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Lots of DVDs allow you to watch the movie with or without subtitles. Of course, the DVD doesn't contain two copies of the movie --- it has one video track, and the subtitles (if selected) are overlaid on the video by the decoder. But why should we be limited to the subtitle tracks present on the physical
disc? I should be able to download a set of subtitles from the net and tell the DVD player, "here, use these".
This would be useful for foreign movies which haven't been officially released in English. A lot of anime, for example, has fan-written translations available, but it should be possible to put these translations onscreen and automatically sync'd with the video. MST3K-style commentary would also be possible (as I understand it, the DVD overlay format allows shapes as well as text). Other uses include director's commentary, film-school instructional commentary, glosses and explanations for films from a distant culture (maybe the movie is in a language I understand, but from a time or place that is unfamiliar to me). You could even subtitle an English film with different dialogue (say, to make The Matrix or Star Wars Episode One less painful) or, with more effort, supply an entirely new audio track. Since these "annotation" files wouldn't contain any part of the original movie, they should be perfectly legal to distribute.
Although I doubt Sony will come out with this feature any time soon, there's no technical reason it should be difficult. Now that open-source DVD players are becoming usable this idea may be bakable.
A guide to subtitles
Haven't tried it, but they sound like they know what they're doing. [cpt kangarooski, Mar 10 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]
You, Too, Can Be a DVD Movie Critic
An article by Roger Ebert, a respected film critic on a the possibility of people commenting on movies they love/hate, as an overlay track for a movie. [flicken, Mar 26 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]
A website inspired by Ebert's article. Allows people to post tracks with commentary, etc to an online forum, where they will be downloaded and critiqued by other users. [flicken, Mar 26 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]
LawMeme on DVDTracks.com
Legal aspects & current state-of-bakedness of this idea, circa March 2002 [wiml, May 21 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]
Very close to bakedness: a device driver that modifies a DVD's subtitle info on the fly as it is played [wiml, Sep 20 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]
Baked by this company for playing DVD's on your computer [krelnik, Oct 25 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]
Recut, add subtitles, and add sound effects to video clips referenced only by URL. [jutta, Mar 23 2007]
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||By the way, the DVD of "Muppets in Space" uses the "subtitle" feature to add animated MST3K-style silhouettes when the commentary track is turned on. Would be a cute feature if the commentary weren't so lame.
||Let a thousand soundtracks boom!
||[blamelewis] -- oops! I deleted your annotation. sorry
||Anyway, the idea would be that, since MST3K consists of
a few moving silhouettes and a (frequently silent)
soundtrack superimposed on another movie, it would be
possible to download just the silhouettes and voices and
instruct your DVD player to merge them with the movie
you own/rent which they are ridiculing.
||<obligatory "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" reference>
||There are MST3K type silhouettes on the Ghostbusters DVD. But more importantly, there are programs for computers that appear to permit changing the subtitles displayed. (see link) Getting support for such things into consumer DVD players is a different story, of course, but it is a start.
||The subtitles are not just timed to come up, and even if they were, rotating media does timing is still based on the speed of the rotation. slight variances are imperceptible to humans, but would build up after 90 minutes, making subtitles near movie end to be off.
||But I really like the idea of being able to make my own subtitles. Way Cool!