Miro Internet TV Blog

Universal Subtitles: A New PCF Project

April 13th, 2010 by Dean Jansen

The following is a cross-post from our brand new Universal Subtitles blog.

Subtitles and Captions for Every Video on the Web

Here’s the problem: web video is beginning to rival television, but there isn’t a good open resource for subtitling. Here’s our mission: we’re trying to make captioning, subtitling, and translating video publicly accessible in a way that’s free and open, just like the Web.

Our approach:

  • Make a simple and ubiquitous way to request, create, and translate subtitles for any video
  • Work with others to define open protocols so that whenever subtitles for a video exist, any website or video player will be able to retrieve them
  • Create a community space for people who subtitle video, to encourage contributions and facilitate collaboration

Tools we’re building

1) Subtitle Widget: We’re developing an incredibly user friendly interface for adding captions to almost any video on the web (without the hassle of re-transcoding or re-uploading). We’ll be launching a demo very soon, but here’s a sneak peek:

Universal Subtitles Widget

2) Universal Subtitles Protocol: A new open standard that will allow clients such as Firefox extensions, desktop video players, websites, or browsers to look up and download matching subtitles from a whitelist of subtitle databases when they play video.

3) Collaborative Subtitling Site: An online community for collaboratively subtitling and translating the world’s videos (like a Wikipedia for subtitles). The site will have special tools for versioning, incentives for different types of collaboration, and all subtitles created here will be available in any context via our open protocol. The site will exist to encourage dynamics like:

  • Formation of teams for subtitling a program, or a topic.
  • Tracking which subtitling or translation tasks are the most requested, and mobilizing volunteers.
  • Volunteers recruiting their friends for help transcribing or translating a video.
  • Splitting large tasks into smaller parts

Universal Subtitles Site

Together, our goal is for these and other compatible tools to enable a layer of collective action over all the video we watch, one that is working constantly to break down language and accessibility barriers.

Everything will be 100% free and open source, available under the AGPL.

Who we are

Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF) is the 501c3 non-profit that makes Miro, the cross-platform, free software video player and downloader. Universal Subtitles is now one of PCF’s core projects. PCF’s work on Universal Subtitles has received seed funding from the Mozilla Foundation.

You can help us spread the word!

Get updates and find out first when we launch:

Follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook

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Retweet Us! RT @universalsubs aims to make subtitling, captioning, and translating web videos easy and ubiquitous! http://universalsubtitles.org/

Bonus: Join the Collaborative Subtitling Design Challenge

Design Challenge
Mozilla Labs is helping us out by hosting the Collaborative Subtitling Design Challenge. While the challenge is primarily directed towards budding designers, anyone interested in design is welcome to participate. To get started, read the brief, check out our initial product concepts, make your own improvements/revision, and then submit your ideas and mockups.

The challenge will help us by bringing fresh thinking to our interface concepts and push us to take the subtitling widget to a higher level of usability. All the best work will be featured/honored by Mozilla.

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