High quality video with clear subtitles: JW Mediaplayer

With a new year upon us, I want to share a new technological improvement that may benefit some vloggers in 2008.  I found a better way to display high quality video with clear subtitles that are easily readable. 

Caution: this post is intended for the few pro-amateur or professional vloggers who host their own video clips so they can have full control of their video clips.  This post is not for those who depend upon youTube or other similar video hosting sites.  For youTubers, please visit Overstream which accomplishes the same thing that I will be covering in this post.

AutoGK: less than optimal way of creating subtitled video
My original method of creating subtitled video with AutoGK involved the time-consuming step of re-encoding a video clip with subtitles burnt into the video.  Because the subtitles encoding requires another round of compression of the video clip, there is always a degradation in the quality of the video.  This is an example of how blurry the subtitled video can become as result of this method.  The subtitles are readable, but just barely!

JW Mediaplayer: the ideal approach for subtitled video on the web
My dream was to have an online video player that could load the the original high quality video footage that is specially compressed for web and also load a separate text file of the subtitles then displaying both the video and the subtitles at the same time.  I found an online video player, JW mediaplayer which does exactly this!

There are several benefits to using JW mediaplayer

  1. The additional step of re-encoding the video for hard subtitles becomes unnecessary, which cuts down on the time required to produce the subtitled video and get it up on the Internet for distribution.
  2. In addition to the time saved by avoiding the re-encoding, the video stays at its original quality level because no further compression is needed.
  3. If there is a mistake in the subtitles, it’s easy to make a correction in the subtitles text file which is kept separate from the video.
  4. The online video player will render the subtitles in a crispy and easy to read font, no matter the viewing screen size.

I have created a short vlog using the JW mediaplayer method so you can get an idea of how clear subtitles can appear on an online video clip.  Be sure to click the full-screen icon (next to the T icon) to see how easily readable the subtitles are, despite the bigger video screen size.

CNN, Netflix, and other professional media companies, are you listening?  The fact that there is open source software that makes it so easy to plaster the subtitles on top of your not-yet-subtitled media content effectively removes all technical barriers and there are no more excuses.  The only thing left is for you all to get your butts moving on making the video sections on your website more accessible for the rest of us who want the subtitled version.

List of useful software if you want to create similar subtitled video:

JW mediaplayer: The flash-based movie player which is capable of loading a FLV (Flash) movie and subtitles file in the SRT format. (helpful tip: make sure mediaplayer.swf is hosted on the same domain as your subtitles files!)

FFmpeg: The open source (free) program to convert a video from several formats into FLV (flash).  Expensive video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere, Sorenson Squeeze, or Final Cut Pro can save a video clip as a FLV movie.

URUSoft’s Subtitle Workshop: The awesome subtitling program (for PCs) to create the SRT formatted subtitles file.  I love this program because you can first create a text file with all the subtitles without worrying about the time coding.  You can then fire up Subtitle Workshop, load the incomplete subtitle file and start playing the video in a small window.  You can just focus on setting the start/end time of each subtitles, which makes the subtitling fast to do.

SubRiP and SCC: For professional media companies, they can use SubRip (for English Subtitles) or SCC (for Line 21 captioning) to automatically convert the subtitles/captioning off their original TV or DVD content into SRT formatted subtitles for the online version.

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