This section is designed to be a helpful reference in deciding what type of hardware to purchase and use. I have collected all my experiences here and will continue to add to this section as news develops.
When looking to buy an LD player, you should make sure that it at least supports S-Video output. Iíll explain why in a second. If youíre buying a used LD player, make sure you check it out thoroughly before you buy. If you end up with a player that only has component RGB outputs youíll be hurting to find a genlock that will work with it. AC-3 is nice to have for watching LDs in surround sound, but since you canít record AC-3 to tape, itís a moot point when fan subtitling.
Youíll notice that your composite connector doesnít have independent wires for the different signals. As the name suggests, composite video is an aggregate signal composed by combining the two signals together. As you can imagine, this produces a somewhat lossy signal. For each video device you chain together using composite video connections, the signal must be broken down into its Y/C components, then recombined into a composite signal. Each time the signal is broken down and restored, it becomes more and more lossy.
Running your video from your LD player to your genlock to your video deck to your television already brings our tally up to three encodes and three decodes. Imagine putting two or three VCRs in a loop. The video quality diminishes so quickly, youíre left with nothing but a fuzzy subtitle with washed out colors.
The solution to this is S-Video, also called Y/C. The S in the name stands for separated. Just like composite is a composite signal, separated-video is a separated signal! This means that the luma and chroma (Y/C) are transmitted on separate wires preserving their original signal all the way down the line. When you start hooking your LD player to your genlock to your VCR, etc., you keep can keep your picture crisp and clear much longer. Because of this, S-Video is preferred over composite, but also sometimes more expensive.
Several misconceptions regarding S-Video should be cleared up. S-Video is NOT S-VHS. S-VHS is a tape format that specifies the bandwidth and the resolution of the video. S-Video is nothing more than a video transmission method. Often times you will see electronics advertised as having ďS-VHS Inputs.Ē This is an incorrect use of terminology and the equipment manufacturers should know better. Another misconception that you may stumble across is that S-Video is a higher resolution signal that composite. This is not true either. S-VHS is a higher resolution format than VHS, but S-Video is the same exact video signal as composite. You will not gain a higher resolution picture by using S-Video, but you will end up with a sharper, more defined subtitle due to the compression we talked about earlier.
DVDs introduce some new problems that werenít common with LaserDiscs. The first is region lock. If you bought a DVD player in the United States, chances are it will not play import DVDs. Most DVDs have a region code and will only play videos from the same region. DVDs also have Macrovision which will prevent you from making copies of them. With a standard DVD player you will be unable to subtitle.
The good news is that many DVD players can be hacked, similar to a Sony Playstation. Standalone units can have a mod chip installed to bypass the region lock. Computer DVD-Rom drives can utilize a software patch to disable the region code and Macrovision. Because it is very easy and free to modify a PCís DVD-Rom, it is the preferred easy solution. Be warned though, if you have the DVD-Rom in the same computer that you are using to WAV time, you wonít be able to synch the WAV recording to a track cue. PC DVD-Roms take several seconds to start playing once you click play, and this several second pause is enough to throw your timing off.
The quality of a PCís DVD-Rom video output depends on the quality of the decoder. If you have a good decoding card like Sigma Designsí Realmagic Hollywood 98+ or Creative Labs' DXR3 (they are the same card) you will have excellent video output. If you are using a software DVD program such as XingDVD, WinDVD, or anything that came with your Voodoo3, TNT, TNT2, G400, etc you are not getting the best video or audio quality you could be getting with a hardware card.
Standalone players donít have nearly as many issues. You are guaranteed a high quality video signal and you should be able to easily select a cue point and synch your timings. Obtaining a player that is region code-free or a modified player will cost you more than a PC DVD-Rom, but it may be worth it in the long run. For a list of DVD players that support region code-free hacks, check out Planet DVD.
If you are serious about subtitling, you may want to consider investing in an S- VHS deck. A good S-VHS deck will have many useful features such as a Flying Erase Head. This little improvement allows your VCR to insert audio and video cleanly anywhere on the tape. This means that if you fast-forward to a point on the tape and start recording, youíll get a clean video insert. On a VCR that does not have this feature, you will see nasty looking colored bars on the screen for five or ten seconds at the insert point. Apart from the cool features, the quality of the recording is much higher, but you also should expect to pay two or three times as much for S-VHS tapes. You only need to use S-VHS tapes to master to, however. You can copy them to VHS format for distribution.
Substation Alpha is a phenomenal program of itís own. With it, you donít need an Amiga to subtitle, just your PC. A PC genlock, however, will often cost as much as the Amiga with genlock costs. Using a genlock on your PC often limits you to a low maximum resolution and lousy gaming performance. If you want to use your PC to subtitle with exclusively, sometimes itís a good idea to have a dedicated machine for that purpose. An old 486 or Pentium-class machine will work fine and wonít cost much at all.
Of course SSA isnít the only subtitling program available for the PC, but it is by far the most commonly used, and easiest to boot. I already mentioned SlothTitler, which can read your JACOSub scripts and fonts and play them back with your PCís genlock. This is an excellent program too, because it features some amazing special effects not found in any other program, such as karaoke color fading. Additionally, the PC can run UAE, the Universal Amiga Emulator. On a fast Pentium machine, the Amiga emulator can run with full graphics and support for your hard drive. Itís also faster than most real Amigas. The down side is that while you can run JACOSub on it and work on your scripts, you cannot hook up a genlock to your PC and subtitle with the Amiga Emulator. It is, however, an excellent way to test view your scripts before copying them to a different machine.