Jimmy Subtitles

That should be my new nickname after all the playing with subtitles and captioning I did today. I’m officially the best at this process, now let me show you why. After ripping the Monsieur Klein DVD for this brilliant Summer of Love post, I was running into problems converting the Video Object file (.VOB) into a clean MPEG-4 with audio using MPEG Streamclip (a free software I really love for quick video editing and compression —and it works on all the major operating systems to boot). So, I knew the VLC had compression and conversion capabilities, so I actually tried it on VLC’s streaming/exporting transcoder, and it worked quite well. It cleanly took a small bit of a larger VOB file I specified using specific in and out times and compressed it into a tidy MPEG-4 file. It also promised to copy over the subtitles, which was key for Monsieur Klein, which is in French and subtitled in English, but alas that didn’t work which leads me to my experimentation with subtitled the video on YouTube. For the step-by step of my process for transcoding in VLC, see this Flickr set.

So, having converted and compressed by portion of the VOB file to MPEG 4, I still didn’t have subtitles, which I needed for this clip to make any sense in the context I was discussing it. So, I went for a search online and came up with a nice little tool for the Mac called D-Subtitler. What D-Subtitler does is pretty cool, if you have a VOB file of a DVD that has subtitles, but you can’t get them to convert and compress on another format, you can extract the subtitles from that VOB file using D-Subtitler. I tried this out on Monsieur Klein, and I was extremely impressed with how cleanly it pulled out all the subtitles and placed them in a SubRip Subtitle File (or an SRT file) all formatted and ready to go. I had to verify the images of a few letters, but the program captured all the subtitles with very few errors (I think I had to make 4 or 5 grammatical and spelling changes). What’s more, is that it gives you the format with time codes and all for creating subtitles in the SRT file that YouTube ingests cleanly. Now, given I was taken a smaller piece of a much longer file, I had to change the in and out times for each of the subtitles, but that was pretty simple once I found and changed the first timecode—and D-Subtitler gives you an editor to do it in—though it can be done in just about any text editor.

Here is what the SRT file looks like for one of my Monsieur Klein videos:

00:00:08,289 --> 00:00:09,299
I know very little about him

00:00:10,530 --> 00:00:12,480
I never saw much of him.

00:00:12,829 --> 00:00:14,670
The girl took care of everything.

00:00:15,000 --> 00:00:16,670
A brunette

00:00:16,970 --> 00:00:18,430
pretty sexy.

00:00:18,700 --> 00:00:20,750
l think she was a whore

00:00:21,109 --> 00:00:22,569
or a dancer.

00:00:24,140 --> 00:00:26,750
He only went out at night
when l was in bed.

00:00:28,680 --> 00:00:30,170
Around midnight,
after curfew

00:00:30,450 --> 00:00:31,970
l'd hear him come down the stairs.

00:00:33,519 --> 00:00:35,250
And the morning l saw him,

00:00:35,549 --> 00:00:38,950
it was about 5 a.m. ....
l was taking out the trash.

00:00:40,220 --> 00:00:41,529
There he is!

00:00:45,160 --> 00:00:48,000
You're Mr. Klein, aren't you,
from the second floor?

00:00:49,730 --> 00:00:51,190
No, l'm sorry.

00:00:52,099 --> 00:00:53,589
I'm not your Mr. Klein.

00:00:54,309 --> 00:00:55,619
Pardon me.

00:00:57,009 --> 00:00:58,299
l thought you were him.

00:00:59,880 --> 00:01:02,400
Same height, same hair, just as slim.

00:01:02,809 --> 00:01:04,390
The same look.

00:01:04,680 --> 00:01:07,259
Because l never saw
the other one's face.

00:01:09,019 --> 00:01:10,720
What do you want?

00:01:11,019 --> 00:01:13,890
l've come about the apartment.
Is it still available?

00:01:16,160 --> 00:01:18,240
- If you don't mind waiting a minute.
- Not at all.

00:01:20,059 --> 00:01:22,309
We're finished.
What about the calling card?

00:01:22,700 --> 00:01:23,569
Yes, it's right here.

00:01:24,769 --> 00:01:27,170
Wait, l'll write down
the address for his mail.

00:01:28,509 --> 00:01:31,289
- Does he still get mail?
- Yes, but not much.

00:01:31,740 --> 00:01:33,200
A newspaper, a letter.

00:01:33,480 --> 00:01:34,789
Nothing else.

00:01:38,650 --> 00:01:40,400
So you want to move in here?

00:01:40,720 --> 00:01:42,829
No, it's for a friend
who's coming to Paris.

00:01:44,660 --> 00:01:46,240
- Here you are.
-Thank you.

00:01:48,230 --> 00:01:49,690
If you hear anything, call us.

00:01:49,960 --> 00:01:51,480
Yes, certainly.

00:01:57,970 --> 00:01:59,430

00:02:02,539 --> 00:02:04,380
Do you really want
to see the apartment?

Once you save this, and after you have uploaded your video to YouTube, you can simply upload the file in the Captions and Subtitles section of your uploaded video.

And voilà, you have professional looking subtitles on your foreign film clip, which is sure to impress all the sycophantic Europhiles 🙂 Check it out:

That’s right, I did those, and after all the fun from the scene of Hitler going nuts in Downfall—a meme the film’s production company so stupidly clamped down on—I’m thinking of having students captioning and subtitling foreign films with stories of their creation for comic effect might be a fun digital storytelling project for next semester. It was surprisingly pleasurable to be subtitling these clips, possibly because the translation was done for me, and the positioning of the subtitles and how long they appear makes the narrative. I’ll have to come up with something a bit more solid, but it might have legs.

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6 Responses to Jimmy Subtitles

  1. Tony Hirst says:

    That D-subtitler tool looks fun:-)

    Reading your post, which is as playful as ever, got me thinking playfully too. In particular, it brought to mind improv comedy panel games where e.g. a video is played and the performers overdub it.

    And it just so happens there’s a tool for that, that lets you create caption files from twitter streams…


    So you could get a whole cast of people watching a film (maybe in separate locations, though starting at the same time), taking on a role each and tweeting their captions in;-)

    Digital improv….(?!)

  2. Reverend says:


    Man, that is awesome —what a cool and useful hack. I love the idea of a digital improv session, and it would be fun to do a film where there are a ton of characters, and every student gets to write their improv. I would need to see how this works in order to get a sense of the setup and how we could all see each others work. I’m also think about Woody Allen’s “What’s Up Tigerlilly.” Which could be fun to gve everyone a go at simply takng on two or three minutes of dialogue. A new level of madlibs 🙂

    Thanks Tony, you rule, as usual.

  3. Cole says:

    Here’s another option for pulling this off … one of my staff, Pat Besong, created a video showing how he does this. It is on YouTube and he uses a software package he’s written himself. Take a peek!


  4. Greg McCall says:

    Talking about subtitling projects for students you should check out Same-Language-Subtitling and my site sls4reading.com — most of these projects are student made/initiated. Also try playing with Karafun – a free karaoke program – gives a lot more control over the subtitling and is very student friendly.

  5. Tom says:

    This is much more limited but is quicker/easier and still a lot of fun. It lets you subtitle Bollywood films.

    We used it back in the day with 8th graders to re-think scenes from Romeo and Juliet. It worked really well.

    I think Tony’s idea ought to be incorporated into the next faculty academy/improv institute.

  6. Reverend says:


    I love the Bollywood subtitler, and I forgot about that until now. Also, I agree, @Tony’s karaokeexample is brilliant, we do need to try thisfor next year.

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