HandBrake -- Embedded vs. External Subtitles

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by EyeAmLuv, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. EyeAmLuv macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    I'm about to encode my whole DVD library using HandBrake, and I only want to do it once. I've been testing around for quite a while now, with pleasing results. So far, I'm very confident, and there's just one question left before I get going: Should I embed relevant subtitles from the source media, or not? What are the advantages and disadvantages of embedded and external ones?

    Generally, I don't need to burn subtitles in, I just activate them every now and then, mainly when watching foreign movies in their original language. So we're talking soft subtitles anyway.

    Initially, I was planning to encode the appropriate audio tracks only and to leave out subtitles altogether. However, then I recalled that there are quite a few movies with forced subtitles -- or movies for which forced subtitles would make sense that is --, like The Lord of the Rings, and Babel. Do external subtitles support those cases, similar to HandBrake's Foreign Language Search option, or is that going be an issue?

    If you advised to go for external subtitles, am I supposed to import them while at the encoding process, or can I simply link them at a later time, when needed? I understand that downloading them won't affect my original movie files, or do I stand corrected? As a result, one advantage would be creating smaller files.

    (Which of the many apps do you recommend?)

    Now the main reason why I'd prefer to exclude embedded subtitles is that it can be a real pain to figure out which are which. I'm aware that some DVDs have SDH (deaf or hard-of-hearing) as well as commentary included, however, more often than not there are empty ones. You can properly select them in VLC or elsewhere with absolutely no effect -- they seem blank. Do you have any idea what those are for? Apart from that, validating subtitles is very time consuming and bears no proportion at all.

    Your help is very much appreciated!
  2. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    I'm not going to address everything above but I will tell you what I do and why and let you decide how it applies to your needs.

    I rip all of my files to mkv, keeping all subtitles in my language, and archive them. Why: in case I need to go back to them later, I have a perfect copy and source for subtitles (both forced and regular)

    I burn all forced subtitles into the movie using HB. Why: When would I not want to see a spoken foreign language translation? Never. Also, burning subtitles in retains the look (font) of the original subtitle. Downloaded subs (srt) may or may not retain the look and srt files created by doing an OCR on the vobsub do not retain the original "look".

    For foreign films where all dialog is in a foreign language, I burn them in for the same reasons as forced subs. If you are multilingual, you may want them as soft subs, though.

    The only time I use soft subs is if I am going to be viewing the movie in a place that is going to be noisy, e.g. a car trip, on a plane, etc. In that case, I do in on an as needed basis. First, I try to find an srt to download. If I can't find one, I then go back to the original mkv and create an srt file (using Subler). I then add that file to the m4v using Subler (or mkvtoolnix).

    Hope that helps.
  3. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    Thank you for your reply! The thing is, I really wanted to encode them for compatibility with Apple devices. Also, I've already ripped some thousand DVDs some years ago. They are stored as VIDEO_TS on external hard drives. I forgot to mention that, but I was obviously planning to use those as source material. Now if I'm going to invest any time, it should be worth it, meaning I don't really see big improvements when comparing VIDEO_TS to MKV. VIDEO_TS already is the perfect copy.

    I don't like to burn subtitles into a movie, I prefer to keep it clean. When I need any, I just activate them. But burning them into the file means they display for good. That could be rather annoying, especially when sharing with a native speaker.

    I don't want this to turn into a M4V vs. MKV discussion, however, if your arguments are brief and to the point, I will definitely consider both options. Even though I've read quite a lot about both containers, I have to admit that I don't know too much about MKV. I hadn't addressed it in depth, basically because I couldn't see any major advantages over the M4V format.
  4. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    Video TS folder format is equivalent to mkv. Didn't know you had already ripped to that format.

    As for subtitles, I though you were questioning whether to burn-in or use external files. From your statement above, it doesn't sound like burn-in is an option. So I'm not quite sure what your original post was all about. :confused:
  5. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    Oh, I think I misunderstood something. I just realized you also encode to M4V for your devices, right? So you're basically saying you're archiving your stuff in MKV containers to keep a "lossless," 1:1 backup of your media. Well, that would be equal to my VIDEO_TS files.
  6. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
  7. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    Sorry for the confusion!

    I keep all of my media in VIDEO_TS folders. For compatibility and mobility reasons, I'm planning to encode the majority to M4V. So far, that is something you would agree to, right?

    In the next step, I'm using my own HandBrake settings, based on the High Profile preset, adding the appropriate audio tracks, and do a little sliding and cropping. So far, so good.

    Here's the crucial part: With embedding I don't mean burning or forcing, I'm talking about including the DVD's default subtitles at all, or not.

    If I include them, I embed them. If I don't, I'd add external ones.

    My questions:

    1) What are the advantages and disadvantages of embedded vs. external subtitles?

    2) Do external subtitles support the option to automatically display subtitles for parts in foreign language, similar to HandBrake's own Foreign Language Search option? Example: Elvish language in the The Lord of the Rings. Another example: Babel -- the episode set in Japan is in Japanese language, hence forced and burned-in English subtitles.

    3) And I quote myself: "Now the main reason why I'd prefer to exclude embedded subtitles is that it can be a real pain to figure out which are which. I'm aware that some DVDs have SDH (deaf or hard-of-hearing) as well as commentary included, however, more often than not there are empty ones. You can properly select them in VLC or elsewhere with absolutely no effect -- they seem blank. Do you have any idea what those are for?"

    4) I think I'm asking, are external subtitles as good as the ones I could embed from the DVD? If so, why even bother including the latter? It can be a quite challenge at times figuring which subtitle is the one you want (see also above). To make sure you're actually picking the right ones, you would have to skip through some parts of the movie and compare them text by text. I don't want the commentary, I don't need SDH, and I certainly don't want to include blank tracks either.

    5) Do you have some advice on how to distinguish each track from another? There are six or more at times, sometimes one language appears triple.
  8. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Um, HB can only burn in dvd subs to mp4 (or m4v) as dvd subs are bitmaps. HB has no ocr library to turn them into soft subs or external. So, by "embedded" I presume you mean burned in ? I am not sure what you mean by using external subs for ios devices as they do not support it.

    The only thing you could do for a dvd is download a .srt external subs file to match your dvd and then hb can embed *that* into the mp4/m4v file as a 3ggp text track which is how the soft subs work for iTunes content.
  9. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    To be clear....for soft subtitles (ones you can turn on/off) in an m4v, Handbrake (an all the other encoders I am familiar with) only supports external text based files, e.g. srt. VOBSUB's (the ones that are in your original dvd's) either have to be left out, burned in, or OCR'ed to a text based file (srt) and then included.
  10. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    I think I might have used the wrong phrases here. By "embed" I actually meant embed a VOBSUB (bitmap), coming from the DVD, in the M4V.

    Now you claim only SRT can be turned on and off by HandBrake, while VOBSUB can only either be left out, burned in, or OCR'ed.

    But that doesn't make any sense since I have always included them during the process (by just checking the proper boxes -- the options default, burned in, and forced NOT checked), which, to my understanding, means soft. As a matter of fact, they CAN be turned on and off in the final result!

    Am I missing something? I'm actually pretty comfortable with HandBrake, but this whole subtitle mess is torturing me. Maybe I just haven't really understood it yet.

    What way do you keep your English subtitle then? Maybe that clears things up.


    But you have already answered one of my questions: Are external subtitles reliable? No.
  11. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    From the Handbrake Wiki:

    DVD Bitmap Subtitles (VOBSUB)
    With MP4, you can burn ONLY 1 subtitle track into the video.
    With MP4, you can not pass-through VOBSUB tracks.
    With MKV, you can pass-through multiple VOBSUB tracks. These are not burned into the video unless you choose to do so however you can only burn 1 subtitle track into the file. The rest must be passed through.

    So if you're using an iOS device that requires the mp4 format, you will not be able to toggle the subs in the movie using that device. If you are using some other device (I had a Popbox) that can use a Handbrake produced mkv file, you will have the ability to toggle the subtitles. Soft subs, using VOBSUB, is a limitation of the mp4 container and device.

    If you have actually transcoded a dvd containing VOBSUB's to an mp4 container and been able to toggle the subs using an iOS device, I promise you, we would all like to know you were able to do it. That's like the Holy Grail. :)
  12. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    You are over complicating things.

    As far as HB goes :

    DVD subtitles can only be burned in. this has been true for over 8 years.

    If you want a soft sub ( meaning they can be turned on or turned off on ios devices) you would need to obtain a .srt external subtitle track (which is a text file) then hb can include that in the mp4/m4v encoded/embedded as a 3gpp text track which can be turned on or off.

    Those are your options for a dvd source to mp4 via HandBrake.
  13. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    You always put things so eloquently...Thank you.
  14. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Lol. thanks, its not my first rodeo. ;)
  15. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    The Wiki must be outdated. You can pass thru any number of VobSub tracks from a direct (Make)MKV rip. Just give a try to the direct DVD rip at https://dl.dropbox.com/u/13100693/html/042012RetinaHDVideoPlayers/lupaus-ads-orig.mkv - VobSub track passthru will work just fine. (BTW, HandBrake's output is at https://dl.dropbox.com/u/13100693/html/042012RetinaHDVideoPlayers/lupaus-title04-noburntinsubs.m4v with all the VobSub tracks. Both linked from THIS DVD ripping & conversion tutorial)


    While the ATV doesn't support displaying VobSub tracks embedded in m4v files (without jailbreaking - XBMC does support them), several iOS (iPad / iPhone) players do:

    Subtitles are only shown if you switch manually to software decoding:

    VM Player HD: Unfortuately, in SW decoding mode, the H.264 playback becomes VERY slow even at SD resolutions (original MPEG2 MKV playback is OK); colour problems
    viPlay (Lite) and 8player (switch under Settings > Settings > Video Player > Native Player)
    Oplayer HD
    BUZZ Player (switch via Playback > Coe Engine > Buzz Player Engine)
    Azul Media Player

    Subtitles are also shown in the preferred hardware decoding mode:

    AVPlayer(HD) (exactly the same as with ProPlayer: color problems but, otherwise, excellent. And also in HW mode!)

    (Excerpt from THIS article.)
  16. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    Yeah, I read that the other day, too. Unfortunately, as helpful and well-written as the HandBrake guides are, sometimes they can't give you the solution you were looking for.

    Regarding the Holy Grail: Well, I haven't been able to toggle subtitles on an Apple device or iTunes but on VLC. So it's the Apple devices and software that are limited, not the M4V container. They're hopefully going to add support in the future. Anyway, I think it's safe to keep them.

    Since I can't fully rely on SRT, I think what I'll do is stick with the settings I've been using so far, select the subtitles I care for and turn on HandBrake's very comfortable Foreign Language Search option to make sure forced subtitles display the way they were supposed to. On the downside, having to skip through the chapters and compare track by track to pick the right subtitles can be a pain at times.
  17. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    Exactly. You can pass thru any number of embedded VobSub tracks. I can't really speak for MKV since I don't use it, but the same is true for M4V. They all display properly in VLC, and that means they are there in fact. It's just that Apple TV and iTunes won't display them. But I wouldn't worry too much about that either. Eventually, it will become available in Apple software, too. So, as long as I include them in the encoding process, it should be somewhat future-proof.

    I guess my questions have been answered:

    - activate Foreign Language Search (check Forced Only and Burned In, un-check Default)

    - choose VobSub over external sources (un-check Forced Only, Burned In, and Default)
  18. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    1. They won't as it'd make more people rip their DVD's / BD's instead of purchasing the same video from iTunes Store. (BTW, this is also the reason why it's strictly forbidden to use hardware acceleration for non-iOS-native video playback - MKV's etc. - in AppStore apps.) Your only hope is an ATV3 jailbreak and the VobSub-in-m4v's-capable XBMC.

    2. you can have a lot of SRT and VobSub tracks in the same M4V file. Have you read my articles on effective OCR'ing the latter to the former (doing it with Subler, SubRip and other tools)? I've written several and can paste them here if you haven't.
  19. Bl0ckHe1d macrumors 6502


    Nov 19, 2009
    Are you saying that you CANNOT use iTunes to play a movie with subtitles from a ripped DVD period - especially where iTunes Store does not offer any subtitles (or close caption) for most of their movies?
  20. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Exactly. You either OCR (which can be a very tiring process as OCR'ing is in no way reliable) or live without subtitles as most of the iTunes Store movies lack even English CC's, let alone subs in other languages.

    This is why I don't purchase anything from iTunes Store (my mother tongue isn't English and I need at least English CC's to understand everything 100%) - and, of course, the other disadvantages of Apple's movies (lower video quality, lack of high-quality audio, DRM, being appr. the same price as original BD discs on Amazon etc.)
  21. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012
    Hmm . . . no idea where my last post has gone -- I actually sent it a couple hours ago.

    Um, again, you're probably right, that's what Apple usually does. Some of their policies are very unpleasant. I'll continue to embed subtitles anyway. Apple isn't the only solution out there. In fact, I have long switched back to BlackBerry as my primary device.

    I never bought anything from the iTunes store either, and I won't until they finally choose to offer their music in a lossless format. However, that's unlikely to happen anytime soon, not least because I have another stack of CDs waiting to be ripped.

    Regarding your articles, that would be very kind of you.
  22. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Warning, they are pretty long ;-) I start with the Subler one - if you also need the SubRip one (which is only a bit shorter), let me know. Note that the info in the original article is updated via several "update" sections in the next post.

    The article:

    After yesterday's article on Subler, let me present you some additional tips and tricks for the excellent remuxer tool, Subler. Today, I'll speak of a fairly new and really excellent feature of Subler: optical character recognition (OCR for short) to quickly recognize the subtitles in bitmaps – that is, the default subtitle formats of DVD's, Blu-ray discs and DVB broadcasts. With this feature, you can very easily convert even the subtitle tracks of your DVD's and Blu-ray discs for playback / rendering on iOS devices – something impossible with the original, bitmap (non-textual) subtitles using the stock Videos player.

    Subler's approach is vastly different from that of SubRip, the traditionally used app to OCR bitmap subtitles. Subler doesn't require any kind of manual character training: it does everything itself, taking its language-specific data from standard, language-specific dictionaries.

    To activate the latter, for non-English languages, just copy the file http://code.google.com/p/tesseract-ocr/source/browse/trunk/tessdata/<language code>.traineddata to ~/Library/Application Support/Subler/tessdata (after creating the directory). For example, for Finnish, you'll need the fin.traineddata file. You can copy several language files there.

    After this, if you open / import MKV files containing bitmap subtitles (unless you manually override the default “everything should be OCR'ed”), the subtitle tracks will be OCR'ed and exported as textual.
    Note that, in this article, I pay special attention to including both the textual (OCR'ed) subtrack and the original graphical bitmap-based subtitle track. While Subler's OCR support is excellent, there still might be cases it recognizes something wrong. Then, it's better to be safe - you can always switch on displaying the embedded graphical subtrack in both desktop players like VLC and some third-party iOS ones like AVPlayerHD. Then, you'll easily and quickly find out what has been recognized wrong and can avoid misunderstandings.

    DVD subtitles (subs for short)

    The workflow with DVD's is much simpler than both DVB (on which I'll publish a separate article) and Blu-ray sub imports: you won't need to use any additional software at all.

    1, Open (File > Open) the MP4 / M4V file created by HandBrake (already having bitmap VobSub subs) from the original MKV created by MakeMKV (here, lupaus-title04-noburntinsubs.m4v; both this and the original MKV file can be downloaded from THIS article):


    2, click the "+" button (annotated above) and select the original MKV file (also mentioned in Bullet 1). Deselect all the non-subtitle tracks (unless you also want to include for example additional audio tracks). The subtitle tracks' action will be “3GPP Text” meaning they will be OCR'ed - exactly what we need.


    Click Add.

    3, you'll see this:


    You can safely save your file now. Note that you don't need to enable all the checkboxes of all the subtracks you want to save – while Subler only selects the first of them in the list, it'll, nevertheless, save them all.

    After saving (during which Subler OCR's the just-added subtracks), the “Format” column of the just-imported subtitle tracks will change from “VobSub” to “3GPP Text”, showing they're now textual (annotated on the right; see below for the “Text” annotation on the left):


    Here, you can also modify the name of the track so that you can easily see which track is bitmap and which is textual. For example, in the screenshot above, I've changed “Subtitle Track” to “Text” for all the textual subtracks (also annotated).

    Now, VLC displays the new sub list the following way, making it easy to select the right subtrack based on its type (textual vs. bitmap):


    Blu-ray subs

    Unfortunately, as opposed to DVD subs, Subler doesn't support S_HDMV/PGS subtracks – the native sub format of Blu-ray dics. If you try to passthru them, Subler won't create a usable file; if you set Action to “3GPP Text” during opening the MKV file, no subtracks will be written to the target file.

    Basically, you'll need to extract these subtracks, convert them to the Subler-friendly DVD-based IDX / SUB-format and re-add them to the MKV. Then, you'll already be able to add them, both in their original (bitmap) and OCR'ed form, to the target MP4's.

    Let's start with subtraction. Unfortunately, my long-time favorite, iMkvExtract, doesn't support extracting these subtracks – it just doesn't export anything if you select one or more S_HDMV/PGS subtracks.

    For this tutorial, I've selected a part of the Blu-ray version of the excellent Iron Sky movie where German is spoken so that I can provide you with a test video you can play with with three subtitle languages as there are no English subtitles for English speech – and the Behind the Scenes section of the disc only contains Finnish subs, not English / Swedish ones (the Blu-ray is only sold in Finland; this is why there are not even Swedish subs here). The video chunk is HERE – feel free to download it and play with its subtracks.

    1, get and install MKVtoolnix (fortunately, it's a simple DMG file). Start it.

    2, click Add (annotated below) and load the MKV file:


    3, in the “Tracks, chapters and tags” list, look for entries starting with “S_HDMV/PGS”. Immediately following this type, in the parentheses, there will be some (track) ID's: in the above screenshot (also annotated), these are 5, 6 and 7.

    4, for the next part, you'll need to switch to the Terminal to access the command-line interface of the mkvextract program directly. Fortunately, it's part of MKVtoolnix so you don't need to install it separately.

    If you've dragged MKVtoolnix to Applications/Video, just issue the following command in Terminal (assuming you're in the same directory as your source MKV file; if you aren't, use the absolute / relative path to the MKV file):

    /Applications/Video/Mkvtoolnix.app/Contents/MacOS/mkvextract tracks MKVfilename trackID1:eek:utputSUPfilename1 [trackID2:eek:utputSUPfilename2 [trackIDN:eek:utputSUPfilenameN]].

    For example, in our case with three subtracks with ID's 5, 6, 7 and with a source MKV file named “IronSkyMAIN-rip.mkv”, the command will look as follows:

    /Applications/Video/Mkvtoolnix.app/Contents/MacOS/mkvextract tracks IronSkyMAIN-rip.mkv 5:sup1.sup 6:sup2.sup 7:sup3.sup

    An example screenshot with the results:


    Now, you'll need to convert these BD-specific sup files to traditional IDX / SUB pairs. Unfortunately, most of the traditional tools like SubtitleCreator 2.3rc1 (which I used in a previous article for DVB TS SUP -> IDX + SUB conversion) doesn't recognize the format; neither does SubMagic (which doesn't handle DVB TS SUP's either, BTW). The tool I recommend is, fortunately, fully OS X-compliant as it's written in Java: BDSup2Sub (dedicated thread). Just download BDSup2Sub.jar (the current, stable 4.0.1 version will be just fine) and double-click it.

    When the GUI is displayed, select File > Load and load the SUP files, one by one. Just click OK on the first two dialogs to dismiss them; after that, select File > Save/Export and, there, after setting the export language, Save:


    Now, to add the new, converted subtracks back to the MKV file, go back to MKVtoolnix and click the same Add button as above. Add the IDX files (only – no need to manually add the .sub files). You can mass-add them if you use the Cmd key while clicking for multiple selection. After adding the three of them, MKVtoolnix will show the following:


    Now, just click “Start Muxing” at the bottom left. The MKV file will be muxed; now, with the DVD-format VobSub track, also compatible with Subler.

    Now, what you will need to do is straightforward.

    1, Open the MKV file in Subler. Don't touch anything in the open dialog: do NOT try enabling the “S_HDMV/PGS” subtracks!


    2, Click Add and, then, you can save your video right away (Cmd + S): it'll have the OCR'ed audio tracks.

    If you also want to save in the same target MP4 file both the DVD-compliant VobSub bitmap subtracks in addition to the just-created OCR'ed version of them, you'll need to do exactly the same as was the case with DVD's. While still having the just-remuxed (target) MP4 file in Subler, click + in the upper left corner, select the MKV file (again) and set every single VobSub track action to Passthru from the default 3GPP Text; also, don't forget to disable all the non-VobSub-subtitle-tracks (all audio/ video etc. tracks) so that they aren't duplicated in the target file:


    To avoid the bitmap subtitles being shown with extra large, blown-up characters, you'll also want to decrease their size after(!!!) saving (Cmd + S). (Changes made before exporting VobSub tracks won't be visible.) To do this, click each of the just-added VobSub subtitle tracks (not the older textual ones!) and enter 1920 in the first field after Scaled Size (and press Tab) and 540 in the second, instead of the original 640 and 480, respectively (if it shows 0, make sure you save the file first!):


    Now, you can just save the file. (Again, here, you can also change the subtrack names to reflect their being bitmaps.)
    Why just 540? you may ask. I've found it the most ideal. When keeping the default one (after entering 1920 in the first textfield, it'll be computed to be 1440 as can also be seen in THIS screenshot), the bitmap subs will be in the center of the screen as can be seen in the following screenshot (click it for the original-sized one):
    After changing the default 1440 to 540, the subtitle will be a bit distorted (vertically scaled) but, at least, displayed at the bottom of the screen:
  23. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    The promised updates...

    UPDATE (10/03/2012): After having a long discussion on Subler's OCR'ing capabilities HERE, I've played a bit with SubRip to find out how it recognizes Blu-ray subtitles. For the test, I've used several BD discs, including Iron Sky and the international version of Red Cliff I.

    Unfortunately, the current (1.50b5) version of SubRip is completely incompatible with HD VobSubs - that is, not only the original S_HDMV/PGS subs, but even the (standard-format) output files of BDSup2Sub.

    This is not just an incompatiblity with OCR, but even the subpictures - that is, you can't just save the contents of the VobSub as a series of pictures, which, then, you could just import to, say, OmniPage Pro (or other, "serious" OCR apps) for character recognition.

    If you, upon importing in BDSup2Sub, do downsize the individual images to PAL / NTSC by enabling the “Convert Resolution” checkbox and selecting either PAL or NTSC resolution in the drop-down list (see the annotations below):


    then, you can create a VobSub file more or less compatible with SubRip. Unfortunately, about half of the frames will be completely skipped (unrecognized) by the app. An example run with the beginning of the English subtrack of Iron Sky, showing just garbage for an, otherwise, completely legal subtitle page:


    and of Red Cliff I:


    Unfortunately, this not only applies to the OCR mode, but also the plain image exporting mode (“Save subpictures as BMP”) - the majority of the exported images will be just empty.

    All in all, you can't use SubRip to process BD subtitles in any way: neither OCR'ing nor image exporting work. Unfortunately, BDSup2Sub can't export a series of plain images for further OCR'ing in a third-party app either.

    UPDATE (09/11/2012, even later):

    To help you choosing and configuring an iOS player capable of displaying bitmap subtitles, I've done some additional work. Again, you'll want to prefer these kinds of (original) subtitles (subs for short) to recognized (OCR'ed) subs. While Subler's OCR engine is great, it has problems. For example, it doesn't support several languages; for example, Swedish. By the way, this is why the demo M4V video (again, it's HERE; feel free to play with it, import it into iOS media players, check out its subtitle tracks etc.) has a pretty much messed-up OCR'ed Swedish track – unlike with Finnish and English, Subler couldn't use a Swedish dictionary when OCR'ing.

    Even with languages that have their dictionaries will have problems. For example, with the Finnish subtitle track of Iron Sky, Subler has a tendency to make one word of two originals while recognizing – and, of course, “recognize” “Ä” as “. Therefore, consider OCR'ed textual subtracks as “fallback” ones when there's absolutely no way of displaying the original, bitmap subs.

    Therefore, I've played quite a bit with the, for hardware video playback with bitmap subtitles, two recommended media players for iOS, ProPlayer and AVPlayerHD. Note that It's Playing and GoodPlayer, the other, otherwise, most recommended players, can't render bitmap subs at all / while hardware decoding, respectively. HERE's a screenshot of GoodPlayer rendering the English subtrack of the test video while using (at 1080p, uselessly slow) software decoding. Interestingly, XBMC (which I still don't recommend for owners of the iPad 3 as it still lacks Retina support) can't render these bitmap subtitles at all.

    Unfortunately, AVPlayerHD crashes right away when loading these files. Therefore, you'll need to stay with ProPlayer (AppStore link). The latter is a bit less capable than AVPlayerHD – but, fortunately, MP4 playback-wise, it's really reliable and knows something other players don't: in addition to textual ones, it can render bitmap subs on top of video played back using hardware acceleration. A screenshot of it doing so:

    As with AVPlayerHD, in ProPlayer, you'll need to select the subtitle track before starting (or while pausing) playback by tapping Edit in the top right corner of the file list and, then, selecting the just-appearing right arrow next to the video. In the following screenshot, I've annotated both (as with all the screenshots of this update, click them for the original-sized ones):

    In the new dialog, tap “Edit” in the “Subtitles” row (annotated below) and select a track from the list:

    Unfortunately, unlike most players, ProPlayer doesn't make an attempt to show the user-applied (like “text” in the tutorial below) tags or even the language of the subs – all you get is a numbered list as you can see in the above screenshot. If you have several subtracks in a video, this can be really annoying. To quickly find out which number belongs to which track, open the MP4 file in Subler and check out the order of any subtitle AND text tracks.

    For example, in the sample video I've provided you, you'll see the following. I've annotated every track that belongs to the above categories (either subtitle or a generic – in this case, chapter – track):

    Based on this, it's very easy to decode what each number means. For example, if you tap “Subtitles 1” in ProPlayer's dialog, the OCR'ed English text will be shown etc. The full list is as follows:

    0: Finnish TXT
    1: English TXT
    2: Swedish TXT
    3: chapter track (don't tap it - nothing will be shown!)
    4: Finnish VobSub
    5: English VobSub
    6: Swedish VobSub

    Finally, as I've previously stated, as with iTunes on the desktop, the stock (built-in) Videos player renders the text (but, of course, not the bitmap!) subtites added following my tutorial just fine (as does iTunes on the desktop):

    UPDATE (09/11/2012):
    1.) I've modified the last part of the tutorial - the one that explains how DVD-formatted (that is, VobSub) bitmap subs can be included in the target MP4 / MOV / M4V files so that capable, third-party players (for example, VLC on desktop computers and AVPlayerHD on iOS) can render them. The new version shows how you can render the subs at the bottom of the screen.
    2.) I've uploaded a remuxed version of the original MKV video with both textual and VobSub subtracks HERE, should you want to give its playback a try without going through the entire conversion process. Note that this file is also optimized, of which I'll publish a separate article and which is essential, should you want to stream the video from your iTunes to your Apple TV. I've talked about optimizing (for example, recognizing optimized M4V files) HERE (and HERE's a reader's feedback ;-) ).
    UPDATE (some hours later):

    1.) You don't need to issue any command-line commands to extract Blu-ray (BD) SUP subtracks from BD MKV files if you use the brother of the excellent (see THIS) MP4Tools, MKVTools. As with MP4Tools, you'll want to prefer downloading the beta from THIS page. For our purposes (subtrack extraction), it'll be just fine - the omissions / bugs in beta don't affect subtitle extracting.

    All you need to do is as follows:

    1, open the BD MKV file in MKVTools (“Open” button in the top right corner)

    2, select the S_HDMV/PGS subtracks (topmost red rectangle in the screenshot below)

    3, switch to the “Edit Tracks” tab (middle rectangle in the screenshot below)

    4, click the “Go” button (bottom-most rectangle in the screenshot below):


    Then, just go on with the BD SUP → VobSub conversion using BDSup2Sub. Note that, after the conversion, you won't be able to add the IDX file back to the MKV file with the same MKVTools using its “Add track” button. You'll still need to use MKVtoolnix for that (see the original article on adding IDX files back to MKV's).
    Note: you do NOT need to use MKVTools at all, should you want to avoid paying for it or you want to use as few apps as possible - the original workflow works great, it's "just" a bit harder and slower as it involves manual invocations of mkvextract from Terminal.

    2.) There is a discussion of Blu-ray and DVD ripping with subtitles HERE and HERE, respectively. Make sure you check out my posts there – for example, THIS (a quick DVD ripping and OCR'ing workflow) and THIS (BD sub conversion)!
  24. EyeAmLuv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2012

    I have actually figured what these alleged blank subtitles are for. They are foreign language tracks for written stuff only.

    I have this European DVD of The Young Lions, and I noticed that it has two subtitle tracks for each language, except for English, which has one only.

    So I fast forwarded through the whole movie until I came across a scene where someone is writing a note -- in English. No subtitles. However, when I switched to the German audio track, the DVD player automatically activated the secondary German subtitle that would transcribe the written English -- and the written parts only.

    I compared both subtitles -- primary and secondary --, and they're basically the same. The second one displays written parts only and simply leaves everything else out. From the DVD menu, you can deactivate it entirely as well.

    So I was wondering if that's actually a forced foreign language subtitle? In this example, I selected English and German as audio tracks, as well as English (1 track) and German (2 tracks) as subtitles. By activating HandBrake's Foreign Language Search option and checking "Forced" and "Burned In," I was expecting the secondary track to be burned in -- but it wasn't.

    The track is still available, but only when I select it manually (which is, of course, not possible with Apple devices). The "link" seemed to be missing, hence it wouldn't activate the written stuff subtitle when switching to German. I was also wondering how the software could possibly determine which of the languages to burn in in the first place. I'm guessing the info (German audio = German secondary subtitle, Italian audio = Italian secondary subtitle, etc.) has been provided somewhere on the DVD and can probably not be adopted for the M4V.

    Am I missing something, or is this actually not a forced subtitle after all? It's probably not, right?

    Thanks for clearing things up!
  25. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011

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