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Multiple Subtitle Aspect Ratios - Was there a better way?

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Brad Fox
Multiple Subtitle Aspect Ratios - Was there a better way?
on Nov 6, 2011 at 5:26:05 pm

Hi all,

Just got out of a ridiculous crunch where a feature film that was supposed to be out on DVD "sometime next spring" suddenly needed to be on shelves for Christmas and there wasn't enough lead time to use any of the authoring places I normally go to (DVD authoring isn't what I do).

Anyway the whole thing proved it is possible to author a DVD to a commercial spec with DVDSP - (or close enough anyway to mostly pass a third party QC test... they did give me a little leeway on some of the minutia). The only big hitch was the issue of DVDSP not creating separate 4:3 and 16x9 aspect ratio subtitles so one's subtitles will look "long" in 4:3 (or "squat" in 16x9) depending on the default resolution of your track.

My duct-tape fix was to render out two parallel subtitle tracks as TIFF files (one in each aspect ratio) and then write a script to look at the value of SPRM 14 and activate the appropriate subtitle track based on the player resolution (similar to this one... although they've linked the wrong example script in the article. The actual subtitle script he discusses should be this screenshot instead). In my case I wrote it "the other way around", checking for the two possible 4x3 values - (instead of the one possible 16x9 value) since I wanted 16x9 to be the fall-back *default* and I know some players don't support SPRM 14 properly.

Of course this means that there's clearly two subtitle tracks as part of the disk - (although I did lock out the ability to change tracks on the fly to help mitigate users accidentally stumbling into the "wrong" ratio by button mashing their remote... hopefully)...

Is there anything else I could have / should have done to work around this? I didn't have time for a lot of in-depth google-fu but variations on the SPRM 14 script were pretty much all I could find on-line for workarounds.


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Michael Slowe
Re: Multiple Subtitle Aspect Ratios - Was there a better way?
on Nov 7, 2011 at 11:02:10 am

As a matter of interest Brad did they specifically request both a 4:3 version and a 16:9 of the DVD? I'm amazed because there have been no 4:3 TV's made for years and I never even consider putting anything out in that aspect. I appreciate that sub titles can provide a problem aspect wise.

I'm also interested to see that you seem to be doing the whole DVD production in Studio Pro. I would have thought that you might get a better encode with specialist software such as BitVice and then there are of course the much more expensive encoding programmes that are used for most feature film distributions.

Sorry to digress but I can't help you with your original query.

Michael Slowe


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Brad Fox
Re: Multiple Subtitle Aspect Ratios - Was there a better way?
on Nov 7, 2011 at 3:44:40 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes - I was surprised about the 4:3 support too but the QC the disk had to pass had fairly robust 4:3 requirements - I suspect they're just leftovers from "the olden days" and no one's bothered to revise them. But in this case "getting through the QC quickly" was far more important than "arguing about the merits of the boxes that needed to be ticked off".

I certainly wouldn't normally *choose* to use DVDSP - it just happened to be the only tool I had. I'll be quite happy to go back to using talented folks with scenarist... this was just literally the only chance to get this project done in the timeframe we needed.


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