of subtitles. Do the same for the last line. MPC handles adjusting all the intervening lines.

This can also be used for converting 2cd subs into single files and vice versa.
posted by unmake at 4:05 AM on February 12, 2012

Also, all the divx capable dvd players I've owned have handled srts, as do things like wdtv boxes. Might be easier than converting to vobsubs and mastering dvds.
posted by unmake at 4:09 AM on February 12, 2012

Response by poster: OK! So I now have two ways to re-sync subs: Lilnemo's frame-rate way, and Unmake's subresync way. This is very good. While I am getting bogged down making @#$% Ep1 perfect there are many more movies and episodes to do and these methods will help a lot.

Oh ho! DVD players can be DivX compatible? Cool! There's something somehow offensive to me about burned-in subs, so it's cool I won't have to do that.

I had thought to tap into some massive AskMe subculture of subtitlers: where you guys all at?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 1:34 PM on February 12, 2012

Response by poster: Here's my current subtitling method, in case any of you are also trying to do this thing:
  • Find subtitles via SubtitleSeeker, a Kayak-like subtitle search engine.
  • In (freeware) Subtitle Workshop, re-sync the subs as unmake describes, and as demonstrated here.
  • In Subtitle Workshop, read through the subs to find and fix spelling and capitalization errors, and the occasional bit of gibberish.
  • If time allows, watch the movie with the subs, with Subtitle Workshop open to fix any issues. If not, check the movie at various time-points to verify sync.
  • Insert a new sub, "Hi Dad!" at the beginning of the film.
  • Fin

posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:48 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Quality over quantity - what's your favorite...   |   Getting VirtualDub to see x264vfw. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.