Friday, May 25, 2012

Embedding UTF-8 Subtitles

I recently spent hours trying to work out how to get hard coded subtitles into a video file so I could upload it onto youtube.

The video in question was made with Cinelerra on Ubuntu. This program is very powerful, but an absolute pain to use. Annoyingly I was unable to get it to recognise UTF-8 chars in the subtitle text I wanted to embed, so I had to look elsewhere.

Instead, I created an SRT subtitle file with the Linux program Subtitle Editor. I tried several programs, Avidemux and others, to embed this into the video. All of them failed to recognise the extended character set.

In the end I had to use Handbrake to embed the subtitles. However it was not all easy sailing. Handbrake would embed my SRT file happily, but only as a soft subtitle (meaning it was an option dependant on the user's preferences). Unfortunately, when I uploaded the file to youtube, I could not include the subtitle file.

So, back to the drawing board.

Strangely, although Handbrake allows hard encoding through the checkbox 'Burned in', this option was disabled for SRT files. It is only allowed for SSA files. I went back to Subtitle Editor and saved the file in SSA format. Then I discovered that handbrake would not let me open an SSA file to embed it.

After an afternoon of frustration I discovered I could use handbrake to create an MKV file of my movie, and then use mkvmerge to embed the SSA file in the MKV movie. I could then open the new MKV file in Handbrake, at which point I was able to select the SSA subtitles and choose the 'Burned in' option to make them a permanent part of the video.

If this does not make you want to jump out of a window, then you have a higher tolerance for absurdity than I do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Search on Facebook, if you enjoy frustration

If you had a large successful internet company whose only asset was the attention spans of its users, you would think that you might put some effort into making sure that people could find what they were looking for. Not so with our benevolent masters at facebook.

At facebook search is an after-thought, just a text box to help people find other people, but not much else.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen an interesting post and thought "I will come back to that." When I do try and come back to it, it is lost thousands of posts back in my feed, and if I don't remember who posted it then I have no chance of finding it. A fully functioning search would be really handy here: but no, the search function appears to be completely uncorrelated from my feed. "Hang on!" you should be screaming, isn't that what facebook is supposed to offer, and internet that is improved by our social network?

Nope, not so with search.

Nor with events. If you search for an event with certain key words, there was a time when facebook only returned events that had passed. This appears to have changed, but nonetheless, if you don't accept an invitation to an event immediately, good luck finding it later. Yesterday I had two facebook tabs open, in one of them I had an event I was interested in going to, in the other tab I tried the facebook event search using the EXACT name of the event: and nothing appeared in the search results.

What makes this all the more puzzling is that the company that is the absolute king of search has been developing a product to rival facebook. At the same time facebook has done nothing to improve its challenge to Google: Social Search.

The only thing that seems to make sense is that perhaps facebook is relying on Bing to fill that gap for them, to make their feed of frivolity useful through search. If they don't, then I would not want to be one of the people putting out 100 billion dollars for facebook this week.