Chapter 7. Timing Dialogue

     You’ve already seen now that each line of dialogue in your script has a start and end time for when it will appear on the screen. We’ve also introduced the concept of the synch point. Now we’ll introduce a few methods for accurately and quickly timing a script. This can be a time consuming process, but with a little practice you’ll be able to blaze through timing a translation in no time. But first, let’s get back to the synch point.

     The synch point, as the name suggests, is the exact instant where you synchronize your timing to your video source. Once you have chosen a synch point, you will use it over and over again when timing and running masters of your subtitle. The synch point you choose should be something easy to remember, and easy to hit. Remember, you will be required to hit the spacebar on your computer to start the clock counting the instant your synch point comes up. It is important for you to choose a synch point that you can always hit dead on accurately, every single time.

     If you are using a LaserDisc or DVD, choosing a synch point is trivial. You’ll always want to pause the LD or DVD on the start of a track. This is called cueing up the track. The best way to accomplish this is to hit pause, then press the track advance/rewind until you are paused on the very first frame of the track. This will be your synch point, and you will always cue up your video to this point and then hit play on your video source at the exact instant you hit the spacebar to start your computer counting. This has been proven to be the most accurate way to match your timing to the video source.

     If you are using a tape source, there is no way to cue up a track making it more difficult to always hit the synch point accurately. Obviously you’ll need to work on your reflexes in order to hit the space bar the instant a video or audio cue is heard. I recommend playing a lot of Quake in order to accomplish this. Pick a distinct image or audio event on the tape that you think you can always respond to. I prefer to use something such as the screen going black, or when a credit screen appears. Some people prefer to make their synch point a beat counted to an opening song. Whatever works for you is the best, but again if you use an LD or a DVD source it will be much easier for you. Also, keep in mind that your synch point should be much earlier than the first line of spoken dialogue. This gives you plenty of time to work with should you want to add opening credits or the like.

     Now you know how to always start your script playing back at the correct point for your video project. Next you will need to know how to actually capture the times that a spoken event occurs. The first method that has been used for a long time is called punch-in timing. It requires you to start your script running from the synch point at the same time you start your video, and punch the spacebar each time a line of dialogue is spoken. You must survive through the entire episode of video in one shot while using this method. You can’t get up and take a break: you have to be there to hit the spacebar. Also this requires good reflexes and some comprehension of what is being spoken. This method is prone to errors and takes a long time sorting out all the mistakes you made punching the space bar. I have never used this method because it has been long since made obsolete by WAV timing.

     WAV timing, as the name suggests, involves you recording a WAV file on your computer, starting at the synch point and running till the end of the video you wish to time. This is an easy process, but it requires you to hook up the audio output of your video source into your PC’s soundcard input. Opening a sound recording program (I prefer Sound Forge), you prepare to record a WAV file (8bit, 11KHz, mono is adequate). Cue up your video source, and press play on the video at the same time you start your WAV recording. This makes your WAV file start exactly on your synch point and allows you to grab timing that’s accurate to 1/100th of a second from the WAV file.

     Once you have made your WAV file, you can save it and then load it in SSA along with your script. SSA features a great WAV timing interface which shows the actual waveform pattern and lets you set in and out points with the yellow and red cursors. You can then play the WAV file between the in and out points and make adjustments. While looking at your script, you can go line by line, isolating the individual lines of dialogue on the waveform, and clicking the “grab times” button. Doing this makes SSA grab the exact start and end time from your waveform selection and enter them in for each line of dialogue.

     Doing this, you can literally cruise through an episode in no time at all. The best part of this method, besides the fact that it’s hyper-accurate, is that you can time only as little or as much as you feel like, save your progress, and come back to it later. Also, you’re guaranteed to make fewer mistakes because you can hear an audio segment as many times as it is necessary in order to correctly select the in and our points with the red and yellow cursors. You can also listen to the dialogue as many times as you need to understand which line of text you’re actually timing!

<-- Chapter 6 | Chapter 8 -->
Contents of this Page Copyright © 2001 by Matthew R. Demicco.
You may not reproduce any part of this document
without the express written consent from the author.