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Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:

COW Library : Apple DVD Studio Pro : Jiggy Gaton : Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:
CreativeCOW presents Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:  -- Apple DVD Studio Pro Review


Phoenix Studios
Kathmandu Nepal
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


As a film editor who works with a lot with international clients(some of whom even raise livestock),I often get the question "Can I have this subtitled in [xyz] language?" At which point I usually cringe and say "Sure thing." I cringe not because I don't like doing subtitles, or that I personally have a hard time reading and listening at the same time. I cringe because of the state of subtitling and closed-captioning applications - and the implementation of these functions into our modern-day editing suites. Take for example FCP Studio, where I can live all day long -- but when it comes to subtitling inside little-bitty DVDSP dialog boxes, to be honest, I would rather be out cleaning the barn.

This roundup of Mac titlers is for those of you looking for an alternative, outside the bounds of your NLE or favorite DVD creator, and for folks who would like to find an easy-to-use application for your next (or perhaps first) subtitling or close-captioning project. This review is for someone new to the art, or who just wants to get there without jumping through a lot of lasso hoops. After all, that barn does need a good shoveling!


The Nature of the Beast

Before approaching the merits and demerits of a few particular apps, it's best to go over the basic nature of subtitles and closed captions. In the wild these are different animals, but the apps used to wrangle them are often the same. And at the end of the rodeo, the result is this: viewers see textual notes over bits of footage, for a precise duration of time.

One way to think of subtitling / captioning is to think of the metadata you create when you catalogue photos - this information is not stored inside your photo, but is still available to be displayed along with your photo, for example, in such applications as Adobe Lightroom or Apple's Aperture.

Only this class of metadata is a special case: these types of titles have to be overlaid onto your moving pictures at say 25 frames per second or whatever the case may be. This presents several technological challenges:

  1. Text (as the simplest format for a subtitle) and digital footage mix like oil and water.
  2. The text has to match either the audio or the video or both during the display. For example translation subtitles match the audio dialogue, while closed captions match dialog and video events - 'Dog Barks.'
  3. Titling applications need to be robust enough to work with a myriad of tools - think FCP vs. DVD vs. QuickTime vs. Digital Cinema vs. TV Broadcasting equipment vs. Flash vs. - u name it, it's needed. In addition, there is even strange hardware associated with this activity, like foot-pedals for the speedy entry of titles in high-production situations.


Animal Behavior

To cope with this varied and often wild set of behaviors, programmers have had to breed different types of wranglers to meet the demands of producers. For example, some tools are better at converting metadata to bitmap overlays that work with NLEs (that's the mixing of oil with the water), and other tools are better at keeping the metadata aside so that titles can be streamed separate from the visuals - think "Late Breaking News" on the bottom of your TV screen.

The jargon for this rodeo goes something like this:

  • Hard- titles burned into the video frame, as in Karaoke tracks. Hard is often called "Open captioning." All viewers see the titles, all the time.
  • Pre-Rendered - titles burned onto another separate but overlaid track, as is done for translation purposes in DVD applications.
  • Soft- titles that are marked-up as text, and are independent of the video track, as with fansubs so commonly found with Anime, or in applications that have to share the soft title with each other before final rendering. Soft is often called "Closed captioning." These are only seen by viewers who choose to see them.

The type of title used (hard, soft, etc.) has ramifications. Quality and portability come to mind. Can you guess which of the type has the best quality? Correct, hard. But can you imagine making 3 versions of your feature film, each with hard-coded subtitles, and them trying to cram it all onto a single-layer DVD? No, but using a tool that can pass 3 language tracks - either hard or pre-rendered - to your NLE or DVD creator that can then mix them with your one movie track, makes it all fit just fine. Make sense so far?

If not, not to worry.The subtext (sic) here is that picking the perfect titler involves knowing a lot about what type of titling jobs are in your future, and what types of software and hardware you are most likely going to be using.

Mac subtitle softwarePersonally, my current interest is in translation titles only; most of our productions are in Nepali, with English audiences. But if you're budget-minded like I am, you'll want to find just one app that does it all, and that allows you to grow as your client's needs do.

Well, let's see if there is just such a beastlike that in the wild...


The Herd

When I first started researching titler apps for Mac setups, I was dismayed at the selection. I found only four worthy of note, and compared with the thousands of plug-ins, for say tinting video or making it flip &f lop, that seemed like pretty slim pickin's.But the four I did manage to corral for this review are:

Each has their own unique interface & feature set. This collection is not as much a herd as it is a pack of remotely related beasts!

Beastly Looks

Call me superficial, but how an app looks and interacts with my mouse is important to me, especially if I am going to spend hours working that beast of burden. There was one clear winner here:

Annotation Edit's interface

Annotation Edit with its slick controller interface and Leopard-like interface. Click the image to see the full-size image.

Annotation Edit has a slick and professional interface, and is a joy to work with. Within a few minutes I was riding high in the saddle like I had never before fallen off. This interface behaves just as you would expect from any quality Leopard application.

Coming up just slightly from the rear is Miyu, with a clean & simple look and feel that even your kid could handle.

Interface for Miyu Mac subtitle software

However, the worst icon award (ever) has to go to Miyu, whose icon reminds me of a deer tick biting thru a bit of celluloid.

Miyu

Tagging along after that would be SubBits, whose interface lies somewhere between almost understandable and not. Help file required, and thankfully provided.

Subbits Mac subtitling software interface
Click image for full-size version

Tied with SubBits for last in the interface department is Belle Nuit; belle de nuit is French for flower, bird, or prostitute depending on where you look, and the Belle Nuit interface is as contradictory as that.

Belle Nuit Mac subtitle softwareThe Belle Nuit Interface: packs it in, but at what cost?


This interface is one that you will either lover or hate; Belle packs in a lot function in just two or three windows. However, the inability to see, let alone edit the subtitles, right over the video preview (as with the latter 3 apps) was a turning point for me. I just don't like using this interface, but there are a lot of reasons why you would...


Reacting to Captivity

But regardless of how an app looks and feels, the important question is "Does it rope the steer at hand?" And the answer for this set of title-stomping bulls is yes; they all get the job done, one way or another, even if it feels like you have just been bareback bronc-ing. But ultimately, putting aside thetechnical kicks of titling - it is a relatively easy process:

  1. Spot some text in your app at appropriate points on a timeline while watching the visuals.
  2. Format the text as required - do you prefer yellow text or white text, shadowed or not? Should the titles be centered or left justified? Etc. Etc.
  3. Export the titles in the appropriate format for your final destination. For example, as tiff overlay frames for your NLE, or as text that is going to eaten by another program in your workflow.

Basic Instincts

To spot your text, you need to be looking at your footage, and to have an editor that will precisely map strings of text to a timecode (in/out points), based on your timeline. FCP can do that, but without any native automation. Yet for something that sounds so simple I was amazed by how difficult programmers have made this basic task. My first instinct was to exit the bucking chute from the backside when I saw the various representations of spotting timelines in these products. The wildest was in Belle Nuit, which is just eye torturing.

Belle Nuit timeline
The Belle Nuit Timeline: what is that thing?!?

But despite all the eye pain, Avid users will be pleased to find a timesaver with the included Avid Helper tool. And there is one important thing to note about Belle Nuit: this Swiss army knife of titlers supports more ins and outs then you can Google. (See below.) So let's keep that in the bullpen and go on....


Belle Nuit's export options
Belle Nuit's Generous List of Export Options

Worse then any of Belle's usability problems, is SubBits stability problems. I kept getting program errors, making it difficult to review this app. There is a beta Version 4 on the developer's website, but at first try, the beta did not seem to help. I can only suggest checking back there later.

Subbits Mac subtitle software
Forget titling - SubBits cleans your basement!

But despite SubBit's bucking and kick'in, it has one hidden feature that will give any seasoned FCP editor one wild rodeo ride: SubBits has supplied its 'B template that allows you to create subtitles right on the FCP timeline, instead of the normal workflow of pre-rendering titles and importing as sequences into FCP. Pretty darn slick - just right mouse and select edit 'Bsubtitle.


Subbit's 'B feature
The SubBits'B feature gives you a smooth ride to working within FCP

Roping down Miyu was simple enough, but I don't see much point with going on about it, as I discovered that the product is no longer supported nor being developed. To say more would be like feeding a dead horse, but what I found interesting about this product is that Miyu was going in the right direction - user friendly wise - but stopped just short of being useful and mainstream. It's a free download and interesting to play with nonetheless.

Doing any titling work with Annotation Edit is grand, functionally speaking, as well as being visually pleasing. As mentioned earlier, the interface is a charm, but the beauty lies in the FCP Studio workflow, where Annotation Edit can roundtrip title work back and forth between itself, FCP, and DVDSP - and it works flawlessly. While spotting and logging, you can even use your Apple Remote! So if you are a FCP editor, then this may be one cowboy boot that fits both feet: editing on the left, and titling on the right.

One other note on this thoroughbred, if you have a large workgroup you can contact the developers about contracting Annotation Studio - which is this product plus workgroup server integration. A large production house doing titles day in and day out would want to check this out.

Mac subtitling software comparison and ratings

The Roundup @ the OK (and not so ok) Corral

Mac Subtitle Software Comparison

Mac subtitling software ratings

One last note from this city-slicker subtitler, who sees the whole process of titling using any tool as eye-glazing as soon as I start straying from the familiar green pastures of FCP, DVDSP, and simple translations. Things get a bit hairy and wild once other extra-ordinary workflows are attempted (I can imagine my foot getting stuck in the foot pedal, just like it does in stirrups). I feel weak and want to head for the bunkhouse just thinking about these kinds of tasks, but then I remember the words of the great motivational rancher Jackson Brown: "In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins, not through strength but by perseverance."



Jiggy Gaton is an expat living in Kathmandu Nepal, running a small A/V studio with family and dog. He is an author/cartoonist, filmmaker, and overall geek from way back. Not the kind of geek who would ever be sitting in a Star Trek Captain's chair - more likely to be sitting on the back of a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet somewhere out in the middle of the Himalayas - but only when he's not behind his Macbook Pro hacking out whatever needs to be done in the studio.

And hey, if you've ever wondered what it's like to run a studio in Kathmandu, check out Jiggy's COW Blog, as well as more great stuff by the rest of the herd.


Comments

Re: Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:
by Christopher Smith
Carlos, we use Annotation Edit extensively here (4-6 licenses). The changes to font, size, and color will affect your output, but not your preview window. The preview window settings are separate.

Annotation Edit is robust, and also takes in anything we throw at it, and exports the format we need (so it's great not just for subtitling and captioning, but also for format conversion).

The video can be exported with the subtitles as open captions, as a Quicktime movie. There are settings for that as well.

The Zeitanker support is excellent, and extremely fast.

Christopher Smith

CBN International
@Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:
by Carlos Angeli
Hi there,

Just bumping here to ask if any of you guys have tried Annotation Edit. I'm testing it right now, but I can't seem to edit the font, size and color of the text. I changed the text properties but I dont' see changes in the preview.

Also, I'd like to know if the video can be exported with the subtitles hard coded in it.

Thanks
Re: Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:
by Matt Hollis
Hey Jiggy, great article. Although I have a workflow problem that it doesn't quite answer. But reading your post, If you have the time, I think you could be just the man to help/answer/point me in the right direction.

Im making a video for a charity based in Switzerland, who help schools in Nepal. So I've shot it in French, and need to apply English and Nepali subs. English are sorted but surprise surprise, Im having trouble with the Nepali.

Cutting in FCP x, I have loaded in Nepali font fine. But I can't actually cut and paste Nepali font the text box. This is just a test I've done, on one word without yet having the script translated. So even if I did get it translated I've now way of getting it into fcp. I can type in english text and it appears on the screen in Nepali, but obviously this isn't a translation which would mean anything.

Do you see my problem, Can you help me please?

cheers

Matt
Nepali subtitle
by Neil Sadwelkar
Matt,

Sorry to butt in since the question is for Jiggy. And he's probably in a better position to answer since he's in Nepal. But this is a rather old article and old thread. So I'm not sure he'll see it, hence I'm stepping in, if you don't mind.

The way I would do this is to provide the translator with an Excel spreadsheet with the English lines in one column. The translator reads them and types the Nepalese lines in an adjacent column. One Nepalese line per English line. Provided he or she has a system than can handle Nepalese typing.

From this spreadsheet, one can export a tab delimited document and use something like Title Exchange Pro to make an XML for FCP. I've done this some time ago with Indian languages but for FCP 7. But I'm sure there must be a similar method for FCP X. Alternately one could possibly try to convert the FCP 7 XML to FCP X XML using 7toX.

Hope this works for you. I could help by doing the Excel to XML conversions if you like.

By the way, in India where I'm from, the word 'Nepali' is not used any more. We say 'Nepalese'. 'Nepali' is sort of derogatory in Indian languages. Sort of like the other 'N-word'.

-----------------------------------
Neil Sadwelkar
neilsadwelkar.blogspot.com
twitter: fcpguru
FCP Editor, Edit systems consultant
Mumbai India
@Neil Sadwelkar
by Matt Hollis
Hi Neil, Thanks so much for getting back to me on this. I'm going to try that method. And many thanks on putting me straight on using not using 'Nepalese'. I've had real problems coming from Swiss French translations for many words that seem to cause offence. Much appreciated.
best
Matt
@Matt Holli
by Andreas Kiel
Matt,

Same as Neil I chime in without being asked. Sorry.

The workflow Neil described will work at least for FCP legacy.
With FCPX it's a little bit different cause of the different FCP XML format and title handling. In your case the 7toX won't.

So with Excel or Numbers etc setup something like Neil described:
tc in (column 1), tc out (column 2), text English (column 3), text translated to Nepalese (column 4)

After translation is done export:
(column 1) & comma & (column 2) & comma & (column 4)

The resulting file looks like a "Spruce Text List" STL format.
You can download my X-Title Importer (XTI) http://www.spherico.com/filmtools/TitleExchange/XTI/index.html
and convert this file into an fcpxml.

But there is an big BUT because of above mentioned title handling with FCPX.
FCPX always imports the basic title Motion templates – and there is no template with a Nepalese font. This can cause problems or even a crash.

Here what can do. After installing XTI you will find some more title templates in FCPX which are located under Spherico.
Open your "favorite one" in Motion, change the font, and save it under a different name like "Nepalese TextUp". Then follow the instructions from the XTI manual to create template. From there you can go.

If got further questions send me an email (the address can be found in the XTI manual)

-Andreas

Spherico
http://www.spherico.com/filmtools
X-Files Pro, tools for working with FCPX
http://www.spherico.com/filmtools/X-Files/index.html

"He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby
become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will
also gaze into thee." - Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
@Andreas Kiel
by Matt Hollis
Hi Andreas, thanks for your reply, much appreciated. I hope you don't mind me asking another question, as I don't have motion installed. I have imported the Nepalese font and it does seem to work on fcpx 10.0.6. Would I still have to get Motion to import the XML do you think?

On another note, I Like your Nietzsche quote, I live in the Swiss alps near where the great man walked when constructing his theories. Some people say that his philosophy stemmed from his bad luck with women. Although interestingly they also say that his moustache was so big and intimidating, no girl would come near him. Maybe if he had shaved we wouldn't have such fine thinking to ponder...

best
matt
@Matt Holli
by Andreas Kiel
Hi Matt,

You don't need Motion to import the fcpxml file.
But it's a good idea to have it in case some template won't work with non roman fonts or languages on importing the fcpxml (means FCPX won't handle this combination)
As said you can contact me – we are living in the same timezone, so it's pretty easy.

-Andrea

Spherico
http://www.spherico.com/filmtools
X-Files Pro, tools for working with FCPX
http://www.spherico.com/filmtools/X-Files/index.html

"He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby
become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will
also gaze into thee." - Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Re: Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:
by Michael Schafer
Jiggs,

I notice the date aside your article reads 2009. Do you have any more recent information regarding subtitling SW?

Michael
Re: Mac Subtitling Software Round-up:
by Andre Welkin
Hi there Jiggy

Not sure what to say but wow that is complicated. If i may ask do you maybe know of a programme that can extract Sub titles from a finished Authored DVD, as i am doing work for client that need the disc redone in a new fashion, i can do all the rest but the Subtitles are a major stress for me. If maybe you know of something i will appreciate it. All i need is to extract it from the Disc and re insert it into DVSP and then finish up the disc, also the video durations stays the same i dont change thast.
@Andre Welkin
by Jiggy Gaton
Hmmm... a finished DVD? I think you only think you will find there are VOBs in the Video and Audio folders no? Those are rendered and compressed video files as far as I know. But I have never done what you are attempting, so perhaps others can help. If what I suspect is true (it's just plain video on the DVD), you would have to use one of the above tools, and rip the DVD into movies, and then use those as a guide to recreate the titles into a file that DVSP can injest, matching that up with you source.

But I could be totally out to lunch...today I am developing a drupal website for the first time and my brain is all caked up in PHP and SQL tables...

Cheers!
jigs

Phoenix Studios Nepal: A small A/V Production House in Kathmandu.
@Jiggy Gaton
by Jiggy Gaton
OMG, I can't believe I just made that many typos in one post. Apologies - it's PHP and too much caffeine!

Phoenix Studios Nepal: A small A/V Production House in Kathmandu.
@Jiggy Gaton
by Andre Welkin
Hi there Jiggy


many thanx man appreciate the response, maybe with some luck somebody might have some easy way of doing it.

Later
Should have added MovCaptioner to the lineup
by Jake Robbins
MovCaptioner is a low-cost Mac s/w for creating variety of caption formats including SCC captions for FCP and DVDSP. It also can do Flash captions, STL, SUB, SRT for YouTube, embedded QT Text, and others. I can also output transcripts in text or html form as well. http://www.synchrimedia.com
Chinese Characters?
by Vicky Mohieddeen
Hi, this is a great round up but I have a question about Miyu - if you export as STL text to go into DVD SP how can you avoid the titles coming up all symbols instead of characters? We are in Beijing and do a lot of subtitling and it's a real pain (I now have to open as a text file and save as .rtf and then import but this way I lose some characters off the beginning of some lines) I thought it was just cos subtitle files were comng from Subtitle workshop (windows programme) but now same issue with Miyu...
Just make sure they are interpreted
by Andreas Kiel
Just make sure they are interpreted as UTF16 and do not use RTF.

Andreas
SUBTITLER Round-up
by Tim Wilson
The inclusion of the words "closed caption" in the article's original title was my mistake, as the one who posted the article. As you can see from the title graphic, as well as the URL of the article -- as well as from the article itself, and Jiggy's comment -- the article had nothing whatsoever to do with closed caption. Strictly open caption.

My thanks for pointing this out. I have now updated the title to reflect what the article is actually about. :-)

Now that we have clarified that the article is strictly about OPEN captioning, I thought it was outstanding. I've not seen anything as thorough, anywhere.
Mac Subtitler & closed caption software round-up
by Joseph Owens
Seems like you're a few dogies short of a herd.

Part of the tile was "closed caption"... and yet? no mention other than "we don't do that here"... hmmm...

So do you know what a .scc file is?

jPo
No problem. Thanks for the useful
by Andrew Saliga
No problem.

Thanks for the useful advice and article. Turns out I'm outputting CC to tape, but I'm sure subtitling will come up soon enough.
Output
by Jiggy Gaton
Andrew, just noticed ur post! My favorite workflow involving DVDSP is to just bring the movie into annotation edit, create the subtitles, say export, and there will be an option for sending to FCP at the bottom of that screen. On export is where you do the formatting of the sub, then boom, it's a layer you can add over your film in FCP. Then export to DVDSP as usual. We don't do CC here, so I can't help you with that:)
correction
by Andrew Saliga
Sorry, but .SIT I meant .STL.
Output
by Andrew Saliga
So I'm trying to grasp the workflow for subtitling and closed captioning.

If I were to create closed captions with one of these programs, does it result in a .SIT file or can I render out an MPEG-2 with it encoded within?

What is the standard workflow (in a nutshell) if I were to be authoring in DVDSP? I'm also assuming this would be different if the end result is broadcast, in which case I'm assuming the CC data is embedded into the MPEG-2.
TitleExchange Pro !!!
by Ernesto Crvalo
I would just like to add a strong vote for TitleExchange Pro. I work with indigenous video-makers in Brazil (http://www.videonasaldeias.org.br) and we cut extensive footage shot in indigenous languages which we have to translate into portuguese in order to edit. And then, we finalize works in 5 languages DVDs (PORT, ENG, ESP, FRA, ITA). After researching a lot, by far the best solution I found was Andreas' Title Exchange Pro. Along with Inqscribe, it helped in both ends, editing (the extensive subtitled sequences) and finalizing the DVDs from FCP to DVD Studio Pro etc. Initially we had some common trouble related to DF and NDF, but then a contact with Andreas Kiel solved it rapidly. The many possible formats are amazing.
Mac Subtitler & Closed-Caption Software Round-up:
by Andreas Kiel
Hi Neil,

You should update to the lastest version of TitleExchange and you'll get more formats to convert from and to - so you can offer better services ;-)

Cheers
Andreas
@ TIM
by Jiggy Gaton
Thx for that Tim! One thing about asking questions, you gotta know the right place to look for answers. The Cow IS the place for that...
Jigs
Mac Subtitler & Closed-Caption Software Round-up:
by Tim Wilson
Hey, I think this is an awesome article. You can look back through the COW archives and see that people have been asking these questions for YEARS. Quite remarkable to have so many answers in one place.
Thanks:
by Jiggy Gaton
Thx for the offer, you do the same if you get up to Kathmandu for some trekking or to climb Everest. We go down to Mumbia often, but never this time of year...much too hot for us. Well, I better stop commenting here, as I see the cow rating is going down each time that I do :-)
Mac Subtitler & Closed-Caption Software Round-up:
by Neil Sadwelkar
I agree with you. We should subtitle more Indian films.

When you're in Mumbai do drop by at our post house Pixion. And if you don't have any plans in Mumbai, you should make some.

Neil
Neil:
by Jiggy Gaton
Hi there, are u based in Mumbai? Sounds like fun (sic) all that subtitling! Sure wish more Bollywood would subitle a lot more; I just saw Aloo Chaat and didn't get half the jokes...
Jigs
Mac Subtitler & Closed-Caption Software Round-up:
by Neil Sadwelkar
We author DVDs for commercial Indian (very long) movies all the time. We've come around a workflow where the editor and director sit and create subtitles on their FCP system. And give us the timeline. We then use Andreas Kiel's Title Exchange Pro to convert these into .stl which work inside DVDSP.

This way the guys who make the subtitles can work within a familiar environment (FCP). And video and audio can undergo any number of changes and subtitles can keep pace.

I even offer this as a service to anyone who subtitles in FCP and I do conversions to STL, TGA seq (for film and video subtitled outputs) and other formats.

And I can handle many languages even Indian languages. Through third party translation and spotting services. I have my own conversion scripts and routines to work between 24fps, 25fps and 29.97 fps from one common spotting sheet.

Neil Sadwelkar


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DVD-ROM and DVD@CCESS functions in DVD Studio Pro 2.0

DVD-ROM and DVD@CCESS functions in DVD Studio Pro 2.0

This project from Alex Alexander covers a simple sample of DVD@CCESS and DVD-ROM file storage within your DVD project. If you wish to author a DVD and provide a file or files and/or a web links such as web page or email link this tutorial will help clear up the DVD-ROM and DVD@CCESS functions in DVD Studio Pro 2.0

Tutorial
Alex Alexzander
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