REVIEW: unique multi-subtitle video player nPlayer receives bitmap subtitle support

UPDATE (20/Oct/2012): I've also tested U.S. DVB subtitle (technically, Closed Caption tracks) rendering. The test file, as usual in my 1080i60 U.S. DVB MPEG-2 tests, was THIS MPEG-2 + AC-3 + CC file. (In the original article, I've only tested European DVB broadcasts, which use another technique for subtitling: bitmaps. In the US, technically, an entirely different, textual closed captioning method is used.)

Unfortunately, as you can also see in the screenshot below (see the annotated "Subtitle" group containing nothing), it didn't even recognize the CC tracks, let alone rendering them:

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

That is, the player is only able to render (bitmap - non-teletext) subtitles in European DVB recordings but not in US ones.

BTW, the playback speed / efficiency of such MPEG-2 1080i60 content is a bit worse than that of, say, yaPlayer (latest review). Considering nPlayer doesn't support CC's, you'll want to prefer yaPlayer. Also note that the other, (previously) excellent and, for this task, highly recommended MPEG-2 1080i60 TS player, OPlayer (HD), is no longer able to play back  direct U.S. DVB recordings any more as they use AC-3 audio, the support of which has been dropped from OPlayer in September. Therefore, stick with yaPlayer for MPEG-2 1080i60 U.S. DVB files. Until AC-3 is removed from it too, that is. (My dedicated forum post is HERE.)

Original article: In the last review, I loved the video player "nPlayer" because of its ability to render more than one textual subtitle tracks, both embedded and external, while playing videos.

Back then, I've emphasized the complete lack of bitmap subtitle support as a very big disadvantage. Fortunately, the developers listened and added support for these subtitles too – something very important, given that character recognition (the process of converting the original bitmap subtitles to textual ones) is either fast but inaccurate or slow and very tiring / tedious. The AppStore update notes emphasize a lot of bitmap subtitle types are now supported:

(as usual, click the image for a much better-readable one. nPlayer entry at the bottom.)


I've tested both direct DVD rips (MPEG-2 video with VobSub subs in an MKV container; see THIS) and, converted from this file, M4V files with (via HandBrake, pass-thru'ed) VobSub subtitles. Both worked OK (the video files are linked from the just-linked article; direct links: original MPEG-2 rip MKV; reencoded M4V).

What's GREAT

You can render textual and bitmap subtitles on the same screen. Of the former, there can be many; of the latter, only one at a time. An example of playing back THIS video using software decoding (if you leave it at the default hardware one, only the textual subtitle tracks will be displayed. Disable HW decoding by switching off the topmost switch in the same dialog.):

The bitmap (with the yellow outline) is displayed above the three textual subtracks.

This is how I set up this configuration (English VobSub at the bottom + three-language textual subs at the top):

This setup is great when you don't want to waste much time on OCR'ing your stuff and would like to see the OCR'ed text and the original at the same time. Whenever you realize something is messed up, you just read the bitmap original.


- as opposed to ProPlayer, you can only play back video files in software to be able to render bitmap subs, as opposed to how nPlayer supports textual ones. That is, you can just forget playing back full HD H.264 MP4 / M4V / MOV videos with VobSub subs.

- as has already been stated, you can only render one bitmap sub at a time – as opposed to textual ones. Nevertheless, you can do this alongside any number of textual subs. The latter can, as usual, be repositioned.

DVB subtitles

The update also supports European(!) DVB bitmap (non-teletext) subtitles. An example (original test file; linked from THIS DVB TS-specific article):

As you can see, everything is just fine, even multiple colors are supported.

Native Blu-ray subtitles  

(See THIS for more info on Blu-ray subs, how they need to be converted to VobSub subs etc.)

I've also tested THIS test file to find out whether native, unconverted Blu-ray subs are supported. Unfortunately, they aren't. The app certainly recognizes them as native BD subs as can be seen in the following shot:

Nevertheless, nPlayer doesn't actually render these subs. (Not that there would be any point in it – after all, if your Blu-ray rips are 1080p, not even the A6 CPU of an iPhone 5 could decode it properly and stuttering-free, let alone earlier models, including even the A5X in the iPad 3. 720p content is another matter - the iPhone 5 can decode it just fine.)


Subtitle-wise, probably the best player got even better. I only hope they do enable bitmap subtitle rendering during hardware playback, as is done in ProPlayer.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day: Sign up here to get our FREE Tip of the Day delivered right to your inbox.

<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>