There are far to many different combinations of equipment to possibly cover in a document of this magnitude, so I will stick to what I personally use. Presently the most popular and easy to use software for subtitling includes both Sub Station Alpha (SSA) for the PC, and JACOSub for the Amiga. Both are excellent programs for their platforms and will do just about everything you require as a subtitler. I myself use both programs as I have found that the best method is to write and time a script on a PC and then output it on an Amiga. What does timing and outputting a script mean? We’ll get to that! An excellent resource for helping to decide what software to use and what hardware to buy is The Fansub FAQ.
At the time of writing, I am using a Pentium2 class machine with a SoundBlaster AWE32 ISA card to digitize WAV files for timing and script editing. I have it connected to an Amiga 3000 with a Great Valley Products (GVP) G-Lock. What’s WAV timing? We’ll get to that also! For a video source, I use a Sony MDP-333 LaserDisc player. For video recording, I use a Sony SLV-R5UC S-VHS video cassette recorder. For more information regarding what equipment you should look for, please see Appendix 1: Hardware.
So, for the sake of moving ahead, let’s say that you’ve got the equipment you need. You found an old Amiga for sale on the Internet for a few hundred dollars and downloaded SSA and JACOSub. What now? Well, depending on the model of your Amiga, you may or may not be able to read PC formatted floppy disks. If your Amiga doesn't have this ability, you can buy a program called CrossDos from Consultron that will read PC formatted floppy disks. There is also a free demo version available that will allow you to read, but not write to a PC formatted floppy disk. As a work around this problem of transferring files to an Amiga without CrossDos, I hooked up a serial null modem cable, available at any good computer store, between the Amiga and PC serial ports. Using any terminal emulator program (such as HyperTerm under Windows and JRComm on the Amiga) you can transfer files using Xmodem or Zmodem protocols back and forth. Make sure your baud rates match (38400 is ideal) and that you upload the file on one computer while selecting download on the other simultaneously.
Great, now you can transfer files back and forth, what about actually subtitling something? In order to accomplish this, you’ll need a Genlock Overlay device. These devices synch the video signal from your computer to an external video source that you feed it from a LaserDisc of DVD player. The genlock then overlays the computer’s graphics on top of the video signal and outputs the combined image to a video recording source, such as a VCR. Refer to the Fansub FAQ mentioned above for information about different genlocks. I prefer an Amiga genlock to a PC genlock for both ease of use and video quality.
Okay, software: check. Genlock: check. What’s next? Hooking it up! This is the easy part. If you read your genlock’s instructions, you should have already properly hooked it up to your computer and loaded the appropriate drivers. All that remains to do is connect the output of your video source (a LaserDisc or DVD is highly recommended) to the input of the genlock. Connect the genlock’s output to the input of your VCR, and hook up your TV to the output of the VCR. Done! Fire up your computer and genlock, and you should see that the computer screen appears on top of the video you’re playing from the LaserDisc/DVD player.
Why did I recommend using a LaserDisc or DVD player as video source? One of the most important aspects when subtitling is the video quality. With an LD or DVD, you can be assured that the signal is clear and strong. When using a VHS tape, for example, you have less than half the resolution of a LD/DVD. This means your video will look a lot worse. Also, signal instability with a VHS source will wreak havoc on your genlock’s performance. You’ll often end up with video that flickers, rolls, or is otherwise unwatchable when you use a tape source. Always go with the quality of LD/DVD when you have the option. If you absolutely have to use a tape source, I would recommend looking into purchasing a Time Base Corrector (TBC) which will help to clean up the VCR’s video signal.