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Getting Started with Universal Subtitles

10:02 AM PDT on June 14, 2011

(I hope we whetted your appetite yesterday.  Here, the Streetfilms team explains the nuts and bolts. - DN)

Streetfilms is very excited about launching Universal Subtitles, a web-based video subtitling tool.  Universal Subtitles uses crowd sourcing to allow viewers to translate and subtitle videos in any language, as well as improve upon existing translations.  Read more about it in a post by Streetfilms’ technical lead, Chris Abraham.

It’s super easy to use, fits nicely into our website and will improve access to the issues Streetfilms covers.  We're using our series, Moving Beyond the Automobile, as a test case for this new feature, and thanks to a handful of dedicated Streetfilms fans and the great crew at Universal Subtitles, MBA: Highway Removal has already been translated into nine languages!  We encourage you to give this feature a whirl using the videos in Moving Beyond the Automobile, but all videos on the website are ready and waiting to be subtitled.

Here’s how to get started:

The subtitle feature is available on a video’s individual page, which you can access by clicking on the video’s title.  Once there, locate the green Universal Subtitles tab in the lower left hand corner of the video player.  This tab lets you choose the language you want to display and is also your gateway into adding a new translation or revise an existing one.

If you're using the feature for the first time, you must select “Log in or create an account” on Universal Subtitles. Once you’ve created a free account, you’re ready to subtitle. The process is well guided, so just follow the directions Universal Subtitles provides.

Please read the following important information about the process before getting started:

    • It is essential that when adding a new translation, you select the correct language you are translating into so that you do not accidentally replace an existing set of subtitles with yours. If you do accidentally override an existing translation, you can revert to the correct version using the "history" feature.
    • When applying subtitles, be sure that you use no more than two lines of text on the screen at once. In some cases, three lines is OK, but please try your best to stick to two.
    • If you see a grammatical error, want to add to an incomplete translation, or notice that a subtitle is out of sync, you can use the “Improve This Translation” feature and correct it.
    • Every video on the Streetfilms website supports Universal Subtitles. However, most videos that are not part of the Moving Beyond the Automobile series do not have English subtitles applied to them yet. Applying English subtitles to a video is a useful first step in the translating process because it acts as a guide for timing when translating into other languages. The best way to add the English subtitles is to copy and paste the text from the video’s transcript. You can locate a video's transcript by clicking on the “Show Transcript” button below each video in its individual page view.

If you have technical questions or need clarification about terminology in a video, please contact

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