Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding and Adjusting Subtitles on AVI files

If you enjoy watching foreign films or if you're hard of hearing like me, then subtitles are a must in your movie collection. In my last post, I covered how to convert movies from DVD to AVI for playing on a portable player. In this post, I'll be discussing subtitles.

There are two types of subtitles, burned in and selectable. Obviously the selectable type is best because you can turn them on and off and you can obtain different languages too. Within the selectable type, there are a few formats with the most common being sub/idx files, txt files and my personal favourite, SRT files.

In order to get your subtitles to play in players like VLC VideoLAN and on player boxes like the WD TV box, you'll usually need to put the subtitles in the same folder as the AVI and name them the same. So if you movie is called "Return of the Scary Kittens.avi" then your subtitle should be called "Return of the Scary". Some players allow you to have multiple subtitle streams by including language codes near the end of the file name (eg: "Return of the Scary Kittens.eng.avi") but if you only have one, it's best to name it the same.

Finding Existing Subtitle Streams online
Why build something that already exists right? You can search for your subtitles online. First though, you need to find out the frame rate of your movie. Right-mouse click on your avi file and choose properties. Click on the Summary Tab and look at the frame rate, it will usually be 23, 25 or 29 frames per second.

Next; try a search on Podnapsi ( to see if there are any subtitles in your chosen language. If you get a few results, pay careful attention to;
(a) The number of frames per second and
(b) the number of people who have downloaded it. (the more the better).

If possible, simply download your SRT file, rename it carefully and put it in the same folder as the AVI.

If you can't find the subtitles on Podnapsi, do a wider google search for; SRT ENG "My Movie Name". This is often also quite successful.

Extracting Subtitles from a DVD
Assuming that you've already ripped your VOB file (as described in the AVI conversion procedure), you can rip the subtitle from the VOB. The freeware you need to download is subrip (from: There's no install for this software, simply download and extract it. You can then open a VOB file and you'll be prompted to answer some questions. Since subtitles are OCRed, you'll have to provide a sample of each of the common letters.

If you make a silly mistake like I did, it will make a mess. I said that open bracket "(" was "( BIRDS CHIRPING )" not realizing that I was being prompted only for a single character. Don't worry, you can always open the SRT file in a text file later and do a search and replace.

The Foreign Option
If you really can't find any subtitles in your language, try a language that is close (for example, French is reasonably close to English) and download the subtitle file. Next, go to Google Translator toolkit ( and upload your file. It only takes a few mouse clicks to convert the entire file to your language and download it.

Sure, conversations they sound like yoda sometimes - but they're better than nothing.

Resychning Subtitles
The final thing that you may find yourself needing to do is to resynch subtitles. You need to do this when the subtitles occur too soon before (or too late after) the actual spoken parts of the movie. If this happens to you, play the movie carefully in VLC and make a careful note of the time count when the speaking commences.

Next, close the AVI file and open the SRT file in the freeware Subtitle Workshop ( Highlight all of the subtitles but scroll to makes sure that you can see the particular line of dialog you mentioned earlier. With all entries highlighted, press Ctrl+Shift+N to shift the time backwards and Ctrl+Shift+H to shift forwards.

When you think it's done, click save and retest the subtitles.

That's it, now you can have subtitles for your movie even if the ones on the original DVD weren't in your chosen language or were not properly synchronised. I will quite often add subitltes for movies in the AVI stage when manufacturers don't bother to make them available on the purchased item.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Converting DVDs to Good Quality AVI Files - Part 2 (The Procedure)

Forget the why and wherefores of what we're doing - That's part one which you can read here.

Lets get started;

  • A computer with a large hard drive 20GB Free? Pentium 4 3GHz or Faster and a DVD drive
  • A copy of DVD Decrypter - it's free
  • A copy of AutoGK - it's free

DVD Decrypter
This software allows you to copy the files from a DVD to your hard drive. The project was shut down some years back but it's still possible to get hold of it on the internet.

An alternative to this is DVD Fab. There's a free version and a commercial version. The difference between the two is that the commercial version handles more DVD protection schemes.

AutoGK is short for Auto Gordian Knot which describes a knot so difficult to untie that it was cut instead. It's quite apt considering the purpose of this tool.

It's not a single piece of software but rather installs several pieces tied together by a single front-end. As a result, the setup program will spawn other setup programs. Watch them carefully because otherwise windows will get popped over and you'll think the install has frozen when it's really just waiting for input. All of the pieces of software in AutoGK are well worth having.

PART 1: Getting the files onto your PC using DVD Decrypter
  1. Put the DVD in your computer's DVD drive

  2. Start DVD Decrypter - it should detect the disc

  3. It might also prompt for the region code (if it finds RCE protection)

  4. Look at the list of files - they're named confusingly but the first number is the "title" and the second is the part.
    VTS_01_3.VOB means
    Part 3 of the first title.

    VOB files are video
    IFO files contain informtation about the VOB files.
    I don't know that BUP files are.

  5. You can either manually select all of the series of the largest files or you can click View, Select Main Movie Files plus IFO files.

  6. Next, Click on Tools, then Settings.

  7. Click the tab marked File Mode and in the options section make sure that File Splitting says NONE.

  8. Then Click on IFO Mode and again, in the options section make sure that File Splitting says NONE.

  9. Choose a location to save in.

  10. Then click the DVD to file Icon to start the decryption.

  11. It will take a while, so go find something to do for 15-30 minutes.

PART 2: Converting the VOB to an AVI
  1. Start AutoGK

  2. Click on the little folder icon marked Input file and browse to the folder where you saved the output of DVD Decrypter.

  3. If everything went well, you should have a single VOB file and a bunch of IFO files. Only one IFO file will match the VOB's name.

  4. Open this in AutoGK.

  5. It should read in the VOB and display soundtracks and subtitles.

  6. Click on the little folder icon marked output file and chose a location and name for your output.

  7. Have a look at the audio and subtitle options. You'll want to pick one audio track - usually the top one. It might not matter so much about subtitles unless the movie is in a foreign language. If, like me, you prefer to have a subtitle track, you enable it here but it will be "burned in" to the movie. It's often easier to download a subtitle track in SRT format from Podnapsi later.

  8. Next you'll want to select a file size.

  9. If you movie is about 90-100 minutes, you should be ok with 700MB but if you movie contains a lot of action scenes (or is long) consider increasing the size to 1400MB. You'll end up with much better quality.

  10. Next, click advanced settings and make sure that the resolution is set to Auto Width and the Audio is set to Auto. Note: If you were making a copy for a portable device like a phone with low resolution, these are the settings you might change.

  11. Choose an Video codec. XviD is recommended though DivX works well too.

  12. Leave the subtitles options unchecked and click ok.

  13. Finally, click Add Job and then click Start.

  14. You might think that nothing is happening but it will actually be working. It shells out to a DOS/Command line app for a lot of the work.

  15. Depending on your computer, the settings you chose and the movie you are converting, it could take 3 hours but at the end you'll have a good quality AVI file.
If you right-click on that file and choose properties you'll be able to find the frames per sec. Use that number to find a matching subtitle file on Podnapsi.

Note that if you can't figure out which track is which, you might want to try playing the VOB file directly in VLC Media Player. You can switch audio tracks in there and figure out which one you'd prefer.

Easier Instructions
Of course, I didn't figure all of this out myself and if you'd prefer video instructions, you might want to check out my inspiration on You Tube.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Converting DVDs to Good Quality AVI Files - Part 1 (The Waffle)

I'm very much a believer in the idea that "files" will be the next big format for video entertainment after DVDs. I guessed right from the start that blu-ray would win the format war against HD-DVD but I never thought that either would take over.

About 15 years ago, after having ridden the music upgrade from LP Records to tapes and to CD, I stumbled across this "new" format called MP3. Back then, there were no MP3 players, just computers but I was enthralled by the idea that with enough storage, I could save my music collection in a way that meant that I could play them without ever having to get a CD out of the cupboard again.

I emarked on a quest to convert my entire library of Music CDs to MP3. People thought I was weird but a few years later as MP3 players became more readily available, I reaped the rewards. I didn't have to convert anything - it was already done.

I see video entertainment as following the same path. As with my early MP3 conversions, the problems were two-fold.
1. Finding a reliable converter/process
2. Storage

Recently, I bought a Western Digital WDTV box (mainly so that I didn't have to burn Doctor Who episodes to DVD when downloading them from the UK). Copyright people; don't give me those accusatory stares - I buy the DVDs when they become available. It's just that the net has a bad habit of "spoiling" the twists when I wait for Australia to screen them - yes, even when it's only one week later.

Of course, I don't want to stop there. It's my ambition to convert my sizable DVD collection to files for discless viewing - and perhaps I'll throw in a few fixes along the way.

Fixes? you say? Huh..?

As a partially (mostly) deaf person, I find that I really need subtitles with my movies - and I'm really annoyed when they aren't provided. Recently I bought Mozart and the Whale. Unfortunately the Australian distributor of this film doesn't care about subtitles. I ripped it to AVI format and then I went looking on for a subtitle file (SRT format). I managed to get one and now when I play the file in VLC Media Player - or on my WDTV player it works!

The final question is one of quality. We can get close to movie quality in AVI format (with a big enough file - 800MB for a movie) but sound is a problem. It's MP3 format. I used to care a lot about surround sound but since I'm deaf, it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me. Still, sound and quality are important considerations. For now, the AVI format will do but I'm on the lookout for something better.

When a royalty-free file format capable of holding, video, 3d video, multiple angles, multiple subtitles, various soundtracks, chapters and display covers appears, I'll jump there pretty quick.

Next time; Enough of the Waffle - Next time I'll explain how to rip a DVD to a good quality AVI file using free tools.