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.


Sam Sawatzky said...

One cool thing with Boxee (and I assume other media box players) is that after detecting the Movie/Video, they can look up the subtitles in their database and download them automatically.

With my video collection, I can open pretty much one of them in Boxee and select English Subtitles and it will go and find appropriate ones.

A neat feature.

PS - Boxee is in major need of an update, that is coming in the fall, apparently.

Mary said...

I realize it's been a few years, but this just came in handy for me. I really appreciate this information and will try this tool you put out.