This is how you can burn your Blu-ray subtitles into your videos

As I've explained in some of my previous,  Blu-ray-specific articles, I prefer ripping my own Blu-ray (BD) discs to purchasing any movie from Apple's iTunes store because:

- (after ripping,) the lack of any copy protection aka DRM: I hate not being able to play the videos I paid for in a third-party and, in several cases, much-superior-to-the-stock-Videos-app player. See for example the excellent, and, in many circumstances (too bright or noisy environment (e.g., a gym) where the maximal brightness and/or volume of the device just wouldn't suffice), compulsory DSP's in It's Playing (dedicated article).

- with the majority iTunes Store titles, the lack of any subtitles / closed captions (a must for a non-native English speaker like me to understand everything). For example: none of the Monty Python (a true favorite of mine) movies / MPFC episodes, including related series like Fawlty Towers, have any kind of a CC.

- the inferior video (see THIS) and audio (even AC3, let alone DTS is vastly superior to Apple's AAC – and the additional, even higher-quality audio tracks on some BD discs are even better) quality.

Yesterday evening, I had a long discussion over at MacRumors on preserving / converting subtitles (dedicated thread). During this, I've thoroughly tested SubRip's BD subtitle recognition capabilities and was truly underwhelmed. In the update (see the one dated at 10/03/2012) of my previous, BD subtitle-dedicated article, I've explained why it can't be reliably used for any serious BD recognition, not even if you export DVD-like, resized VobSub subtitle files.

I've also thoroughly tested the BD subtitle conversion features of HandBrake, the best all-around reencoding tool if you need H.264 footage in an MP4 or MKV container.

As HandBrake (HB) doesn't support simple remuxing (very fast conversion without recompressing the video track), you may still not want to use it for BD subtitle preserving, particularly not if:

- you target an iOS platform (not the Apple TV, which can't render bitmap subtitles at all) with players capable of rendering graphical (bitmap) subtitles (currently, there is only one player in the AppStore, ProPlayer, with both VobSub and hardware playback support (see the second 09/11/2012 update in the original article)), or

- you have the time for OCR'ing in Subler and, later, fixing the recognition errors with a subtitle editor like Jubler

- you need to be able to choose between more than one subtitle streams

- you hate burned-in subtitles (ones that you can't remove from the video)

- the video stream doesn't need to be reencoded because it's already in H.264 and not in VC-1 and it doesn't take up much storage and/or you don't mind the storage requirements.

If you can't render bitmap subtitles and don't want to play with OCR'ing and can put up with the disadvantages of burned-in subtitles (one language only and the inability to remove them), using HandBrake's relatively new BD subtitle support may be highly beneficial for you. In a nutshell: it allows for something not very easily (if at all) done using the traditional approach: “burning in” one of the subtitle track's content to the output video.

Being a relatively new feature, it still hasn't been debuted in the official version (as of now, 0.9.8) of HB and is only available in the current nightly builds. Fortunately, it's very easy to install the nightly build as it's available as a binary - as opposed to, say, AviDemux 2.6 for the Mac, which requires a multistep procedure.


Navigate to and select the version corresponding to your operating system (Mac or Windows are regularly published). Then, just install it.


When you load a direct BD rip MKV file, navigate to the Subtitles tab and click the drop-down list showing “None” in the first, Track column of the table on the bottom half, you'll see the original BD subtitle tracks listed under “Foreign Audio Search (Bitmap)”. In the following screenshot (made of the direct BD rip of “Iron Sky”), there are three of them (Finnish, English, Swedish):

(click for a larger image)

Just select the one you want to burn in. You don't need to enable the “Burned In” checkbox.


There are some caveats with HB's approach.

1, the output file will not have standard subtitle tracks, not even if you select more than one input BD subtracks, as opposed to the traditional approach of converting the BD subtrack(s) with BDSup2Sub (again, see my previous article on using it) and muxing the resulting VobSub-formatted (bitmap) tracks back to the MKV / MP4. The latter will be true, separate subtitle tracks.

2, if you select more than one subtrack, the first in the list will be burnt in and not the one you designate to be burnt in. For example, if you select all the three subtracks of the above video (again: you shouldn't) and enable the “Burned In” checkbox of the second element (in the following case, English) HB will just ignore your selection and burn in the subtrack of the first-selected language (here, Finnish):

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<p>Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.</p>
<p>Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.</p>