Sunday, September 5, 2010

Subtitle Software Bundle Part I - Four subtitle software I've been using for original creation/modifying ((09052010 update)

Subtitle Software Bundle Part I - Three subtitle software I've been using for original creation/modifying
(I originally intended to just introduce the software here, but looks like I have some more to add, so this will be Part I then...)
09052010 update: Introduction of avs2bdnxml v1.13
06152009 update: Some settings of Aegisub is provided
So here are four subtitle software I've been using: Subtitle workshop, AegisubmaestroSBT and avs2bdnxml v1.13. All of them are freeware.

Subtitle workshop:
It is the easiest and simplest subtitle tool around, everything is just so intuitive for this software. The latest version is 4 which supports rendering subpictures for high definition media (HD-DVD/Blu-ray). But I'm still stick with v2.51 which released way back in 2005... This tool mainly targets DVD production, it doesn't support advanced SSA/ASS karaoke function. Actually it destroys all the fancy karaoke function in the original SSA/ASS script once you load the subtitle... This is the reason I keep looking for another good subtitle software until I found the Aegisub which I'll talk about later. Subtitle workshop also works best in conjunction with maestroSBT since it outputs the most compliant SSA v.4 style scripts.

The great feature stands out from other subtitle softwares being the following:
1. Easy timing, ctrl+c for start, ctrl+v for stop, yes it's that easy
2. Can change the FPS on the fly, this is a very essential function for DVD production
3. Easy delay adjustment
4. Has a video player supports quite a few video/audio formats including mkv
5. Error detection such as long sentences, time collision, etc...
6. Vast subtitle formats output, almost any DVD authoring tool, you name it!
There are also three major shorcomings:
1. Only supports ANSI codes, no unicode support
2. Doesn't support advanced SSA/ASS script such as karaoke, and truncate any of those codes when importing!
3. Can not show subtitles with time collison, only the first one will show
Here is a screenshot for subtitle workshop:
subtitletoolworkshop.jpg picture by linkai8424
Bottom line:
If you intend to produce home-brew DVDs, this is a must have! (in conjunction with maestroSBT)

This is a relatively new tool, but it's already been widely used by Fansub groups (but not so popular in China since people got another tool called popsub, originally developed by kuti from popgo forum - a forum dedicated for fansubbing, probably one of the biggest fansubbing distributor in China). Back to Aegisub, it's really powerful, and more oriented towards fansubbing (specifically ASS as what the faq said) since its outstanding supports for SSA/ASS advanced scripts. I have only been playing around this tool recently, and start to like it more and more, most importantly it has all the essential functions from subtitle workshop.
It has the following features which I liked:
1. Can read subtitles directly from mkv file
2. Can extract sound from mkv file and show the waveform for easier timing, also has supports for a few video/audio formats
3. It can convert framerate as export to a new file, not as convenient as subtitle workshop, but it's there...
4. Unicode support
5. Has internal spell checking
Again there are cons:
1. Supports ASS format exclusively, no other format output...
2. Very powerful, but not as intuitive, has a bit learning curve
3. No on-the-fly framerate change
Here is a screenshot for Aegisub:
subtitletoolaegis1.jpg picture by linkai8424
Here is a screenshot for Aegisub with wav spectrum read directly from mkv file:
subtitletoolaegis3.jpg picture by linkai8424
Here is the exporting menu, framerate can be changed here only:
subtitletoolaegis2.jpg picture by linkai8424
Bottom line:
A powerful software designed for fansubbing, not the easist to use, great support for mkv and ASS.
Well, here are some simple settings that will speed up the syncing process a bit:

So basically I mapped the most used keys from F1 to F5. F1 go back a line, F2 play the current line, F3 go next line, F4 commit change and stay current line, F5 play last 500ms. The tradeoff to this settings is that I’m currently losing “2” on the big keyboard area, but it’s still accessible on keypad.

Next is to set the highlight line in yellow, which makes current line stands out better than the original lake bluish color.


This is not really a subtitle timing tool, but rather a subtitle rendering tool. So the timing part has to be done in other sofrware. The development has been halt for 2 years, the last build is released back in 2005. It is designed for advanced DVD authoring tool such as DVDMaestro or scenarist, but can also be used for free tools such as muxman.
It has the following great features:
1. Supports unicode and ANSI (can save files with foreign character with unicode though)
2. Supports multiple styles, thus can have different fonts/colors (colors are limited at three at the same time if no boarder, two at the same time if has boarder due to the limitation of DVD spec)
3. Supports subtitles with time collision (reported bug used with muxman though)
4. Supports 16:9 subtitles with aspect ratio corrected (even on some commercial DVDs we still see squashed subtitles!)
5. Supports Frame input and output for NTSC non-drop frame
6. Multiple resolution support, can even custom resolution
There are also two cons:
1. As a great software for DVD, it is a bit outdated for rendering high definition subtitles although doable but only with awfully four colors... This software hasn't been updated for more than two years now!
2. Need to set files, timing every time loaded, a liitle bit inconvenience...
Here is a screenshot for MaestroSBT:
maestrosbt0.jpg picture by linkai8424
The software supports both unicode and ANSI, but when dealing with scripts with foreign characters from subtitle workshop (ANSI), have to convert the file to unicode, or MaestroSBT will just report save failure... For pure English characters, unicode and ANSI both work fine. It takes me a while to figure out this useful feature(button)...
maestrosbt1.jpg picture by linkai8424
It can output different resolution, and has fix for 16:9 widescreen DVDs, normally you have to render two different subtitles for widescreen DVDs, one for 4:3, one for 16:9. If only one is done, the subtitle will look ugly squashed either in a 16:9 TV or a 4:3 CRT TV depends which one is missing...
maestrosbt2.jpg picture by linkai8424
Framerate input and output control, for NTSC non-drop frame, the input is always 29.97 and output is 30, or the subtitle won't match the video/audio; if dropped frame, input and output should both be 29.97.
maestrosbt3.jpg picture by linkai8424
This is where the software really shines, multiple styles and time collisions make the DVD subtitle look actually a bit like SSA/ASS on computers, no karaoke support though.
maestrosbt4.jpg picture by linkai8424
This is how the new file (2.ssa) compares with the old file (1.ssa), even all the position info are saved (not in the screenshot):
maestrosbt5.jpg picture by linkai8424
Bottom line:
Must have software if you want to have a professional looking DVD! Hope there will be some updates (better rendering quality) when the high definition authoring are more adopted to the public.
Avs2bdnxml v1.13 

This tool was written by ps-auxw from doom9. It took us almost a year to fix all the bug and add some advanced features that no where to be found on even some of the commercial software. So here is the final version v1.13 which is the first version that can generate very decent Blu-ray pictures without much bug as far as my testing goes. Where it shines is its support for ssa/ass format. Unlike MaestroSBT, this tool uses vsfilter to generate its subs, so there’s no conversion. Everything from the ssa/ass side is preserved. But this is also where the problem occurs since Blu-ray doesn’t have big enough decoding buffer (4MB) to accommodate the pictures it generate. This tool generates pictures by detecting any changes from the vsfilter, so if there’s constantly rapid changing of color or position, it will generate picture frame by frame which Blu-ray don’t like.
It has the following great features:
1. Supports 8bit 256 color png or 32bit true color png.
2. Supports non-drop time frame automatically, does NOT support drop time frames.
3. Can do picture cropping and dual window slicing which are very important features for Blu-ray buffer optimization.
4. Can do splitting to specified frames to improve video time searching (only found on Japanese releases).
5. Works extremely well with Aegisub and Sonic Scenarist BD.
1. The ssa/ass format pragmatic approach is NOT very compatible for Blu-ray, so users have to be aware of the limitations in order to not overflowing the buffer.
2. Dos only, no GUI.
3. Deank’s easySUP trying to integrate this with BDSup2Sub which the latter CANNOT generate Blu-ray subpictures correctly. But unfortunately very few people know the true limitation of BDSup2Sub. It’s a big disservice to avs2bdnxml with good intention.
4. Cannot generate *.sup which also hinders its usage (not everyone is using or willing to learn how to use Scenarist BD…)
Final thoughts:

So here are the FOUR software I've been using, they are all great software thanks to the authors.

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