How to Subtitle a Movie for Free in 4972 Terrible Steps

When I got the DVD recording of the first production of my musical, Drawin' on the Walls, I was somewhat (meaning extremely) miffed to discover that not only was the video grainy, but the audio was difficult to make out.  So I took it upon myself to add subtitles to the movie myself without buying any software, a process that turned out to be pretty awful.  However, I learned some lessons, so if you're determined to do the same thing, you're welcome to take what I learned.  Or if you know a better way, share in the comments below!

1. Convert your movie to an AVI.  This is because the freeware programs I found suck at using most modern video codecs.  For some reason, AVI seems to work better (or at all).  You might need a different conversion tool depending on what you start with.

2. Download Subtitle Workshop, a free program that makes adding subtitles frustratingly almost convenient.  

3. Download AutoGK (Gordian Knot), the program that will actually merge your subtitles file (a text file) with your AVI file. 

4. I found it much easier to type my subtitles into a text file using a text editor (Notepad++ is my favorite), rather than typing them in with Subtitle Workshop.  I put one subtitle on each line, and added a symbol (***) for any blank time I wanted.  Because I was working from a script, I could get away with a lot of copy and paste, although I did have to go through the movie and make edits where the actors deviated from the script.

5. I wrote a little Python script to convert my raw text file into a subtitle file (.srt), with all the times set to 0->0.  You can use my script if you like - you can download it by clicking here.  You'll need to install Python, edit the script to point to your raw text file, drop the script in the same directory as your raw text file, and then run it by double-clicking it.

6. Make a copy of your new srt file (in case something goes horribly wrong, which is likely), and open up Subtitle Workshop. 

7. Load your raw AVI file by selecting "Open..." from the "Movie" drop down menu. 

8. Load your new srt file by selecting "Load subtitle..." from the "File" menu. You should see all your subtitles in the big white panel at the bottom, each with a start and end time of zero. 

9. Selecting the first subtitle of the movie.  Click the "Play" button to start the AVI file playing in the top panel.  Hold down the ALT key with one finger, and whenever you get to the end of the first subtitle, press the V key with another finger.  This will set the end of the currently selected subtitle to the current time of the movie's playhead.  It will also automatically select the next subtitle in the list, and set its start time to slightly after the end time of the previous subtitle.  In this way, you can use exactly two fingers to time the subtitles for your entire movie - provided you don't mess up.  (If you do mess up, you can always pause and push the Rewind button a few times to backup.)

10. Once your subtitles are timed, go through and delete all your blank space subtitles (e.g., "***") by selecting them and pushing the delete key.

11. Save your newly timed file in the "SubRip" format (*.srt).

12. Open AutoGK.  (It may already be open - it has a tendency to close its own window for no apparent reason.  It can be opened using an icon in your Notifications Bar.)

13. Load your raw AVI movie into the "Input File" field at the top.

14. Push Ctrl+F8 to expose the subtitle field (why...?)

15. Load your timed srt file in the newly exposed "External Subs" field.

16. Supply the desired name of your output movie file. 

17. Push the "Add Job" button.

18. Push the "Start" button. 

19. Wait a very very very long time.  It will look like nothing is happening most of the time.  Just wait.   It will finish.

20. Enjoy your newly subtitled AVI! 


Hosting Flash Games on Squarespace 6

For a while, I was actually able to upload the Flash games I've made to the Squarespace 6 servers and then link to them in a custom "code" block - but unfortunately, policies change, and all linked material started being served by Squarespace 6 with a content-disposition set to "attachment" - an attribute which apparently causes recent version of the Flash Player to ignore the Flash content!  I submitted various forum postings and help requests on this issue, and received nothing remotely helpful.  I've therefore decided to use Amazon Web Services' "S3" service, which lets you host simple web files up to a certain limit for free (and then afterwards you pay only according to the used bandwidth).  This also has the benefit of not forcing me to encode my Flash games as a single swf file, which in some cases would be gigantic. 

The general lesson, I think, is that if you are considering Squarespace 6 and are looking to do anything remotely sophisticated, give it careful thought.  The staff won't support you, and there may very well be problems with no solution.  It's a shame, given how much I enjoy the look of the templates and the simplicity of the content management system.

Chris Guin Creations Now at Squarespace 6

So I bit the bullet and moved my personal site to Squarespace.  I love the look and feel of the templates, the easy, intuitive content management system.  I like how clean and smooth everything feels.  It also gave me a nice excuse to clean house, so to speak - so I have not moved over everything from the old site - blogs that I never updated, for instance.  If there is something in particular you remember liking from the old site, feel free to shoot me an email and I'll see about getting it to you.

There are a few things about Squarespace I'm not totally thrilled about, so it did take a lot of weighing and agonized decision making - there's no general FTP access (there might be with a Developer Account - I haven't taken a look into it), so Flash games that dynamically load in xml files and such are going to be a challenge to post.  Also, there are no subdomains, so if I want to create a separate site for one of my musicals it will probably have to be hosted elsewhere.  There might be ways around these restrictions - and if I find anything I'll be sure to let you know!

Distinct Sidebars for Different Blogs in Squarespace 6

This is not going to be a technical blog, but just in case anyone out there is searching for a way to do this, I thought I'd share the solution I found.  It may look like Squarespace 6 only provides a single sidebar that is shared by all your blogs, but there is actually a way to get around it - you can use custom CSS.

The basic principle is to add blocks for all your sidebars all together in one place, and then turn them visible or invisible based on which page you're looking at.

While editing your blog, if you go into Style Mode (the brush icon in the lower-right hand corner), you should see a CSS button appear in the lower left corner of your browser.  This lets you add custom CSS to the top of all of your pages.  Here's the CSS I added:

#block-99e6fe148f38135539c0 {display:none;}
#block-a178391d0910821e59b1 {display:none;}

#collection-504c031ae4b087270c53d8e3 #block-a178391d0910821e59b1 {display:block;}
#collection-504b5b47e4b00e2aa82c8546 #block-99e6fe148f38135539c0 {display:block;}

.collection-504c031ae4b087270c53d8e3 #block-a178391d0910821e59b1 {display:block;}
.collection-504b5b47e4b00e2aa82c8546 #block-99e6fe148f38135539c0 {display:block;}

The first two lines turn both sidebars invisible.  The next two lines turn the respective blocks visible when you are looking at the correct blog's main page.  The last two lines show the correct sidebar when you are looking at a subpage of the blog (solo post, comments, etc.).  The main trick is to figure out how to get those horrible looking numbers that represent the sidebar blocks and the blogs.  If you use your browser's "View Source" capability, and then search for the <sidebar> tag, you should find an id attribute that looks similar to the "block-#####" ids above.  The "collection-#####" ids represent the blogs themselves - if you look at the blog's <body> tag, the id should be in this format.

Hope this is helpful to someone!

Chris Guin Creations is Moving to Squarespace - Maybe

I've decided to experiment with a website building service called Squarespace, and I really like it, for the most part. Although I have the ability to code my own websites, I neither have the energy nor the design instincts to meet my own expectations.  The Squarespace templates actually seem to be pretty classy and attractive by themselves.  There are a few things I've noticed that bug me, but I'll detail these more as I explore the possibilities.  The idea of managing my website with a very smooth and intuitive admin panel (rather than cpanel or WordPress or traditional content management panels) is quite attractive, even if I have to give up some control over how my website looks.  So here goes!