Tools and translation, or, rocking with Bénabar

Universal SubtitlesYesterday, I saw a tweet about Universal Subtitles, an open-source site to “make the work of subtitling and translating video simpler, more appealing, and, most of all, more collaborative.”  The site lets you add captions, subtitles, or translations to videos online.  (They say they work with Ogg, WebM, FLV, Youtube, Vimeo, Blip or Dailymotion.)

I’d been wanting to find out how to add captions to videos, the way I’d seen song translations done on Youtube.  On La charrette pélagique, the blog I (infrequently) write in French, I’ve tried translating some French songs into English.  The hard part there is that you can’t easily fit two translations side-by-side, so you end up alternating languages one verse or chorus at a time.

In addition, if you’re trying to understand spoken (or sung) language, I think it helps at times to be able to see the words in sync with the audio stream.

So, for a good part of yesterday afternoon and this morning, I used Universal Subtitles to create both an English translation and a French transcription of La berceuse (“The Lullaby”) by the French singer Bénabar (Wikipedia bio in English, French; French-language website).

(If you’re the parent of little kids, or know people who are, I think you’ll enjoy Bénabar’s take on lullabies.)

I haven’t figured out how to embed the subtitled version here, so if you’re curious:

  • Click this link: La Berceuse
  • Below the video, choose the language for the subtitles (“original” [meaning French] or English)
  • Play.

You singing to ME?

Universal Subtitles is a collaborative effort, which means someone else can come along to edit my French-language transcript (I have my doubts about a word here and there), my English translation, or my synchronization.  For myself, I wish there were a way to save my own version–to keep it as I made it, for my own purposes–but that’s a minor point.

What’s more important is the immediate usefulness of this tool.