How to have metadata about people in home video
March 15, 2022 9:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm digitizing my old family videos and was wondering if there is a way to have who's who in various clips. Either in the clip that can be shown,like a subtitle or a file that I can have time stamps and who's in the video.
posted by blackmage to Technology (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A subtitle track is very easy to make -- It's just a simple plaintext file with a particular format and the .srt file extension.

The format consists of 3 things:
The first line is a sequential number for each subtitle, below that are timecodes specifying the start and end times for that subtitle (hours:minutes:seconds:milliseconds) separated by two dashes and a greater-than symbol that look like a rightward-pointing arrow, and below that is the text of the title itself. Each section is separated by a blank line. Basically you'd want to make it look something like this:

00:00:02,000 --> 00:00:10,500
Judith and Larry Gopnik, their kids Danny & Sarah, and friend of the family Sy Ableman (wearing blue cap), c. 1967

00:04:23,200 --> 00:04:31,700
Jerry Lundegaard, his son Scotty, and his father-in-law Wade Gustafson at the Oldsmobile dealership, c. 1987

There are many apps that will allow you to add a subtitle track to a video. It just depends if you want to "burn" the subtitles in (permanently adding them to the video) or if you want to create a container like an .mkv file that keeps the video and subtitle tracks separately in one file (and thus allowing you to make the subtitles visible or not as you play the movie).

Handbrake will allow you to burn-in the subtitles. MKVToolNix will allow you to create an .mkv file. Both of these apps are free, cross-platform, and have good reputations. There are many others, such as Subler (for MacOS only). Another option, if you're on a Mac, is to use iMovie to create intertitles or subtitles.

If you add subtitles to your home movies, I recommend also keeping "clean" versions that don't have any titles on them for archival purposes. Just give them identical file names with the addition of the word TITLED or UNTITLED.
posted by theory at 11:48 PM on March 15, 2022 [9 favorites]

I should've also mentioned an advantage of an .mkv file is that you won't have to re-encode the video when you create it. It just packages your already existing video file with whatever other tracks you want to add (subtitles, voiceover, music, etc.).

You could even record separate voiceover tracks from each person in the movie, having them describe their memories of the event -- like a director's commentary track on a DVD, except you can have as many tracks as you want. When you play the video in something like VLC Media Player, you can choose which subtitle and audio tracks you want to see and hear.

The downside of an .mkv file is that it doesn't play natively on some systems. You might need to use something like the aforementioned VLC Media Player (which is free and cross-platform).
posted by theory at 12:19 AM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

theory's already covered it but I'll throw in my 2 cents and explicitly advise against re-encoding your video with burnt-in subtitles, all it does is double the burden of keeping backups.

Either make a standalone .srt subtitle file and leave it at that, or remux (not re-encode) the video + subs into a .mkv container (but don't delete the plaintext .srt file, keep it around for ease of access to the information in case of technical difficulties with playback software of the remuxed file).
posted by Bangaioh at 6:39 AM on March 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

> an advantage of an .mkv file is that you won't have to re-encode the video when you create it

True, you don't have to do it but it is possible to do it, OP should be careful with their conversion software and ensure it will remux and not re-encode.
A .mkv file is no guarantee that no encoding happened.

If it takes more than a few seconds to complete, it's probably re-encoding instead of remuxing.
posted by Bangaioh at 6:45 AM on March 16, 2022

Jesus, theory, you're a GENIUS. Thank you!!!

I am most of the way done digitizing decades worth of home videos, and there is diddly for metadata. Plex lets me add tags, but that doesn't offer anything if I share them or move off Plex someday.

THANK YOU for answering a question that I didn't even know I had.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2022

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