Open Subtitles

Over the past couple years, many of the best movies I've seen have been made outside of the US. "Foreign films" are nothing new and they have been standard fare for a long time at indie movie theaters like The Film Forum here in NYC.

But I think we are witnessing something more profound. As big swaths of the world modernize and gain large populations who have the time and the means to enjoy films, we will see more and better films come from outside of the US. We are already seeing it.

What that means is we'll need a better way to do subtitles. And we need to look no further than wikipedia and the world of open source to see the future of subtitles.

Last night, The Gotham Gal and I decided we wanted to have a quiet night at home. She made dinner and I downloaded Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). The Gotham Gal had read the book by Steig Larsson and had really enjoyed it along with The Girl Who Played With Fire. A commenter on her blog let her know they had made a film in Sweden out of the dragon tattoo book and she asked me to set it up on Boxee. So that's what I did.

The film is in swedish and the download I got did not have english subtitles. But fortunately Boxee supports Open Subtitles. If you are streaming or watching a downloaded video in Boxee, you can simply ask for subtitles and Boxee goes out and fetches them from

You can also do this with the VLC player. When you load a file into VLC, you can check the box to load a subtitle file. You can get the subtitle file (a .srt file) from or a number of other subtitle services on the internet. Sometimes you need to play around with the delay parameter to get the syncing right, but it works well.

The larger point I am making here is that by open sourcing subtitles, we are making it easier to watch films and other forms of video that are made in other languages. People in Israel can watch TV shows and films made in the US in hebrew subtitles. People in the US can watch TV shows and films made in India in english subtitles. The possibilities go on and on. We don't need to wait for the producers of the films to release them in foreign languages (if they ever choose to do so). We can simply get the footage we want to watch and find a subtitle for it on the Internet.

The open subtitle market today is focused on popular films and TV shows, but there is no reason why it won't eventually grow to support everything from last night's Jon Stewart show to a viral video on YouTube. As the tools get easier to create .srt files and the various video players start to support them, the possibilities are endless. And the world will get just a little bit smaller as a result.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. David Esrati

    I’ve been frustrated that Apple hasn’t implemented built in Closed Captioning (a different technology than ordinary subtitles which are typically superimposed). As part of ADA requirements- all video editing software should have this technology built in.Adobe has a really cool voice transcription software built into Premier (making it relevant again)The thing about subtitles/captioning- is that it also makes video more search friendly- a really important function in our video enabled world.Thanks for sharing this info on opensubtitles Fred- I hadn’t heard of it previously.

    1. harpos_blues

      David,Closed Captioning is not ADA, it’s mandated by the FCC in the US, via the Television Closed Circuitry Act of 1990, please see:…Also, subtitles and close captioning are two separate technologies in implementation for the US/Canada, though the two phrases are used interchangeably. In a nutshell they occupy separate “channels” or tracks in broadcast media; thus when encoding for digital distribution, the CC or Subtitle tracks need to be included, often it’s not “automatic”To clarify:1) Subtitles: this is a pure transcription of dialogue, without any description of stage direction or action on the screen.2) Captions: In addition to dialogue, captions attempt to indicate all audio content: stage direction, identity of speakers, music, sound effects, etc.As for accessibility, Apple/iTunes has supported all WCAG/Section 508 guidelines for *years*, IIRC shortly after the guidelines were recommended, in 1998. Most major US vendors are fully compliant with these guidelines as well: Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, HP, etc. The US Federal Gov’t is the largest technology consumer in the world, ergo no Section 508 compliance, so no sales to the Gov’t.You can check Apple’s Section 508 compliance here:…It’s the same for the other major US vendors, just go to their web sites and search for “Section 508” and/or “Accessibility”. All vendors are required to post a statement of compliance with Section 508 (there’s an actual metric).To implement closed captioning in iTunes, in Preferences->Playback select “Show closed captioning when available.As for “Open Subtitles”, I’m interested in checking the intellectual property rights here. As mentioned above, subtitles are a direct transcription of the the broadcast dialogue, which in the case of of film, could be construed as content of the “screenplay”. In that case copy/property rights would be licensed and/or assigned by geographic region, much like song lyrics.It’s an interesting problem, and once again it’s not about the technology.

      1. David Esrati

        I understand the differences very well thank you- it’s just that CC isn’t built into FinalCutPro- but is built in- albeit not very gracefully- into DVDstudio pro.These tools should be very easy to implement- and almost required.The FCC ruling is only on shows over 30 minutes btw. iTunes supports it fine- I was only talking about from the creators side.

        1. harpos_blues

          David,I’m with you on he creator’s side, which is why I said “not automatic” in my post above. I think Adobe does a better (not great) job on the technology side.See my post below about working with human transcribers, vis a vis “news”. In the MPEG-4 specification, there is description to add text to audio and video via XML. IBM did a lot of fantastic work on that topic circa 2000-2002. Please see:…Essentially, the XMT solution allows a content creator to insert textual content to a video stream via XML.It’s pretty cool stuff, though not fully implemented by any vendor. You can add text programmatically to video via QuickTime especially for 3GPP output.

  2. Shaun Abrahamson

    A few years ago I was researching p2p search and download stats. Turned out Japanes anime titles were wildly popular. It wasnt clear how this was happening until I was introduced to – a community dedicated to translating Manga.Seems like some of the tools are getting there, but it would be nice to add some of the following1. broader integration of things like Open Subtitles 2. some recognition for contributors (pay, credits, etc)I love the idea of getting access to new content – there is so much great creative work happening around the world and this just lowers the cost for everyone and should give content producers another way to get the word out about their work.

  3. msuster

    I, too, am fascinated by the possibilities that subtitling opens. I love foreign film but was fascinates me more is the youth genre movements of foreign content that emerge that I didn’t expect such as Anime. I looked at an investment in this space and learned that there are whole global networks of “fan subbers” or people who compete with each other for who can do the fastest and most accurate translations. On the company I evaluated they could do a single TV show into 29 languages in just 24 hours. Equally impressive, they were sourcing Asian content yet 55% of their 1.5 million viewers were non-Asian US citizens. I can’t wait to see the content world my kids grow up in. Thanks for the post.

    1. fredwilson

      if you find an investment in this space, pls let me know. my gut says thereis money to be made here

      1. derrinyet

        It seems like there’s some overlap between this project and things like audio search & voicemail-to-text services. Perhaps a company that’s made progress towards either of the latter might also succeed with open subtitles?

      2. harpos_blues

        Fred,There are several companies that provide near real-time transcription for broadcast media, some derived from Gov’t research in machine learning / AI.As an example, Blinx ( was formed as a technology spin-off from Autonomy ( to focus on entertainment, specifically video search. Fetch ( is another company focused on content/nuance extraction.The technology has improved dramatically in the last few years. In 2005, I worked in disaster recovery for Hurricane Katrina. Part of my job was to manage a team of transcribers (crowd-sourced via the Interwebs) that were monitoring broadcast coverage, as well as “closed” emergency response channels.First and foremost, human transcribers are simple amazing beings. I had a couple of folks that could transcribe at 140 words per minute in the 95% range for accuracy. At that time CNN was still using human transcribers and could post to their web site text transcriptions of their programs within 1-2 hours post broadcast.Fast forward a couple of years, and I met with several technology vendors indicating that many news vendors had moved to “automated transcription”.So the technology opportunities are out there.Me, I prefer human transcription. Again, the technology has improved dramatically, but still lacks the ability to infer or interpret nuance. It’s a real issue for any form of electronic communication.Just my .02

        1. fredwilson

          I like solutions that use technology to get 80 to 90pcnt there and use humans to finish the joib

          1. harpos_blues

            Fred,As I mentioned, the technology has approved dramatically, it’s astounding. I can’t or won’t quote percentages of accuracy with automation. But here’s my recommendation:Use automation for the bulk of transcription. Please use humans for verification, this is a “must have” for the time being. Maybe two humans for a start-up in an industry without any regulatory/compliance issues. You’ll need a good IP lawyer as well.For entertainment? With the constant online scrutiny you may want to start with 2-3 human reviewers, and double-up on the need for a well-seasoned IP/contract attorney with entertainment experience.

      3. William Mougayar

        I like to see real-time translation of human conversations, in and out of an iPhone or BlackBerry. If Shazam can recognize a song’s title after 20 secs, there must be hope, right?

        1. harpos_blues

          William,Shazam is pretty amazing, though not widely implemented in the US. Last I checked, Shazam used some form of “audio fingerprinting” technology which is not viable for real-time transcription. In essence, audio/video fingerprinting requires a canonical source/master file for comparison. And, again the human ear is far superior here.Here’s an example for Shazam as I understand it. I’m in a restaurant, I hear a song. I invoke the shazam application on my mobile phone, which transmits audio to a database of acoustic files. After comparison to those source files, Shazam returns an artist/song title.

          1. William Mougayar

            Interesting! Thanks for the explanation. I’m sure language translation is more processing intensive.

      4. ShanaC

        I agree with you on this one, I used to watch those shows religiously growing up, and we’re never mentioning that again.

    2. valto

      I have a friend that is obsessed with this stuff, he knows who are the best translator’s from English to Finnish for each type of film he want to watch :)I think even something like google translation could work in movies, because of the type of language (and having video), sure it would work better between some two languages and not so good with some more difficult translations with more challenging structural differences. But I think with what google is doing with their human assisted translation machine, it will continue to get better.If for nothing else it could be used to do the first version of titles and then continued by human.

  4. Dave Pinsen

    Interesting, though the open subtitles would seem to open up some subversive possibilities.How was the movie?

    1. fredwilson

      the movie was excellent

  5. Bastian Lehmann

    I have to admit that i never heard of before but i like the idea a lot. Your post also stimulates me to think about other areas where this principle can be applied and what the success criteria are. I would assume that users will more likely contribute to such a system if they can easily see their own benefits. This is a dynamic i also noticed within Foursquare a couple of days ago. Foursquare’s database in London is not great, but i saw many people including myself adding new places constantly. I’m pretty sure that the number of places created by users within Foursquare is much higher than in most other LBS services. The dynamic must have something do do with a personal incentive or reward (status, points, checkin) and the knowledge that other users do the same and so, collectively add more value to the entire shared system.I find this highly interesting.

    1. fredwilson

      i can’t wait until you can create badges and other cool “games within thegame” in foursquare

      1. Bastian Lehmann

        Absolutely 🙂 I can think about great “i dare you…” challenges, with a picture to prove that you achieved it.

        1. fredwilson

          i had not thought of that, but it is a great idea

          1. Bastian Lehmann

            Alternatively you could use a friend as a “witness” for the challenge.”I dare you to eat a large burrito at El Farolito with Ring of Fire X-tra Hot Habanero Hot Sauce – no water!”Upload a picture or get one of your friends to confirm that you completed the challenge.

      2. Derby

        All this would be great if people actually used Fadsquare.

  6. Steven Kane

    This is very coolIts a little worrisome though – who does the translations?And do the films’ creators have any say?I know, its just the movies, but still, wars have started over the correct/incorrect translations of a few wordsHere’s an example: Clark Gable’s famous last line in Gone With The Wind is”Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”That could be translated as”Up yours, cunt.”or”Darling I love you but I can’t take the pain anymore.”So it will be interesting to watch as the inevitable happens:1) filmmakers and writers attempt to assert their rights to control or at least influence translations2) this technology inevitably gets hijacked for propaganda purposes

    1. fredwilson

      there is a market for the best translations, the get rated and the best onesget the best ratings

    2. Adrian Palacios

      On the flip side, there are important benefits that could come from crowd-sourcing subtitles.For instance, I have a small grasp of Spanish because of my family’s background. I am by no means conversational, but I know enough to at least realize that we are missing out on incredible subtleties of language/character because the translations for films like Motorcycle Diaries, Amores Perros, Maria Full of Grace, et. al., are somewhat lackluster. Issues like this make me wonder what I’m missing in translations from classic films like Bergman’s or Truffaut’s, let alone the more contemporary, lighter fare.So, there may be very good reason filmmakers and writers will attempt to influence translation: better accuracy as far as character and dialogue. But controlling the translations? Perhaps… but I would imagine the crowds should eventually win out :-And, to your second point, I think that crowd-sourcing translations, even though they could be hijacked for propaganda, may also open the other door to allowing more subversive titles reach a wider audience.Finally, it may be important to crowd-source translations as many nations become more globalized. Meaning, if we’re already missing the subtleties for Spanish-language films from Mexico or Colombia, I wonder what is “lost in translation” in a French-language film from an Iranian director/writer that is subtitled in English…Okay, I am done with my this-is-for-the-good-of-humanity speech and am now stepping down from the soapbox, hahaha

      1. J. Pablo Fernández

        The same happens on the other direction. I’ve recently watched Star Trek TNG with my wife with Spanish subtitles. I mean, the official ones in the DVD and it’s actually insulting. They say “If we go to warp we may have a core breach and the dilithium chamber will explode” and they translate “We can’t move, something is broken.”

        1. Adrian Palacios

          Wow, so much is lost in translation. Do you have anything in mind of how would you translate “warp” and “core breach” in Spanish?

          1. J. Pablo Fernández

            I think Spanish doesn’t have the capacity of English to take new or foreign words and has absolutely no word-buliding capacity. Like I’ve just did in english, creating a word out of two: word-building (of course English is no panacea if you compare it to a truly versatile language, like Esperanto). That makes translating shows like Star Trek harder, but not impossible.”Warp” should be “warp”, like “Ohm” is, well, “Ohm”. Now, some Spanish speakers prefer more spanish sounding words, like turning “Volt” into “Voltio”. Should it then be “Warpo”? “Warpio”? The translation is not one to one, but doable:warp speed = velocidad warplet’s go to warp = saltemos a velocidad warpwarp 2 = warp 2warp bubble = burbuja warpNow, the other one is not that hard: core breach = rotura de nucleo, fisura de nucleo.The phrase I quoted can be translated: “Si saltamos a velocidad warp puede que tengamos una fisura de nucleo y la camara de dilitio explotaria”.

  7. Blaine Cook

    I *love* .srt subtitles. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the potential to use them as a communication side-channel on (near-)live data, or even as educational / commentary resources on existing data (e.g., MST3K / film school / filming locations).The only problem is that I tend to watch movies on my XBox, as it’s the only computing device near the projector, and it doesn’t support subtitles. I have yet to find a good way to burn subtitles onto a movie (iSubtitle doesn’t cut it), so many films remain unwatched, or go through a brutal proxy on the iPhone (Apple has very good subtitle support).Sigh, maybe it’s time to get an AppleTV – what do you run Boxee on?

    1. fredwilson

      i run boxee on a mac miniit is really too bad microsoft won’t allow boxee onto the xbox. but you knowhow that goesyou can get a used mac mini for about $200-$250 on ebay. that’s what i woulddo if i was starting over.

      1. Adrian Bye

        Boxee does an excellent job supporting subtitles and automatic download of them. I tried several applications and none of them had the auto subtitles capability like Boxee

      2. SpeedNY

        I use PS3 to play Blue Ray movies. any thoughts on running any other operating systems on it and using it as a media server?

        1. fredwilson

          i hope that boxee will be available for ps3 soon

          1. SpeedNY

            Yup, boxee is great! Only other option I have is playon, which is not my favourote.J

  8. gmagana

    It’s just a little pretentious of you to think this is a new problem…. For how long do you think non-English speakers have had to deal with subtitles of American films? Does a problem not exist unless America has the problem? Now if you want to make an argument saying that this time it will get fixed right because Americans are on the case… It would be interesting to read your POV if you decide to take that angle (I would not necessarily disagree with it).Also, maybe this is slipping under the radar right now, but will open subtitles go the way of music lyrics, with brain-dead execs and lawyers claiming that subtitles are copyright violations (the movie script is copyrighted) in the same manner that music lyrics are?

    1. fredwilson

      where did i say this was a new problem?

      1. gmagana

        I misread your post. I understood that you meant that subtitles were the innovation, when you meant the advent of open source subtitles. Sorry.I am interested, though, in what you think of the copyright implications of the whole thing. Some years ago, any site that posted music lyrics and had any sort of revenue, even if the revenue was spent wholly on keeping the site up, was shut down by the music industry lawyers. It was their copyrighted work, and only they had the right to make money off it.Wouldn’t you think that the lawyers would go after subtitle sites with even more zeal? Especially if someone dares to put up a translation that the movie studio does not want released yet?

        1. fredwilson

          I suppose lawyers will go after this market for a while. That’s the way content owners behave unfortunately

    2. ShanaC

      I used to love watching Anime as a young Teen, Particularly Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing. When I started (and then stopped, don’t ask) watching this stuff, the way it was semi-understood under legal grounds was that Fansubbing and Fandubbing was legal until an official studio came out with a produced version. A lot of this has to do with both accuracy and framerate reasons. Most teens/young adults can’t quite keep up to the actual post production values, though they can get reasonably close, or at least close enough to start training in pro outfits.Bear in mind, this was the early 00’s, and a lot of underground recommendations about what was legal to own versus illegal to own for rare stuff that no one heard of that was being talked about on Messageboards like AnimeNation. So it all might be folk wisdom being spread around by those who fear no prosecution, because it was terribly unlikely that one’s favorite vampire anime/Magna was coming to the US up until recently…

  9. Diego Sana

    Beeing a fan of many foreign films and tv shows (most of them in english) i’m constantly amazed by how many fans dedicate their time to translate stuff to my native language (portuguese). Shows like Lost or 24 get portuguese subtitles only five or six hours after an episode is broadcasted in the U.S, and the quality is as good as the “official” ones. This year, the largest subtitle-makers community in Brazil even noticed evidence that the cable-tv networks broadcasting some popular shows used the community made subtitles in their transmissions.The only “problem” with this whole thing is that the industry doesn’t seem to like community made subtitles, and many sites have been took down by lawsuits claiming copyright infrigiment.

    1. fredwilson

      Ugh. Not surprised but once again content owners want to control everything at the cost to the viewer

      1. deancollins

        yeh will if the viewer doesn’t like it….they dont have to watch. let them go film their own tv shows/movies. the trasnfer of money is the cost you give up in order for someone to make that movie ‘for’ you. dont like it find soemthing else to do 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      I will do that Ouriel. Thanks for the suggestion

    2. mlsmolens

      OurielThanks for the kind words. The open subtitle world is certainly full of unanswered copyright and questions of how best to create the subtitles and time coded captions. We think that at dotSUB, we have created an easy to browser based functionality to allow anyone, anywhere, of course with permission of the rights holder, to create time coded captions and subtitles, and have that video rendered anywhere on the web with those multiple languages.Would be glad to speak with you further about it.

  10. Tom Limongello

    I had an idea for using open subtitles to make reality tv global. I have no interest in watching US reality tv, but how much fun would it be to see reality tv from other countries?

    1. fredwilson

      I’d love to check that out

  11. Doug Castoldi

    You should check out dotSUB, a NYC based company that has a cool platform for captioning. They support both paid translation services, as well as crowdsourcing. They’re currently working with and other premium publishers such as the Army and ICANN. At Brightcove, we’ve been working with them for the past year to great success.

    1. fredwilson

      The secong suggestion in this thread. I will check them out for sure

  12. chadnuesmeyer

    My wife lived in Switzerland for 18 months we love to keep up on foreign films.What DL service are you using? I checked with the legitimate ones (vongo, netflix, amazon…) but, none of them had it. That leaves (umm….) Torrents?

    1. fredwilson


    2. J. Pablo Fernández

      By the way, in Switzerland (where I live), it is legal to download content, any content. I suppose that the RIAA and the MPAA are not match for a country that managed not to fall under the third reich (Godwin’s law!!!). What is illegal is to upload, which means, torrents. Oh well.

  13. Emeri Gent [Em]

    The most profound change for me is in terms of diversity and here I mean the development of an appetite for me to understand cultures that are vastly different to the ones I have grown up with. In so doing enable my own appreciation of the richness and value in human perspective. I do not like living in a plauditville or relevancy review or opinion rating culture for the profundity here for me is highly personal, which is how willing am I to be exposed to diverse thinking and how that informs my own life decisions. The whole point of film for me is that my life is not meant to be a movie but at the least a self-guided self-discovery.Sometimes I think we are so trapped in other people’s viewpoints that we don’t give ourselves the time to consider the impact of diversity and difference upon on us as a beneficial and self-coordinated raising of our personal awareness. Observing film silences us enough to see how artists see the world. I love what Marshall McLuhan wrote about how it is the artist is who is the first harbinger of change, though he didn’t use the word harbinger, he did say that it is the artist who is at the forefront of change, it is the artist who is the first to recognize change way before the majority us, who have not yet crossed that discovery chasm.The opposite of “open subtitles” for me is “lost in translation”, which means that it is our own given intelligence that is the translation mechanism and if we have a desire to raise the bar on our given form of discovery; then the finger of change belongs to us rather than outwards, because then it is our own finger that presses the enlargement of choice revolving in our own headspace. Open subtitles opens far more than just a door to diversity, for foremost it is a conversion towards expectancy of personal exploration and also the joy and calculation of challenge. Diversity is not a finger we point outwards at someone else, for me it is the degree of our own openness, which at least leads me to reconsider my own life behaviour, or at least the singular futility of my own expressed words. Openness is starkly different in my mind to nakedness, for we do not need to be a stark naked society, but IMHO allow our own personal fashions to cloth us with our own design of life, this personal design is a much more global perspective, a far more patience one that befits our own personal life goals that finds a middle path between being too wrapped up in ourselves and too transparent that we become hollow and formless, redundant of personal meaning. Openness for me is not a tsunami of incoming media but outward choice, a subtitle merely puts a guiding light so we can determine how receptive we are capable of being without becoming an object or structure of media ourselves. Media at worse is an inward missile of interruption, but media at best is an outward growth of our own discovery.Open subtitles need to be extended to non-fiction media as much as it opens the global media perspective, yet the expectancy of difference or cultural impact is not as nearly as wise or idealistic as I would like to think of it to be, but if entertainment is the first source of that change, then the rest will follow as more and more people become accustomed to a vastly different way of looking at the world.I welcome understanding Brazilian, South African, Swedish cultures etc because those countries figure in my own personal journey, but I welcome more than that a global dimension we are no longer putting people on alters or pedestals, that one day we won’t be consumed by what we think we know, but embrace much more of what we don’t know and in that “not knowing” become far more thoughtful and respectful about those who are different from us; and in that difference maybe the subtitle can be viewed as a cute neural pathway for us to personally appreciate life’s uniqueness.Pax TecumLiVE #03[Em]

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment. That’s what I was alluding to in the last line of my post. I would prefer to travel to sweden and soak up the language, culture, and people. Short of that, watching the film last night was great

  14. Tox

    The problem here (again) is one of intellectual property, and the completely broken ideas surrounding it. Unless there is a massive change in our IP laws, subtitle sites (open or otherwise) are going to go the way of the lyrics sites, and yet again, the obvious cultural benefits will take a backseat to the heavy-handed maneuvering of Big Content.Fred did not download the movie legally. It’s not yet legally available for download in the US. Before all of you troglodytes start screaming “THEFT! THEFT!”, may I remind you that when there’s no commercial market for something, there’s nobody for Fred to be stealing from. Who has he wronged?Open subtitles live in a legal grey area — as soon as there’s a subtitle site that’s actually making notable revenue (or, one that’s taken investment from the VC community) the lawsuits will rain down. For subtitles that are a transcription, not a translation, it’s clear that if they’re compiled without the “owner’s” permission, they’ll be considered infringement… and translations will likely be treated as an unauthorized “derived work”. That’ll provide more than enough ammunition to prevent any decent subtitle site from ever becoming a viable commercial concern.If you want to invest in this (growing, encouraging) space… invest in breaking down the stranglehold that Big Content has. Work for sane copyright laws. Because what Gotham Gal and Fred did last night should be legal.

  15. Greg

    Who is the Gotham Gal and why is this person referred to with an alias? Is she a hip hop producer or porn star or something?

  16. Dan Thornton

    Open Subtitles is definitely a win for the consumer – whether or not it infringes on intellectual property – and as someone who watches a lot of Swedish programming, it’s a potential godsend to allow me to buy and watching Swedish TV in between stocking up on DVDs while I’m visiting or opening a Swedish bank account.Incidentally, as an aside, I’d recommend the recent Swedish series of Wallander by Henning Mankell over the recent English-language version starring Kennth Brannagh – strangely both were shot in Sweden with Swedish props, and even Swedish language programmes showing on TV etc. The only difference appeared to be that the main characters spoke English in the UK version by the BBC…(The Swedish version is available with full subtitles, and was even shown on the BBC in the UK following their adaption, which was fantastic.)

  17. andyswan

    Hollywood is begging for an ouster. Great subtitles will only help move that process along.

  18. sdhouston

    Fred: Do you recommend the movie (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

    1. fredwilson

      yes, i liked it

  19. sdhouston

    Fred: Did you like the movie? (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

  20. Philip

    For those who have not seen it, I strongly recommend the French film Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One).

    1. fredwilson

      i loved that film. absolutely loved it.

  21. Rob Colling

    Great post, and open source subtitles are a great idea.As others have already pointed out, there’s a problem and it’s inevitably a legal one. In order to legitimately create captions or subtitles, my company has to be granted a licence to do so by whomever owns the copyright in the video. Otherwise it’s incontrovertibly a copyright violation for us to use that video’s content in our captions or subtitles. Captions or subtitles are a separate copyrightable work, but they incorporate copyrighted content from the video too. It’s like a remix of a piece of music.There may be some wiggle room if you translate the dialogue in a nonstandard way, maybe…? If you could argue that your subtitles did not contain any of the original dialogue, you’d be in the clear, but of course that rather defeats the object. :)So I applaud and its creators, but I have my doubts about it as a viable exercise in its current form. What it really needs is to be run like Spotify, with the active involvement of the video copyright owners. If they just turned around and said it was OK to crowdsub their content, they’d save themselves a fortune and gain millions of extra viewers. Ho hum.On a more trivial note it’s also worth pointing out that there is potential for confusion in the term “open subtitles” – for many decades it has been standard parlance for subtitles which are permanently visible (as opposed to closed subtitles, which the viewer can turn on and off, as on a DVD). Inspired though the folks behind may be, they may find it tricky to appropriate a term which already has an important and widely understood meaning.

  22. ShanaC

    Alright- two really basic thoughts on subtitles:What’s the purpose of translating is often a really good question to ask-My school got very lucky and was one of the first American Unofficial Openings of Waltz With Bashir because of some deal the school has with Sony.Waltz with Bashir was already subtitled at that point (having come out of Cannes), My Hebrew may be kind of bad, but I know that there were mistakes made at the direct translation. That being said, it was overall an excellent subtitling because it got at for what I could tell, the flavor of the movie for the dialogue.OTOH- it could have gone for a much more direct translation of the dialogue. Hebrew has less cursing than the English subtitles implied.Further on the other hand- why not translate some of the rock music which was there when there was no dialogue? That would have made some of the cultural nuances more extensively explained.You might need open subtitles just to be able to find out what is the right balance for a variety of people trying to get vast cultural messages across. Translation is an art form as much as explaining a bunch of words.The other basic though: Although everyone here is going RaRAra about the idea of open subtitles to movies, ect. I am always going to be slightly annoying on this subject. Cultural authenticity may not be something one wants to lose, and although opening up your culture means that more people can now understand you, it also means you may end up paying the price of becoming more culturally homogeneous with surrounding cultures. It is good to have a few cultural secrets that are inscrutable to outsiders and take some study in order to join into the party. It is what makes translation a joy and a marvel of communication in the first place.

    1. fredwilson

      what is amazing about this thread is that we have now named three of thegreat “foriegn films” i’ve seen in the last year

      1. ShanaC

        It’s a crowd with good taste in movies? (actually, I wouldn’t know, I don’t see enough movies to really comment…)

  23. Curious Anon

    Was that a legal or illegal download ?

    1. Tox

      Why does it matter?Fred downloaded it via BitTorrent. He’s said so in the comments.

      1. Curious Anon

        Just Curious. Wanted to know if a VC would download movies via bittorrent. Not sure whether this specific movie torrent is legal or illegal.

        1. fredwilson

          Google bittorrent for that answer

  24. Name

    Amusing. “Män som hatar kvinnor” roughly translates into “men that hate women”. I guess the English title “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” was more marketable. 😉

  25. bombtune

    The sames goes for Chinese and Japanese film. I don’t understand either language but the day will come when the Internet speaks one language which is always converted into our native tongue.

  26. Guest

    More than crowdsourcing benenfit. Have been thinking that Open Subtitles has chance to transform movie search. Netflix could use Open Subtitles to enhance similarity ranking. Or Apple could let us search quotes in movies and show a few minutes clip around that timeline.

    1. Adrian Palacios

      Johann, funny you mention this! I’ve been thinking the same thing; there’s opportunity in making video easily searchable by adding captions or subtitled translations. No more relying on IMDB quotes, etc. Just associate a searchable text file with a timeline to a specific video.I know there’s a lot of back and forth about in the YouTube debate (e.g., did Google really pay a $1b premium for that site?), or did Google understand that the ability to search video *well* is a possible goldmine…

    2. fredwilson

      I know of a startup that’s working on the latter problem

  27. Dorian Benkoil

    Google is testing a Gmail and Gchat translation engine. in other words, real time machine translation. The big brains at Carnegie Mellon for years have been working on this for the spoken word. At some point, you won’t even need the humans to open-source it.

  28. Neil Wehrle

    I haven’t asked my Swedish friends about this, but while I loved both books, I wondered about the quality of the English translations. I can’t put my finger on it, but in addition to some odd phrasing and what I think are made-up words, at times I felt there must have been some subtlety missing. This could a shortcoming of any crowd-sourced translation (I’m sure Hollywood has ruined a few good movies too). Alternately, alternate “expert” translations would available as well.

  29. curiouslypersistent

    I was doing some research in Hong Kong earlier this year around online “piracy” and watching show “illegally” among native English speakers. I was surprised to find out that the main reason for this and the popularity of Tudou isn’t an unwillingness to pay (though that will factor with some), but a discomfort with keeping up with character’s fast talking on US shows. The user generated subtitles may be imperfect, but they gave them a comfort blanket to follow the plot while they tried to follow the characters. If the networks were more quick to embrace this, I’m confident the levels of unofficial viewing would drop off…

  30. J. Pablo Fernández

    I know a guy in Buenos Aires who is a great fan of Robotech and he either actively participates or leads (or used to) the Robotech fan group there. It seems they are a lot of guys and are very active. Around 2000 or so when Robotech was re-released in DVDs they called the publishers and said they would make the Spanish subtitles for Robotech, they would do all the production to have them DVD ready, for free, as volunteers. The publishers of course decided it was better to release without subtitles.I not buying those or any DVDs that I cannot share with my wife and other spanish and non-english speaking friends.In Europe something weird happens. DVDs are released with subtitles in many, many languages except Spanish. I think in Spain they prefer the sound to be in Spanish, or are they using subtitles to divide zones? Spain is Zone 2, but maybe it gets movies after UK, France, Germany, etc.I don’t think people will pay for any entertainment unless it’s optimal, and if you have to rip a DVD and find the subtitles, it’s easier and faster to torrent it.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree with you. Content owners need to embrace the open subtitles movement or its one more reason for someone to pirate content