DVD Studio Pro Subtitles

dvd iconIf you have used DVD Studio Pro you will know that you can enter subtitles directly in to the app, but when you do it is a job to do anything with them! An alternative is to have someone create a subtitle file for you… the trouble there is they often arrive and are pretty much unuseble since not many folk know how to write them.

I had one such file sent to me this week. The format was .stl and a different version as .txt – both are generally OK to use, but the file content was badly written.

The way you need the file to be set up is to have a start timecode (in the standard timecode format of hours:minutes:seconds:frames) a tab a comma another tab then the end timecode for the subtitle, followed by a tab, comma tab combination before the actual subtitle text itself. It should look something like this:

00:00:15:16 , 00:00:17:13 , Over here, quick… I think I can see it!

So, when I got the following format it presented various challenges:

1: 00:00:15.16 00:00:17.13
Over here, quick... I think I can see it!
2: 00:00:26.13 00:00:30.05
- OK - let me ring the police first!
- The others will be here soon!

I mean, you can see what the writer is trying to give you – they want you to see how the subs should appear on screen, but they have absolutely no idea of the work this now involves. First off, the time code is all wrong. It can either be 00:00:00:00 as a format, or 00:00:00;00 which would indicate ‘drop frame’ time code, which you see a lot in NTSC files from places like the USA. Occasionally the timecode starts at 01:00:00:00, which is OK to use as well.

The challenge is to quickly find and replace all of those full-stops with colons, without changing any full stops in the actual text for the subtitle. In the file I got there were many!

Second is the use of a line numbering system – and using a colon to boot!

Then there is the matter of missing tab marks, commas and the use of line breaks… It really was a mess, and would be a serious contender for making use of a subtitling application such as Belle Nuit. However, all I had was Microsoft Excel and BBEdit (which I don’t use a lot and am not sure of the capabilities).

So, the first thing I did was import into Excel and use the colon as a field separator. I could then remove the line numbering pretty easily. This left the remaining timecode in different columns with one having the seconds and frames in. As long as the excel columns are formatted as text (and not the default ‘general’ format) anything you type will appear as you type it. A quick find and replace in that column changing full-stops for colons should have sorted it, but it caused Excel to add in a further set of characters. Odd, but not too much of an issue. I copied the column and used find and replace in BBEdit instead, copying that back in to the Excel column. I could then copy the split timecode columns in the same way, using BBEdit to concatenate them back into the right format. The code came back in to Excel like this:

00:00:15:16

Perfick!

Next was to sort out the text fields. Saving out of Excel as a .txt file, I reimported it but this time used a space character as the field separator. This gave me a start code, an end code and then a word in each column for each line. I had already removed the line breaks earlier in BBEdit. By copying the columns containing the words and pasting into BBEdit I got a tab character between each word. I could then find and replace those for spaces. All looked good, so I copied it back into Excel and put it into a single column.

The last step was to add a column between the two sets of timecode, and the second timecode and the text. In both of these I used find and replace in Excel to write a comma instead of having an empty cell. Easy.

From here I could simply highlight all of the columns and copy the content into BBEdit, where I ran a few final checks to make sure everything was where it should be. The Excel format ensured there were tab marks between timecodes and commas, so I simply saved and used the .stl extension.

This imported into DVD Studio Pro with no problems, although the same file saved with a .txt extension didn’t work. No matter, as long as one format worked that was all I needed. Job done!

The thing to remember here is that if you have got the subtitles in an external text based file you can easily adjust the time codes or move things around. Excel is particularly useful for this kind of work. However, if you type the subtitles directly in to DVD Studio Pro you will have a job manipulating them at any level.

Too late? You already have typed them in to DVDSP? OK – it’s not dreadful. Export an item description for the track and use the nifty ‘Subtitler’ app from version tracker to import your file. You can then export a valid .stl file from there and save that for future use.

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