Listing of movies where burned-in subtitles are replaced with player-generated ones?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jesse Skeen, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    As I want all my movies to be as close to the theatrical prints as possible, it bugs me when subtitles or any other text that appears during a film is not shown on the DVD version, instead replacing it with electronic subs generated by the player itself. I've avoided any titles where I've heard they've done this too, but occasionally I won't know about them til I see them for myself especially since I don't see many recent movies in the theaters anymore. Last night I watched "Lords Of Dogtown" and there are three scenes where someone is speaking Spanish, and the player puts up yellow subtitles translating them into either English or French depending on which soundtrack you're listening to. These come up even if you have the subtitles on your player set to "Off", somehow they authored this disc so the English or French subs come on during these parts. This really took me out of the movie as it reminded me I was watching a DVD and not a film print. I understand Spanish enough that I could already understand what was being said in these scenes, so if they left out the English subs that were probably on the theatrical prints I would have preferred just to have no subtitles at all, but there's no way to do that the way the disc is authored.

    I've heard some reasons why companies do this but I simply don't agree- it constitutes an alteration from the theatrical version and makes the presentation less film-like, plus on a 4x3 screen it often appears in the black area under the picture which you aren't supposed to be looking at. (There's a subtitled scene in Goldmember that would have been completely ruined had they changed the subtitles in that! Thankfully that was left alone.) Anyways, I'd like to get together a list of all known titles that do this so those who dislike this practice can avoid them.

    These are the few titles I've witnessed this on first-hand:

    LORDS OF DOGTOWN- 3 scenes where Spanish is being spoken, come up as yellow subtitles and can't be turned off

    TOMORROW NEVER DIES (first Special Edition reissue)- A number of location identifiers and some dialogue translation in white lettering in the same font as regular DVD subtitles; can be turned completely off

    RETURN OF A MAN CALLED HORSE- White lettering translating some dialogue, Subtitle button on player is disabled

    DANCES WITH WOLVES (OOP Image release)- White lettering translating some dialogue, can be turned off

    WHALE RIDER- Yellow lettering translating some dialogue- do not know if this can be turned off


    These titles I have not seen personally but have heard they replace filmed subtitles with player-generated electronic ones:

    GO
    CHARLIE'S ANGELS
    BAD BOYS II
    ANNIE HALL
    BLACK HAWK DOWN
    KILL BILL VOL. 1

    Any others, or am I the only one who cares about this?
     
  2. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    You're not alone. It doesn't bother me a ton, but I understand why it irritates others. I was happy to notice that The Exorcism of Emily Rose used the original subtitles. Columbia has often used player-generated ones, so it's good to see they didn't do that here.
     
  3. Jake Yenor

    Jake Yenor Stunt Coordinator

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    Star Wars films. All the huttese(sp?) in the entire series is now seen as subtitles generated by the DVD.
     
  4. Ian_H

    Ian_H Supporting Actor

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    MGM' This is Spinal Tap.


    --Ian
     
  5. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Screenwriter

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    Y'know, this is actually preferable as they take up more of the picture and are actually readable. Burned-in subs look plenty big on a 50' movie screen but are oversmall on your TV.

    ...now, I agree it's not always well done. "Player generated" subs are not created with a character generator, but, rather, they're bitmaps on the DVD. Those bitmaps can be created using any font or symbol the author wishes. Thus the can, and should, use fonts that match what the release prints used. Unfortunately, they rarely do, opting instead for ugly default lettering created by the authoring software (the lazy way).

    So the problem isn't really the existence of "player generated" subs, but rather sloppy execution of them.
     
  6. Jimmy M

    Jimmy M Second Unit

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    Not to sound like I'm being a jerk or anything, but I don't get this. Do you actually put in a DVD, watch it, and not know that you are watching a DVD? Do you really believe that you are watching something on film?

    Really, I'm not trying to cause trouble or anything...

    Jimmy!
     
  7. Patrick H.

    Patrick H. Second Unit

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    Worst example of this ever has to be 'Amistad.' Blocky, graceless player-generated subs nearly ruin the emotional impact of the film's epilogue.
     
  8. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I don't mind them when they are done well The original Dances dvd had subs that didn't always appear when they were supposed to, so some longer sentences flashed by too quickly. Most of the subs don't take advantage of the full width of the picture so, as is the cast of The Passion of the Christ, they take up two lines on your set instead of one long one.
     
  9. Kain_C

    Kain_C Screenwriter

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    I'm wondering the same thing Jimmy is.
     
  10. David Allen

    David Allen Stunt Coordinator

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    This policy is done so that a studio can create one Hi-Def/Standard Def picture master, useable in all territories. The DVD player generates the particular foreign language subtitling, so that the studio doesn't have to spend a fortune restoring/doing a separate telecine, and mastering a separate film element to video for every friggin' language (pardon my language). It's a good intention, followed by lousy technology.

    For real complaints, see the "Annie Hall" thread. Also, I believe all the Bond films are now using this format.

    Keep in mind that you are talking about two different types of subtitling- the kind that was originally subtitled on the domestic release, and the other kind which translates the entire film for foreign territories. For English speaking countries/people, this is especially annoying when watching films that had foreign (non-English) dialog in the original release, and it is now given that crappy looking low-rez player generated look.

    Also, if you have a 16x9 set, and the subs are now in the "letterbox" area, you typically cannot read them in their entirety because they are cropped.
     
  11. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    Player generated subtitles have always been a lousy idea IMO. Hopefully someday we'll have it done the right way but movies should always have their original language intact, including original burned in subtitles.
     
  12. Malcolm Cleugh

    Malcolm Cleugh Second Unit

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    I agree with the comments above.
    The main problem with player generated subtitles is they use too big a font, so they really break the flow of watching (they must assume everyone has eyesight problems).

    Some R1 releases that look pretty bad to me are
    Charlie Angels Full Throttle Unrated (or whatever they called the extended version).
    XXX
    James Bond Die Another Day.

    It is even worse for us in Europe as even when the R1 release gets burnt in subtitles they are player generated in R2, so they can use the same disk throughout Europe. MGM and Universal are pretty bad for this.
     
  13. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    Big ugly blocky yellow subtitles... yeah, that doesn't take me out of the movie. [​IMG]
     
  14. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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    The problem is that the image of the film has a very specific, a very genuine look that comes from being mastered on film. The subtitles generated by the player disrupt that quality. That is what he is talking about, not about forgetting that it's a plastic disc.

    The real problem is that the DVD standard does not allow for generated subtitles to have the resolution so that they can better fit the look. My Playstation does a better job of generating good looking titles on the fly and it's very dissapointing. I know there is only so much they can fit into the bitstream, but it's annoying to think these low bit subtitles are to now be considered part of the film.
     
  15. Jesse Blacklow

    Jesse Blacklow Cinematographer

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    How do player-generated subtitles take you out of the "movie experience" and burned-in ones do not? It's still words up on the screen. I find it even worse when actually watching a film in the theater, because it's that much more space between the focus of the action and the bottom of the screen. Some players (and most PC software) lets you turn off subtitles entirely, so you could give that a try.

    I'll admit that big yellow subtitles do suck, and I wish they'd use better-looking fonts, but you do realize that DVDs, like many products, have to take into account the lowest common denominator? That includes people who don't know Spanish/French/Huttese/Rodian/etc, people with less than perfect eyesight or problems with brightness differentiation, and thousands of different companies in several dozen countries all producing varying qualities of hardware. And what about foreign films? I very much doubt that Kurosawa (for example) thought that burned-in subtitles were true to his artistic vision.
     
  16. Bill GrandPre

    Bill GrandPre Cinematographer

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    The unfortunate thing about player-generated subtitles is that they are COMPLETELY unnecessary because of the angle feature. Ideally, a DVD could be authored to feature the English text burned-in on Angle 1, Spanish text burned-in on Angle 2 and French text burned-in on Angle 3, etc, but nobody seems to use this method. The closest thing I can think of is the "Star Wars" films where the opening text crawl is presented in different languages via angles but for some reason, player-generated subs are STILL used for the alien languages later on in the same movies. I don't know why two different methods for the same basic process would be utilized on the same DVD but I'm not Van Ling. In any case, there's no excuse for replacing burned-in subs for player-generated ones.
     
  17. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    "10 Things I Hate About You" has a couple amusing scenes where the guy is helping the girl study French, only he doesn't really know the language very well and subtitles are shown with what he's saying translates out to. The DVD includes a French version also, and for that they changed the language being studied to Italian. The subtitles on the DVD are shown burned-in and uses the multi-angle capability to show them in French if you've selected that language instead. That's the way to do it!!!

    I hit the roof back when I dropped $100 for the letterboxed VHS Star Wars box set and found the subtitles on that were placed UNDER the picture! I never bothered upgrading to the laserdisc versions for that reason (until a co-worker gave me theirs), and of course I'll never buy them on DVD with the countless additional changes! (They could put the words in balloons like a comic strip for all I care.) The only Star Wars movie I have on DVD is Revenge Of The Sith since that's the only one that wasn't changed from its theatrical version. I feel VERY strongly about this- see my comments under the Muppet Christmas Carol review.

    Movies that are already in another language are a tricky matter- while I'd still rather see them with the English subtitles on the actual print, the good thing about using player-generated subs on those is that you can turn them off and see the movie without subtitles, which presumably is how it was shown in its original country (provided the American distributor didn't decide to mess with it further!)

    I'm at work right now but will try to keep the list at the top updated as new titles are mentioned.
     
  18. Bill GrandPre

    Bill GrandPre Cinematographer

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    I don't wanna get off on a Lucas tangent but "Revenge of the Sith" is slightly altered from it's theatrical version, cut before the shot of Anakin's burnt robitic arm pulling his body up the lava bank was a wipe in the theatrical edition but Lucas changed it to a straight cut for the DVD.
     
  19. Jesse Blacklow

    Jesse Blacklow Cinematographer

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    You know, I'd never thought of the alternate angle idea, which sounds like the best possible solution. The only issue is that it might mean including several versions of the affected scenes, which would take up more space on the disc.

    Out of curiousity, is this an issue you have with distributors and studios, or with filmmakers as well? Outside of a select few (Lucas, for example), I'd rather have the filmmaker's intended piece than what I may have seen in the theaters, although it would be nice to have both. Oftentimes, this could be fixed by seamless branching, but it seems to be poorly implemented by hardware and from a business POV, it cuts off further revenue from "special" editions.
     
  20. Bill GrandPre

    Bill GrandPre Cinematographer

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    With angles, I think the space thing is pretty much a non-issue as long as it isn't the entire film that is subtitled. Most cases I can think of with subtitles in a film are just a scene or two here or there.
     

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