Many people want to add subtitles to a DVD in their own language, and often DVD disks don’t come with subtitles in a language you want. For instance, if you’re staying in a foreign country and want English subtitles added to your rental movie. Or in my case, the library at the local Alliance Française has a lot of interesting movies completely in French, without English subtitles, and my french isn’t yet good enough to fully understand everything that is being said.
What is interesting is that there are sites on the internet that offer downloadable subtitle files for many movies. Simply type the name of your movie, plus the word “subtitle” into google and provided the movie is popular or well known enough you should be able to find a site offering the subtitle file for download. Mostly it seems that these subtitles were extracted from a DVD owned by someone else with the right languages. In other cases, it is purely fans of the movie who loved it so much and wanted to translate the words of the movie into a language that they know so that others can also enjoy the movie. I’m not so sure about the legality of the subtitles obtained in the first case, but certainly an argument may be made that since you own or have legally rented a copy of the movie it does seem to fall within “fair usage” to watch this movie with subtitles in a language you require.
So, you may be lucky. You may find the (fan-written) subtitle file that exactly matched your movie. By this I mean that the person who created your file had exactly the same version of the DVD, so that the lead in at the beginning of the movie is exactly the same length and in this case the subtitles remain perfectly in synch with the video.
However, don’t expect to watch the movie in your living room just yet. Most stand-alone DVD players that I’ve used do not have a facility to specify an external subtitles file, but almost all of the software based players on your computer do have this facility. So provided you got lucky, and got the correct subtitles file that matched your DVD, and are also content to watch movies in front of your computer that will be sufficient and you don’t need to read further.
Mostly though, the subtitles file doesn’t have the right timings for your DVD, or you might really really want to watch it on your TV in the lounge rather than with bowls of popcorn balanced on your lap in front of the computer. The guide that follows is for people who are running Linux, are comfortable with the command line, and who wish to hardcode 1 subtitles into a XVID file for watching on a (living-room) player that can play DIVX movies. If this is not exactly what you want there still may be something for you in this blog post. I’ll outline my six-step method:
- Rip (extract) contents of the DVD disk.
- Attempt to play DVD file with subtitle files on desktop.
- Create a XVID file without subtitles.
- Transform the subtitle file so that subtitles are synchronized with the video.
- Create a XVID file with subtitles hardcoded in.
- Break up this file into smaller segments for players that cannot handle large files.
I myself don’t follow the above recipe every time – depending on the circumstances some of these steps may not be needed. And you may very well want a different outcome – it may be enough for you just to align the subtitles with the video, or you may want more such as recreating a DVD with subtitles. You may even despise XVID files with harcoded subtitles in them!