Jorge Alberto Mussuto Sr.

Jorge Alberto Mussuto Sr.
Somewhere in Massachusetts ®

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Soften Your DVD Rip Subtitles

Subtitles should be seen only when you want them to be seen. Adding soft subtitles to your movie rips is the answer.

HandBrake wants to burn subtitles into your video so they're visible all the time. Extracting a separate subtitle track with D-Subtitler is the best workaround.

Difficulty Level: Medium
What You Need:
>> HandBrake 0.9.4 or later (free,
>> D-Subtitler 1.0 or later (free,
>> A DVD-ripping program like MacTheRipper (free, or RipIt ($19.95,
>A DVD with subtitles

Digital copies of your DVDs can be a great way to pass the time when traveling, but you lose some of the DVD’s functionality in the ripping process. For instance, in the past, subtitles had to be permanently on or off in a rip, but we’ve developed a simple workaround that will let you add soft subtitles (ones that can be toggled on or off) whether you’re watching your film in QuickTime, in iTunes, or on your iPhone. You can even add subtitles in multiple languages by adding more than one soft-subtitle track.

The main software for this process is HandBrake, which lets you add subtitles to your ripped films, but its default option is to permanently burn the subtitle track into your video. The latest release (version 0.9.4) can add soft subtitles instead, but you have to extract the subtitle track from your DVD rip and import it into HandBrake separately. You’ll need an additional application called D-Subtitler for this. We’ll show you how to get it and how to make it work for you.

1. Rip Your DVD

First up: Ripping the DVD. Use an application such as RipIt or MacTheRipper, which will create a Video_TS folder on your hard drive. If you’re using RipIt, make sure the “Use .dvdmedia Extension” preference is off. Save the Video_TS folder somewhere memorable, like the Desktop.

Uncheck the "Use .dvdmedia Extension" checkbox in RipIt's preferences before ripping.

Is this legal? Well, ripping a commercial DVD does break the copy protection, which violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But if you own that DVD, making a copy for your personal use is allowed. Just don’t sell or distribute your rips in any way. That’s what that big FBI warning is about, don’tcha know?

2. Getting D-Subtitler

It's easiest to just grab D-Subtitler from VersionTracker.
Download D-Subtitler from VersionTracker ( (The developer’s site,, is mostly in French.) Drag the icon to your Applications folder and launch the program. Go to File > Open and select that Video_TS folder from Step 1.

3. Making Choices

Verify that your choices are correct, then click the green button.

When your DVD’s Video_TS folder has loaded, you’ll use the pop-up menus to choose the title you wish to analyze (usually, the longest one is the movie you’re after) and the subtitle language you’d like to extract. To make sure you chose correctly, click Preview to play your selections in a separate window. When you’re satisfied, click the main window’s big green button.

4. The Right Setting

Keep trying options in the "Choice of gray levels" dropdown until the text appears black on a white background.
D-Subtitler will take a while to analyze your subtitle track. Once it’s done, you’ll see a preview of it. For the conversion to work, the text needs to appear black on a white background, and the interface offers you four settings to choose from in order to make this happen. Try them one at a time, and once it looks good, click Continue.

Next Page: Soften Your Subtitles continued >>

5. Conversion

D-Subtitler will occasionally need a hand recognizing a character.
Once the right setting is chosen, D-Subtitler will proceed to extract the text, only stopping when it needs help deciphering a letter or symbol that its built-in OCR (optical character recognition) system can’t understand. The Preview button can help you see the problem within the context of the sentence it came from. When the process is complete (this could take a long time depending on the length of your movie), you’ll be asked to save the file, which will then open up, leading to the final part of the D-Subtitler program.

6. Spell Checking

Take the time to read through your subtitles for errors, or at least run spell check.
You can use this last section to review the OCR’s work and correct any mistakes that have been made. The Check Spelling button (third from the left) triggers Mac OS X’s built-in spell checker, which can be a great time-saver. Once you’re happy with the results, save any changes you made, and launch HandBrake.

7. The HandBrake Connection is the subtitle track that D-Subtitler exported in Step 5 and we spell checked in Step 6.
Choose the same Video_TS folder and title as in Step 2, then click the Subtitles tab. From there, click Add External SRT and select the file you saved from D-Subtitler. You’ll notice that the Burned In option is off by default and its box is no longer checked. Choose your desired video format in the Output Settings area, then click the Start button to convert your film and add the soft subtitles.

8. Viewing the Results

How to find the subtitle track in QuickTime.
Once HandBrake is done, drag the resulting video file into iTunes and play it. You can toggle the subtitles on or off by clicking the speech-bubble button toward the right of the playback menu and selecting the subtitle track from the menu that appears. It works the same way when you’re watching on an iPhone or iPod touch. To toggle subtitles in QuickTime, you need to visit the View > Subtitles menu.

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