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Old 06-11-2012, 01:02 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2
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Lightbulb How to preserve subtitles with Handbrake

For older movies, it's sufficient to click "+ Subtitle" on the subtitles tab and make sure it's the language you want.

Where it can get tricky is titles that have dialog in mixed languages. Example: in The Bourne Identity, non-English dialog has English captions "burned in" to the video. So if you select Spanish captions from the menu, you see French dialog captioned both in English and Spanish (quite distracting).

An example of the better way to do it is Salt. There is no captioning burned into the video so if you select Spanish captions, that's all you see. When playing in modern DVD player (e.g. a PS3), by default, you only see English captions for Russian dialog. If instead you play the DVD using VLC (as of 2.0.1), you'll get all or nothing... it can't show English subs during foreign dialog only. That's because the DVD has a subtitle track where the entire movie is captioned in English, but only some of the captions (the ones during non-English dialog) are flagged as Forced.

Handbrake (at least 0.9.6) has features that let you work around players like VLC that can't show only select subs. When ripping, select the English subtitles, but check the "Forced Only" box. This will create a subtitle track in the mkv that has only the subs that are marked as forced. You can even select the English subtitle track twice and check "Forced Only" for just one of them... then you have two subtitle tracks in the mkv: one that captions only the foreign language and one that captions the whole movie.

I have a further problem: Plex for GoogleTV won't show any subtitles at all. To get around that, I can check the "Burned In" box in Handbrake when ripping which causes the captions to be permanently embedded in the video. It's not ideal since you can't ever turn them off, but sometimes it's the only way to see the captions.

The next issue is that if you rip the same language track multiple times (e.g. English for foreign dialog only, English whole movie, English with director's commentary) you can't tell which one you're selecting during playback. Handbrake doesn't let you name the subtitle tracks, so you'll need to use another tool. I use mkvmergegui (mmg) on linux (part of the mkvtoolnix-gtk package). Click File->Header Editor, open the mkv file, then under each subtitle track, you can add a Name. The name will show up when using VLC or smplayer so you can see which subtitle track you're picking. Plex on GTV also fails here as it only shows the language for subtitle tracks, not the names, so you have to choose between English, English or English... but it doesn't matter much since it doesn't show the subtitles anyway.

In the case like Salt, I also recommend clicking the "Default" button in Handbrake for the "Forced Only" subtitle track... then when you play the video, you'll automatically get subtitles for foreign language only without even having to select a subtitle track.
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