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May 15 2013

14:58

MediaStorm Guide to Creating Subtitles in Premiere Pro

This article is part of a new series of posts with tips and tricks from our producers’ experience working with Adobe Premiere Pro after years of working in Final Cut Pro. To read more about why we made the switch, check out this post.

Today’s post was written by MediaStorm producer Eric Maierson.


There’s a critical difference between the title tool in Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. In FCP, one could slice a title that’s already in the timeline, open it in the Viewer window, then change the contents so that you now had two distinct titles.

This does not work in Premiere Pro.

In Premiere Pro each title is a distinct instance. So, if you splice a title in the timeline then change its content, you will also change the content of the first title as well. Both titles will say the same thing.

The only way around this is to create a new title instance for every subtitle. It’s a cumbersome process and one that we wish Adobe would change.

Setting Up a Title Template

In the Project window create a new bin (Command – /). Name it Subtitles.

Open the title tool (Command-T).

In the New Title window, name the title temp. The title size will default to your current sequence size.

When the title tool opens, press T for the Type Tool, then click inside the rectangle. Use 38pt Arial, then type a short phrase. If you plan to use drop shadow, and you should, add it here as well. (Tim McLaughlin will follow up this post with a more detailed look at the functionality of the Title Tool.)

Next, click the Selection tool (arrow icon) and move the title so that it rests on top of the title-safe line.

Use the Horizontal Center tool to align the title in the middle of the screen.

Close the title tool.

Drag the title from Project window to your Timeline.

To create a new title, simply click the New Title Based on Current Style button at the top right of the Title tool.

XML

At MediaStorm we no longer use burned-in timecode. We use XML to generate titles in our player.

If you plan to use XML with your subtitles for any reason, say to copy from one computer to another, the following steps are crucial:

Each time you paste a phrase from your transcript into a subtitle, you must also rename the subtitle instance with the exact same phrase.

If the contents of the subtitle is “I went home” the name of the subtitle instance must also be “I went home”; the names must match identically. That’s because XML in Premiere Pro reads the name of the title, not its contents.

Here too, we wish Adobe would change this behavior so that XML functioned as it does in Final Cut Pro 7, reading the content of the subtitle, not the name of the title file – the opposite of how it works now.

It’s obviously more expedient to avoid this extra step.

Subtitle Styles

Font Size – 38

Font – Arial

Drop Shadow – Standard effect, change opacity to 90%

Fades

If narrative is more than 15 frames from the end or beginning of a cut, set subtitle to start 10 frames before the start or end of narrative, then place 8 frame fade on subtitle.


To learn more about how our producers are using Adobe Premiere Pro see our other blog posts on the topic. Also, follow our producers’ twitter feed @PrProShortcuts for Premiere shortcuts.

To learn more about our production style, you can purchase a copy of our Post-production Workflow. Readers who purchase our current Final Cut Pro and Aperture workflow automatically receive the Premiere workflow when it is released.

MediaStorm offers several online and in-person training opportunities at mediastorm.com/train.

Have you made a recent switch in your editing software? Let us know about it in the comments below.

August 29 2012

18:14

PBS NewsHour’s viewers are translating its videos into 52 languages (and counting)

Ever try watching Sesame Street in Turkish, or Hindi? Big Bird has made his way to 150 countries, and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

Now, PBS NewsHour is working to follow the bird and push some of its newsier content to global audiences. Partnering with the translation platform Amara, the show is crowdsourcing an effort to add subtitles to politics-themed videos, including moments from the U.S. presidential campaigns and short man-on-the-street interviews with American voters.

So, for example, now you can watch a video of President Barack Obama talking about a new immigration policy with subtitles in Vietnamese; or the Ukrainian version of Mitt Romney announcing Paul Ryan as his running mate. (Amara, formerly known as Universal Subtitles, is also involved in projects to crowdsource captioning for Netflix films and TED talks.) Since January, PBS NewsHour has built up a community of hundreds of dedicated volunteer translators across the world, and videos have been translated into 52 languages.

Because translations are done at the whim of volunteers, the outcome is unpredictable for any given video. As of this writing, for example, Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention was available in English, French, and…Georgian, a language that has millions of speakers but isn’t usually the first that comes up among translation projects in the United States.

Generally, Obama gets more attention from translators than Romney. (It’s understandable that a sitting president would draw more attention than his as-yet-unelected rival.) Some languages are more popular than others. One volunteer in Indonesia is particularly active, which means that many videos have Indonesian subtitles.

“The most frequent languages besides English are Spanish, French, Indonesian, Chinese, and Korean,” Joshua Barajas, a production assistant at PBS NewsHour who handles communications with the volunteer translators, told me. Arabic and Turkish aren’t too far behind.

And what about quality control, a question that comes up in just about any crowdsourced project? It can be particularly difficult — if not downright impossible — to keep tabs on volunteers who are submitting work in a language you don’t understand.

“There has been one incident,” involving a captioner who inserted some foul language, Barajas said. “One troll. We quickly got rid of it. For the most part, it’s been pretty polite.”

And that’s because the volunteers who are involved are really, really involved. If they see something that’s not right — more often a technological bug or minor translation error than inappropriate conduct — they’re quick to notify the team at PBS, Barajas said.

Running parallel to these videos is a translation effort for a series called Listen to Me. PBS NewsHour has been collecting short interviews with people from around the country based on three questions: What’s the most important issue to you during this election? Are you hopeful about the future? Do you think the political system is broken? (For now, PBS affiliates have been shooting and submitting footage, but NewsHour plans to let people submit their own videos, too.)

There have been a few kinks to work out on the production side. A syncing issue with subtitles has since been resolved. Quite a few translations get started but not finished. (The video of Romney introducing Ryan lists 17 languages, but only six are complete; Bengali, Korean, Portuguese, Swahili, and Turkish are all less than 10 percent done.) And PBS NewsHour wants to build a more reliable language mix; they hope to partner with language classes at universities to achieve this.

But the biggest challenge is impact: how to measure it, yes, but mostly how to make a difference in the first place.

The core idea behind the translation project is that “everyone should have access to the political conversation regardless of the language they speak or their ability to hear,” Barajas said. But how do you let people know that these translations are available to them?

This is an issue that all newsrooms confront: What good is a great story — in any language — if you don’t have an audience ready to consume it? But most newsrooms aren’t trying to reach a divided global audience in dozens of languages.

“As of right now, we’re limited in gauging the translations’ reach,” Barajas said in a follow-up email. “We look at YouTube views and the growth of the Amara community for some insight, but these are limiting benchmarks of course.”

Still, NewsHour deserves credit for taking on a translation project of this scope. (Even a newspaper that simply directs its readers to Google Translate is going farther than most English language news outlets in the United States.) Ultimately, it appears what PBS NewsHour is really doing is community building.

“People are just excited because they feel like they want to be a part of something, and they feel like they’re contributing,” Barajas said. “They’re able to catch the nuances that otherwise would have been, well, lost in translation.”

November 23 2010

19:02

Multiple language subtitles now available in the MediaStorm Player


We’ve been rolling out some updates to the MediaStorm Player, and one of the features we’re most excited about is the ability to show subtitles in multiple languages. The subtitles work both on our site and on the embedded version of our player.

English subtitles are available for all of our projects. Foreign translations are currently available for the following projects:

Undesired: Hindi and Spanish

Intended Consequences
: German

Black Market: German

Kingsley’s Crossing: Chinese

We’re often asked why some of our projects have forced subtitles, while others don’t. MediaStorm Producer Eric Maierson has put together a Guide to Using Subtitles that gives some insight into our thought process, and also some technical tips for creating those subtitles in Final Cut Pro.

We’re working on getting additional projects and languages online, and will be adding those as we get them finished. If you’re interested in volunteering to help us translate our projects into other languages, please let us know.

18:56

MediaStorm’s Guide to Using Subtitles

Sometimes the most difficult challenge regarding subtitles is deciding whether to use them or not.

Subtitles present obvious aesthetic challenges—from inevitably covering the most important part of an image to turning a visual experience into a written one. If at all possible, avoid them; the obvious exception being when someone speaks a language other than that of the intended audience. Then subtitles are essential.

So how do you know if you need English subtitles for someone speaking English? It’s often difficult for a producer to make this call. After listening to the same clips again and again, we learn a speaker’s cadence and nuances and they become clearer to us. Probably the best method to make this determination is to play your project for a group of people who haven’t seen it yet and see if they can understand the narration without subtitles.

With fresh ears, they’ll quickly let you know if they’re able to follow along. If there’s any confusion, use subtitles; the most captivating visuals are useless if your audience can’t understand what’s going on.

Here are some other subtitle guidelines you may find useful:

  • Keep all of your subtitles on the same video channel in Final Cut. No other graphic or video elements should be on that channel. Just subtitles. This will help your organization and make things much easier when you need to add a drop shadow, which I will discuss later.
  • Avoid fonts with serifs, particularly small ones. Serifs tend to fall apart when a project is compressed to smaller dimensions. MediaStorm’s style is to use 18pt Arial bold.
  • Drop shadows are imperative. They help separate the subtitle text from images and video. To see their importance, place a drop-shadow subtitle above complex imagery. Now turn the effect on and off. The difference is striking. We use the drop-shadow settings below in Final Cut:
  • When an image changes, so should the subtitle. Don’t let subtitles bleed over onto the next image, or you’ll create visual confusion as subtitles seemingly appear and disappear at random.
  • Keep subtitles to one line only. Avoid wrapping them onto a second line as this, too, will create confusion when subtitles jump between one and two lines of text.
  • If your subtitles do not fit on one line but your image remains the same, you’ll need to cut to a second subtitle. To do this, start the first subtitle when the image begins. Cut to the second subtitle approximately 10 frames before the next word is spoken. This way, you’ll retain the pacing of your narrator, and the drama of your project, by not revealing what’s said before you need to.
  • At the beginning of a new cut, if there’s a pause of more than a second before someone speaks, fade up the subtitle with an eight-frame dissolve. The dissolve should complete approximately 15 frames, or half a second, before the person speaks.
  • If you intend to broadcast your project, make sure your subtitles are broadcast-safe. To create broadcast-safe subtitles in Final Cut, from the top right pulldown menu in the Canvas window select Show Overlays Show and Show Title Safe. The title safe region is within the boundaries of the inner rectangle (when you are working in 16:9).
  • Make a subtitle template. Create one subtitle with the proper font, size, and drop shadow. Before using this as your template, though, turn off the drop shadow as it will cause extra rendering. Next, using option-drag, copy the subtitle block to its next location. Double-click the subtitle to load it into the Viewer window. Then, using your transcript, paste in the proper text.

    When you have added all your subtitles, turn on the drop shadows on your first clip. Select it, then use the keystroke command-C to copy.

    To paste the drop shadow on all the other subtitles, select the additional clips using the T tool. Then press option-V to paste the attributes. Select drop shadow from the pop-up window.

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