As part of my accessibility work for Mozilla and Xiph, it is necessary to define how time-aligned text such as subtitles, captions, or annotations, are encapsulated into Ogg.
In the fansubber community this is called “hard subtitles” as opposed to “soft subtitles” which are subtitles that stay in a text file and are loaded separately to the video file into a media player and synchronised with the video by the media player. (as per comment below, all text annotations are “soft” – or also “closed”.)
I can hear you ask: so how do I do subtitles/captions with Ogg now? Well, it would have been possible to simply choose one subtitling format and map that into Ogg, then ask everyone to just use that one format and be done. But which one to choose? And why prefer a simpler one over a more complex one? And why just do subtitles and not any other time-aligned text?
So, instead, I analysed what types of time-aligned text “codecs” I have come across. Each one would have a multitude of text formats to capture the text data, because it is easy to invent a new format and standardisation hasn’t really happened in this space yet.
I have come up with the following list of typical time-aligned text codecs:
- CC: closed captions (for the deaf)
- SUB: subtitles
- TAD: textual audio descriptions (for the blind – to be transferred to braille or TTS)
- KTV: karaoke
- TIK: ticker text
- AR: active regions
- NB: metadata & semantic annotations
- TRX: transcripts / scripts
- LRC: lyrics
- LIN: linguistic markup
- CUE: cue points, DVD style chapter markers and similar navigational landmarks
Let me know if you can think of any other classes of video/audio-related time-aligned text.
All of these texts can be represented in text files with some kind of time marker, and possibly some header information to set up the interpretation environment. So, the simplest way of creating a representation of these inside Ogg was to define a generic mapping for time-aligned text into Ogg.
The Xiph wiki holds the current draft specification for mapping text codecs into Ogg. For anyone wanting to map a text codec into Ogg, this should provide the framework. The idea is to separate the text codec’s data into header data and into timed text segments (which can have all sorts of styling and other information with it). Then, the mapping is simple. An example for srt is described on the wiki page.
The specification is still in draft status, because we’re still expecting feedback. In fact, what we now need is people trying an implementation and providing fixes to the specification.
To map your text codec of choice into Ogg, you will probably requrie further mapping specifications. Dependent on how complex your text codec of choice is, these additional mapping specifications may be rather simple or quite complicated. In the case of srt, it should be trivial. Considering the massive amount of srt already freely available online, the srt mapping may well have a really large impact. Enough hits. Let me know if you’re coding up something!
My next duty is to look for a representation that is generic enough to provide representations for any of the above listed text codecs. This representation is what will need to be available to a Web Browser when working with a Web video that has related text. Current contenders are OggKate and W3C TimedText, but I am not sure if either are too restrictive. I am indeed looking for the next generation of captioning technology that will be able to provide any type of time-aligned text that relates to audio/video.