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EBU format not compatible with Subtitle Workshop
Thread poster: Thierry Renon

Thierry Renon  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:30
English to French
+ ...
May 28, 2008

I have a "technical" question about the EBU format. I used to work with this format (on Win2020) and I thought I was familiar with it but I have recently learnt there are 2 different EBU formats! And I am now working with the "different" EBU format. My subtitle file looks something like this:

1: 01:00:02.08 01:00:04.22
Bla bla bla.

2: 01:00:06.04 01:00:11.11
More bla bla bla.
Etc.

3: 01:00:11.15 01:00:13.20
Etc.

And I'd like to load it into Subtitle Workshop so I can rehearse the file. Or have the .txt file converted to a format that's compatible with SW (or any other programme for that matter).
I have also tried with Aegisub (to convert the file) - it reads the text file OK, but the time-codes appear as part of the subtitle text.

Any ideas/suggestions? Many thanks!

Thierry


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Some ideas May 28, 2008

It looks to me like a TXT file for Adobe Encore or Ulead DVD Workshop.

Maybe some little formatting will get it right.

Btw, all subtitle files I know are editable in Windows Notepad. So I suggest you get one subtitle file compatible with TXT as above. Open it with Notepad, and analyse its structure.

Then open your EBU file in Microsoft Word as TEXT. There you can use [Alt]+clicked-mouse-over to select a block of text to copy/cut and paste, delete, whatever. This way you can "reassemble" your EBU file into a properly formatted subtitle TXT file.

I'm just guessing from my recollection, but it seems that all your file needs is deleting the subtitle numbers on the left. If it is so, just align them properly, or do the process in parts (1-digit, 2-digit...) to delete them, and save as TXT.

If you have any problem reading TXT subtitle files with Subtitle Workshop, try opening them with (also freeware) DivX Media Subtitler, saving them as SSA, and then opening these with Subtitle Workshop.

Btw, Media Subtitler is too adrenaline-based for me to do spotting, but it might be better that SW for just visualizing the subtitles.

And if you want to see "the real thing", use VirtualDub and its Subtitler plugin with SSA files.


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Thierry Renon  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:30
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you José!!! May 28, 2008

Waouh, I must say I am impressed again by your reply, José: spot-on, super fast and very useful!

I haven't heard of Media Subtitling before so it's definitely worth trying (yes, I just want to rehearse the subtitles, I want to know if my translation is too long for instance, I don't have to play around with the time-codes/split subtitles/etc. - it's just very basic, I don't even to do the edits on the programme, just directly on the .TXT as a final quality check).

Also, your idea about playing about with the format in Word, then resaving it is a good one (although it might take more time when I have +1000 subtitle numbers to delete).

I won't have time straight-away to look into it (busy with translation at the moment, so the "technical" side can wait!) but I'll probably look over the week-end and let you know if it's worked!

Many thanks and all the best,

Thierry


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 09:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
There is only one EBU subtitle standard May 28, 2008

I'm not a subtitler and have no hands-on experience with any of the softwares mentioned by Thierry and José. However, when the EBU subtitle file standard was published in 1991 I was Chief Editor of the EBU Technical Publications Service and this standard was one of those which I dealt with in that capacity.

I imagine that both Theirry and José have copies of the relevant EBU documents in their personal libraries. For others who might be interested, the EBU Standard with the reference N19-1997, is available here: http://www.ebu.ch/CMSimages/en/tec_text_n19-1997_tcm6-4609.pdf and the corresponding technical specification (document Tech. 3264) is here: http://www.ebu.ch/CMSimages/en/tec_doc_t3264_tcm6-10528.pdf

The standard and the specification have not been revised since their first publication in 1991, except that a note was added to the standard (N19) in 1997 to deal with a potential Y2K problem in a couple of data fields. The solution to the problem did not impose any change in the data file format - it merely suggested how softwares should interpret dates after the year 2000.

I'm curious, therefore, to read Thierry's comment that there are two 'different' EBU formats. That, on the face of it, is not correct. It is nonetheless quite possible that one of those two formats is a proprietary adaptation of the EBU format, to suit some manufacturer's specific requirements. One of the things the EBU Technical Committee engages in is compatibility tests to ensure that products from different manufacturers claiming to adhere to EBU specifications will actually work with each other - and if they don't then it's (very occasionally) because the specification was 'open to interpretation' or (far more commonly) because a particular manufacturer's hardware or software has a design fault (or what some manufacturers prefer to call a 'feature').

Having quit the EBU some years I'm no longer up-to-date with recent or current work in the EBU in the field of subtitles although I suspect that current development work in this field is being channelled by the EBU through the DVB Project Office ( www.dvb.org ) for publication as European Standards.

If anyone is interested I could do some research on the matter and make contact with former EBU colleagues to try to clarify the matter. As a start, it would be useful to have details of the two different formats discovered by Thierry.

MediaMatrix


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Clarification May 28, 2008

I don't know what EBU is, never seen such a file.

I just took the lead from the example Thierry gave, which resembles the TXT subtitles files.

I understand that all these subtitle files have two things in common: the subtitles themselves, and the in/out timecodes. All the rest, including the line-break "simbol" varies. Some of them have more additional information, others have less, if any. It's no big deal to open one such file, discover what it uses, and replace half-manually (using a text editor's search & replace) the "different" codes. This was my line of thought.


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jbjb  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 14:30
Estonian to English
+ ...
Easy Jun 1, 2008

No, actually the most common European subtitling standards - EBU Subtitling File (.stl), Scantitling (.890) and Screen (.pac) are not text files and cannot be edited as text or opened properly in Notepad or Word.

In order to open this file in Subtitle Workshop, it needs to look like this:

1
01:00:02.08 01:00:04.22
Bla bla bla.

2
01:00:06.04 01:00:11.11
More bla bla bla.
Etc.

3
01:00:11.15 01:00:13.20
Etc.

It's a very simple Find-Replace command to make it look like this.


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Thierry Renon  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:30
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you again! Jun 2, 2008

Thank you all for understanding my query, which wasn't 100% clear!

Mediamatrix - yes, I do find that strange (that there are 2 EBU formats) but I have read it somewhere on the Internet, relating to Subtitle Workshop (OK, I know, the Internet is not a reliable source, I should have known better!)

But more to the point (my original format could be called anything, I am working on the text conversion of the subtitle file), as José and jbjb pointed out, my problem is to make a simple text file be compatible with SW (so I can rehearse the file). You both said I should fiddle with the text file (use Search and Replace), I still haven't had time to do it (still busy with the translation), but it *should* do the trick.

Once again, many thanks to all of you for your suggestions/comments. I'll let you know soon how I get on (it's problem that's been at the back of my mind for about 6 months now!)


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jbjb  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 14:30
Estonian to English
+ ...
No EBU Jun 3, 2008

I don't think this text file has anything to do with EBU. An EBU file would have an .stl extension and it cannot be opened as a text file. Just like .890 and .pac (.rac) files.
However, each subtitling software can turn out a text file of the subtitles and for some reason each text version is somewhat different - a comma there, a colon here, and dozens of other slight differences.
Subtitle Workshop is a good example of a tool that can handle those various text files that can be created with all the different subtitling software. But as far as I have seen, it cannot handle any of the proper subtitling formats. Some never versions claim to have .890 support (or perhaps even proper EBU .stl support? can't remember) but I have never managed to open any proper subtitle file with SW.

So reading those text files depends on the subtitling software you use. Win2020 is exceptionally bad at this but my software (FAB) can, for instance, open your original file without problems.


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Jing Nie
Local time: 20:30
Member (2011)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Try a Word Macro Jun 6, 2008

Hi, I have searched online. You file is very similiar with Toshibar DVD subtitle format.

But I have no compatible software to open it.

But I found a way to convert it to SRT format automaticully using a WORD Macro.


I have uploaded the Word file with the Macro to
http://www.fs2you.com/en/files/4341554f-33c8-11dd-a393-00142218fc6e/

You may dowload it and try it.

1. You must enable macro when open the WORD file.
2. See the instruction in the word file and follow it. i.e., You delete all demo content in the file and paste your subtitle script and run the Macro.

If you meet any problem when using the Macro , please let me know. I will rewrite it accordingly.

Be careful , Back up your subtitle before using the Macro.

Hope it works.





Thierry Renon wrote:

I have a "technical" question about the EBU format. I used to work with this format (on Win2020) and I thought I was familiar with it but I have recently learnt there are 2 different EBU formats! And I am now working with the "different" EBU format. My subtitle file looks something like this:

1: 01:00:02.08 01:00:04.22
Bla bla bla.

2: 01:00:06.04 01:00:11.11
More bla bla bla.
Etc.

3: 01:00:11.15 01:00:13.20
Etc.

And I'd like to load it into Subtitle Workshop so I can rehearse the file. Or have the .txt file converted to a format that's compatible with SW (or any other programme for that matter).
I have also tried with Aegisub (to convert the file) - it reads the text file OK, but the time-codes appear as part of the subtitle text.

Any ideas/suggestions? Many thanks!

Thierry


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 09:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Misconceptions… Jun 6, 2008

Thierry Renon wrote:
EBU format not compatible with Subtitle Workshop


I presume you really mean: “Subtitle Workshop is not compatible with the EBU format”. Or are you one of those who will tell a police officer that the 120 km/h speed limit is incompatible with your driving habits? Softwares are expected to comply with standards, not the other way round.

Subtitle Workshop doesn’t claim to be compatible with the EBU format. Here http://www.urusoft.net there is a list of over 50 formats this software claims to work with, but there is no mention of the EBU and the format included in the list with an .stl extension (Spruce Subtitle File) is apparently not EBU compatible either.

There seems to be a general misunderstanding here regarding the possibility of editing subtitle files in a simple text editor such as Notepad. It is certainly possible to open an EBU subtitle file in Notepad, and the first 1 kbyte of the file was deliberately designed to be human-readable. This section of the file, known as the General Subtitle Information block, contains details such as programme title, languages used, total number of subtitles in the file, etc. etc. However, although it is human-readable that does not mean you can safely edit it in Notepad because all the data fields are of fixed length with unused areas filled with padding. If you add so much as a single letter to the name of the programme, for example, you will corrupt the entire file. The remainder of the file – the part containing the time-codes, subtitle texts, justification flags etc. - is all in hexadecimal code (i.e. numbers represent alphanumeric characters) and is not human-readable, let alone human-editable.

The subtitle format extracts posted here by Thierry almost certainly do not represent the way the information is structured in the underlying data file (in the same way as what you see on-screen in a web-page is very different to the complete source code sent over the internet). All we see here is a convenient representation for the computer screen, and maybe for a print-out, of the time-codes and texts. We cannot see how the time-code lines are terminated (carriage returns/line breaks/other codes), how the text lines are terminated, whether there is padding to fill fixed-length data fields, whether a single subtitle runs over from one text block in the data file to the next, how the texts are numbered ‘behind the scenes’, what the transition effects might be, how the text is justified, etc. etc. because all these things are coded (in the EBU format at least, and no doubt in most other softwares too) using non-displaying hexadecimal character codes that simply do not appear on your screen/print-out.

It’s true that information could be copy-pasted from a subtitle software to Word and ‘fiddled with’ to make it look like the output from another software, but all you are really doing is modifying the cosmetics of the on-screen display – you are not by any stretch of the imagination making the file ‘compatible’ with the other software. And in the process there’s a very good chance you will corrupt the file irrevocably making it unusable with any and all subtitle softwares. This applies both to José’s and jbjb’s search/replace suggestions and to Jing Nie’s macro (which automates the search/replace operation on the complete file).

Finally (for now…) a question for Thierry: Can you please tell us what software was used to generate the ‘different’ EBU format you mentioned in your first post?

MediaMatrix


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jbjb  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 14:30
Estonian to English
+ ...
Cool it Jun 10, 2008

What has been copied here by Thierry is most obviously not a EBU file but a text file generated by some sort of a subtitling software.
Therefore it can be most easily modified in Word, so that it can be opened in SW and then saved there into any format (all of the 50 formats included in SW are text files and can be opened/modified in Notepad or Word) that the subtitling software supports.


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SilvaBelo
Portugal
Local time: 12:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
EBU format Jul 11, 2008

"We will want to receive a STL file as final delivery for the subtitles and a Word document for the voice-over script. A transcript will be available."



Is this "STL" referring to EBU format or to Spruce Subtitle File? I'm wondering how to save a subtitle in EBU format (according to what i've read the extension of this format is also .stl just like spruce's format).


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Absolutely correct! Jul 12, 2008

mediamatrix wrote:
It’s true that information could be copy-pasted from a subtitle software to Word and ‘fiddled with’ to make it look like the output from another software, but all you are really doing is modifying the cosmetics of the on-screen display – you are not by any stretch of the imagination making the file ‘compatible’ with the other software. And in the process there’s a very good chance you will corrupt the file irrevocably making it unusable with any and all subtitle softwares. This applies both to José’s and jbjb’s search/replace suggestions and to Jing Nie’s macro (which automates the search/replace operation on the complete file).


Unless the user is thoroughly familiar with the different subtitle files structure - therefore likely a developer of software such as Subtitle Workshop, Media Subtitler, and alikes - there is no way to properly convert one subtitle file type into another.

For instance, I like to translate video from its audio track only, using Express Scribe and Windows Notepad, using the [|] char without the brackets for line breaks. So I get a text file. If I open it directly on Subtitle Workshop, which expects a TXT subtitles file, there is a lot of additional work to fix it. I don't like Media Subtitler for subtitling, but it's excellent to open a TEXT file, convert it into subtitles, and save it to a subtitles file (I use SSA, SRT, or TXT - depending on the software I'll use next) which Subtitle Workshop will open properly.

So, if someone has subtitles in one format and needs it in another, the safest way is to find a program that will read/write both, and use it for the conversion.

The fact is that the information is often the same, but it's laid out differently in each file type. However it must be taken into account that each of these file types contains a different quantity of information.

I read somewhere that SSA is the most complete/detailed one. This is why VirtualDub can use it to burn complete subtitles with almost no additional settings. On the other hand, the most "barebones" subtitle file type is TXT. AFAIK it only has all subtitles and the corresponding in/out times for each one. All the other settings will take place in e.g. Adobe Encore, or Ulead DVD Workshop.

So converting subtitles from SSA to TXT will discard a lot of settings. Conversely, if you go from TXT to SSA, the latter will require a lot of additional settings.

One interesting thing about Subtitle Workshop. Sometimes the video has onscreen text at the bottom, e.g. the name and title of the person who is saying something. It's general courtesy to "lift" subtitles temporarily, so the spectator can read that (assuming there will be time to do so). I do this lifting by manually editing the SSA filewith Notepad. I change the third 0000 in the subtitles I want to lift to the number of pixels to be lifted. However if I open that SSA file with SW, it will immediately reset all such figures to 0000.


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kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
English
+ ...
Different EBU formats Jul 23, 2008

There are two different EBU .stl formats, depending on whether the file is for Teletext broadcast or DVB/DVD and are not compatible with each other.

Spruce .stl is a completely different format again, which is not compatible with either EBU format.

The file you're looking at appears to be a txt file, so you should be able to modify it into a format which Subtitle Workshop will open.

If you have to delete or modify the format of the caption numbers and/or change the format of the timecode display, it's fairly straightforward to do that in Word. Use the replace function, more and special for the various combinations. Save your new file as a .txt file and you should be able to import it.

Remember to always keep an unmodified master file just in case.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 09:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
I repeat ... Jul 23, 2008

kmtext wrote:
There are two different EBU .stl formats, depending on whether the file is for Teletext broadcast or DVB/DVD and are not compatible with each other.


Unless I am seriously mis-informed, that statement is incorrect. There is one single unique 'EBU format', the details of which were published in 1991 in the documents I referenced previously. The EBU format has not been revised - so how there could be a 'second version' taking account of DVD and DVB is a mystery, since these technologies had not even been invented in 1991.

The EBU standard is actually not a subtitling format at all - as the title of the document says, it is a "subtitle exchange" format. As such, it is intended to serve as a common, transparent file format for the exchange of what the EBU, in 1991, regarded as being the minimum necessary data-set. The Introduction to EBU document Tech. 3264 says: "... the EBU has standardised a data file format for use with a personal computer to enable the exchange of invision and teletext subtitles." The standard is actually 'blind' to the method of subtitle generation and the intended transmission/display technology (and that principle is extendible to more-recent digital display options) in the sense that there is no field in the file format to indicate what software was used to generate the file or the intended display format or technology (apart from a 25/30 Hz video frame-rate flag).

What is possible - indeed, likely - is that subtitle system manufacturers and software writers embed proprietary data within the EBU standard format in ways that maintain compliance with the standard but allow manufacturer- or product-specific features to be incorporated. Of course there is no guarantee that such proprietary data will be recognized properly (or at all) by other manufacturers' systems, or that one manufacturers' proprietary data will not interfere with that used by another. What should happen if a subtitle system receives an EBU file built with another manufacturer's software, in the event of a conflict in the interpretation of user-defined functionality, is that it should ignore anything it cannot 'understand' and, in the limit, rely only on the content of the data fields defined in the EBU standard. This means that the key data (timecodes and subtitle texts) will get through, even if the proprietary 'extras' are lost.

So, I suspect that the "two different EBU .stl formats, depending on whether the file is for Teletext broadcast or DVB/DVD" referred to by kmtext are actually proprietary standard-compliant variants of the EBU standard, using additional data embedded in the 576-bit 'user-defined area' (UDA) of the file header. (In theory the Comment Flag in individual subtitles could also be used, in conjunction with the text field, to convey proprietary data, but such use would not be compliant with the standard, since the text field must contain ... text, not data.)

HTH
MediaMatrix


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