Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Simplest way to Display Subtitles in VLC Media Player

Last week end one of my friends called me to ask a simple query:

I’ve an English movie video (.avi file). I am finding it difficult to follow the movie due to not so familiar accent. How can I display the subtitles/captioning in English or in any other language of my choice in my laptop computer?

He also informed me that he searched but couldn’t follow the instructions as there were so much information presented in a not so user friendly manner. Almost all of them were talking about some unfamiliar terms such as downloading third party codecs, framerates & strange file extension types.

I personally don’t prefer to watch a movie with subtitles until there are compelling reasons as it takes more than half of our focus from the subject of the movie to the subtitles. Yes, we miss the finer expressions and most of the background while trying to keep up with the subtitles. Definitely we enjoy it best when the most important sense organs i.e. eyes & ears are functioning simultaneously! Unfortunately, in case of subtitles only our eyes work. That’s the reason it was primarily meant to help viewers who were deaf and hard-of-hearing to follow the dialog. Same Language Subtitling (SLS) is extensively used in India by national television broadcaster, Doordarshan, with the primary aim to shore up literacy rates in India!

There are at least 100s of ways to watch a movie with subtitles/captioning in different players and in different devices. But for the scenario given above, what’s the simplest way to watch a movie with subtitles?

Here, I assume the following:-

  • No statistics to support, but I wildly guess that most of us have installed VLC media player in our laptop or desktop computers. Its one of my favorite media players and definitely NOT for the sole reason that it’s free.
  • One more wild guess, most of the movies circulated today (though unethical, it’s socially acceptable; it seems!) in public domain are avi / divx files.

Display the subtitles for avi / divx movie in only 4 Steps

    1. Google search for the following keywords: download [your movie name].srt. For example to download srt for Titanic type: Download Most popular subtitle provider is OpenSubtitles.
    2. Download the .srt file of your movie from the website of your choice.
    3. Click & play the avi/divx file of your movie in VLC media player (Preferably in the latest version: VLC media player 1.0.2 Goldeneye)
    4. Now simply *drag & drop the .srt file you’ve just downloaded into your VLC media player screen. The subtitles are there. Simple; isn’t it!

If you are finding it difficult to follow the step # 4, here’s a more formal way of doing it:-

    • In VLC media player go to Video > Subtitles Track > Open File > A dialog box named Open Subtitles will appear > Select the .srt file > Click on button Open of dialog box. You’ve successfully attached your chosen language subtitles to your movie.

How to Disable the Subtitles

  • Play the movie in VLC media player > go to Video > Subtitles Track > Disable.

How to solve Out of Sync Subtitles issue

  • Out of Sync Subtitles are a headache. The simplest way to solve any synchronization issue is to find a suitable .srt file for your copy of the movie. It may happen that a single movie is released in multiple flavors based on geographical location. For e.g. Life is Beautiful had 6 releases in 3 different languages. If your .srt file is out of sync with the movie, most often it means that you are NOT using the appropriate .srt file for your copy of the release.
  • The more sophisticated & efficient way to solve .srt file synchronization issue is by using free subtitle editing tool Subtitle Workshop.
  • Provided you’ve enough patience and you love to mess around with the settings of your software, you can explore VLC media player & change settings such as delay/timing, framerate etc to fix the Out of Sync Subtitles issue.

Subtitles support in some other popular Media Players

I am not so sure but it seems whatever is described above can be achieved using WIndows Media Player, RealPlayer, Quicktime as well. In case of Windows Media Player Subtitles means Captioning. The subtitles file format supported may be different for these players. You can drill down for more about these using the following keyword combinations in Google / Bing search to display subtitles in your corresponding media player.

  • Windows media player + SAMI
  • RealPlayer + SMIL + .rt
  • Quicktime + SMIL + .mov [or .txt] `

Optional Info.

.SRT (Speech recognition Technology) files extensions are basically text file containing subtitles used by various media players; supported by AVI, DivX, DVD & other video formats. Apart from the subtitle text they also include the time each subtitle should be displayed. They do not contain any video data. They are very small file of usually less than 100KB. It’s relatively easy to find English subtitles srt file for almost any Hollywood movie. You can also try for French, German, Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, Dutch & Russian and few other languages from various websites. For major Indian languages viz. Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Guajarati, Assamese and Oriya you can explore the Internet. If you don’t find, why not become an entrepreneur and create subtitle for these languages, makes biz-sense, as the demand for these will be exponentially accelerated considering the furious pace with which Hollywood & Indian movies are transcending the geographical boundaries.

*Drag & Drop: Left click the mouse button on .srt file, then without releasing the left click button pull the file into the VLC player and then release the left click button. In a similar fashion, you can Drag & Drop using Right click as well.

Play your favorite movie in your favorite language subtitle. Let me know of any other simple tip to display subtitles/captioning in other media player. Now enable and disable subtitles as per your need…

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  1. Thanks for the info i was not knowing abt this before..

  2. I thought my finding on subtitles will help many others. So, I shared.

  3. thank you for taking the time to share the info. it was simple, clear and helped a lot because usually I am so bored reading instructions.
    Dina Kourouvani - Greece

  4. Thanks for sharing this useful information! I use VLC most of the time I watch my videos or even my movies.

  5. Great tips! The VLC Player is actually quite flexible when it comes to subtitles. But then again it is one of the most flexible players all together. Thanks.