Chapter 9. Timing Incidentals

     We’ve now covered the basics of timing both spoken dialogue and song lyrics. While those compose the majority of any script, there are also other things you need to time to make it a professional looking subtitle. These things include the show’s title, credits, and things such as signs/billboards/written text that appear during the episodes. Because these are all visual elements and have no associated audio cue, it is impossible to time these using the WAV method. What this means for you, then, is that you have to make a second timing pass after you've timed the spoken parts.

     Fear not, however, for this second pass is quick and painless. What it involves is for you to make a dummy master of your subtitle to a tape. JACOSub allows you to lay down timecode on top of your subtitle, if you check the “realtime running clock” option in the dialogue box that appears after you click the play script menu item. Start subtitling your show by starting your VCR recording, then punching play on your LD or DVD player at the same time you hit the spacebar on your Amiga. Now what you see is that the Amiga is laying down not only all the timed dialogue you’ve fed it, but a little clock at the bottom of the screen that corresponds exactly to the time that has elapsed since the synch point. Let the entire episode run to your tape, while at the same time writing down the approximate time that any visual cue that you will need to time appears on the screen.

     After you have made this tape, it’s only a matter of rewinding to the approximate times you wrote down and pausing/frame advancing the tape to the exact instants the signs appear and disappear. You’ll see on the bottom of the screen of your paused tape, the exact times on the clock. Write these down and insert them into your script. Bingo, you’ve just frame accurately timed the signs that appear. This can be just as accurate as WAV timing. But of course as WAV timing only works for audio cues, this method only works for visual cues. It is extremely nice to have a high-end VCR with a frame-by-frame jog shuttle and high picture quality to perform this, however, even a $200 4-head VHS deck should be able to pause on a frame and advance one at a time.

     If you really want to go for the professional look, you’ll revisit each of these timed signs and use the “mouse-move” feature of JACOSub to perfectly position your sign title on, above, or around the sign that appears on your video source. All you have to do is find the sign on your video and pause it, while you move around the text in mouse- move mode. Didn’t I tell you earlier that subtitling is a lot of work and very time consuming? Well, if you want to do it right, this is the fastest way I’ve found and it’s hyper-accurate. You DO want to make your fan subtitles look better than those commercial subtitles, don’t you? Of course you do!

     But wait, that’s not all that’s involved in our Timing Incidentals section. There is still more. We mentioned earlier time shifting and ramping. We’ll address those now, as well as how to manually calculate a time shift. So what is time shifting? The name practically gives it away. Time shifting is just the subtitling program’s ability to take a single line, or an entire block of timed dialogue and shift it in time, such that the relationship between the timed lines remains the same, but they all start and end at an earlier or later time.

     Why is this useful? We’ve already seen why. If you have a song that you’ve timed, and you find that in episode one it starts at 0:00:10.03 and that in episode two it starts at 0:00:11.35 you don’t have to retime the entire song. You just have copy and paste the song from episode one into episode two and perform a simple time shift. How much should you shift by? There are two easy ways to figure this out. First, since you know the start time for both, in episode two you could time shift the entire song block by - 0:00:10.03. This will make the song start at 0:00:00.00. Now you can time shift it by + 0:00:11.35 and voila! Your song is now perfectly timed for episode two!

     If shifting to zero and then shifting to the correct time is too much work for you, you can always do it manually. All you have to do is subtract!

-	0:00:10.03

From this you can see that you have to shift the song from episode one forward by 1.32 seconds in order to make it correct for episode two. To verify this…

+	0:00:01.32

Yup, you’ve got it right. Either method is perfectly acceptable. Whether you feel like doing some math or just using the shortcut “shift-to-zero” method, you can use time shifts to make your life a lot easier. Time shifts can be used for many things other than songs or repeated dialogue. If you find that a particular line or group of lines of dialogue seem to start too early or too late you can time shift them by a little increment (I suggest trying .10 or .20 seconds) forward or backward to make them appear on screen at the right time. Now you should agree with me that time shifting is a very powerful tool. Isn’t it great that the program’s author thought of all these things to make life easy for you? You should thank them by registering your software. After all, JACOSub is only $26, a real bargain!

     You’ve now seen how time shifting can be your best friend. Now let’s introduce your worst enemy. Ramping. Ramping is evil. Ramping is sometimes a necessary evil, but evil nevertheless. What is this terrible thing? Ramping is a sometimes useful means by which you can adjust the running speed of your script to accommodate gradual timing drift. The problem with this is it makes your script less portable, as it will play different on other people’s computer. Ramping is bad because it is an indication that the timing is off. Let me explain in detail.

     On some machines, recording a WAV file and timing from it will produce a script that, when played on another computer (your Amiga, for example) slowly starts displaying titles either too fast or too slow. When this happens, by the end of the script there is a significant, noticeable problem with the timing. This can be caused by a difference in the computer’s real time clocks. Ramping allows you to accommodate for this gradual time shift by specifying an offset in positive or negative fractional seconds which the script should end up with. Essentially if your last timed line of dialogue leaves the screen at 0:20:00.00 and you notice it is appearing 1.5 seconds too early, you would specify a positive ramp time of 1.5 seconds. This will not only align your last line of dialogue to the real end time, but it will interpolate every single time between the first and last line of dialogue and adjust the times accordingly. What this means, then, is that exactly halfway thought your script, the lines of dialogue will be shifted 0.75 seconds, and the first lines of dialogue at the beginning of your script will be shifted 0.00 seconds.

     As I said before, using a ramp can often fix a script that doesn’t play at a correct speed. If you, however, find that you need a ramp on a script that is only 20 or 30 minutes long, something is amiss elsewhere in your timings. It is not unusual to have to use a ramp to adjust a single two-hour long script, however. You should never have to ramp more than a few seconds - if that is the case something it terribly wrong with your timing. I have found that with my SoundBlaster AWE32 ISA card, if I digitize my WAV file for timing at 8bits, mono, 11KHz I never have to apply a ramp on my Amiga.

     If you do have to use a ramp, however, JACOSub provides you with an easy way to do it. As you are running your script and start noticing that the titles are drifting, you can use the arrow keys to adjust the ramp in real time. Make sure, however, that you don’t ramp too much to fast. If you find you’ve ramped +2 seconds in the first five minutes of the show, you’re in for big trouble when you reach 15 minutes! After using the arrow keys to achieve a suitable ramp, make sure you copy it into your #RAMP directive in your script! Similarly, you can apply a real-time time shift to your script with the arrow keys while it’s playing. This is useful if your synch point from your WAV timing is a little off and you want to adjust the entire script by a fraction of a second. Like the ramp time, when the script is done playing, make sure you copy your shift into the #SHIFT directive at the top of your script.

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