Subtitles and Captions for Every Video on the Web

Update: Click here to subtitle your video >

Here’s the problem: web video is beginning to rival television, but there isn’t a good open resource for subtitling. Here’s our mission: we’re trying to make captioning, subtitling, and translating video publicly accessible in a way that’s free and open, just like the Web.

Our approach:

  • Make a simple and ubiquitous way to request, create, and translate subtitles for any video
  • Work with others to define open protocols so that whenever subtitles for a video exist, any website or video player will be able to retrieve them
  • Create a community space for people who subtitle video, to encourage contributions and facilitate collaboration

Tools we’re building

1) Subtitle Widget: We’re developing an incredibly user friendly interface for adding captions to almost any video on the web (without the hassle of re-transcoding or re-uploading). We’ll be launching a demo very soon, but here’s a sneak peek:

Universal Subtitles Widget

2) Universal Subtitles Protocol: A new open standard that will allow clients such as Firefox extensions, desktop video players, websites, or browsers to look up and download matching subtitles from a whitelist of subtitle databases when they play video.

3) Collaborative Subtitling Site: An online community for collaboratively subtitling and translating the world’s videos (like a Wikipedia for subtitles).  The site will have special tools for versioning, incentives for different types of collaboration, and all subtitles created here will be available in any context via our open protocol.  The site will exist to encourage dynamics like:

  • Formation of teams for subtitling a program, or a topic.
  • Tracking which subtitling or translation tasks are the most requested, and mobilizing volunteers.
  • Volunteers recruiting their friends for help transcribing or translating a video.
  • Splitting large tasks into smaller parts

Universal Subtitles Site

Together, our goal is for these and other compatible tools to enable a layer of collective action over all the video we watch, one that is working constantly to break down language and accessibility barriers.

Everything will be 100% free and open source, available under the AGPL.

Who we are

Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF) is the 501c3 non-profit that makes Miro, the cross-platform, free software video player and downloader.  Universal Subtitles is now one of PCF’s core projects.  PCF’s work on Universal Subtitles has received seed funding from the Mozilla Foundation.

You can help us spread the word!

Get updates and find out first when we launch:

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Follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook

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Retweet Us! RT @universalsubs aims to make subtitling, captioning, and translating web videos easy and ubiquitous! http://universalsubtitles.org/

Bonus: Join the Collaborative Subtitling Design Challenge

Design Challenge
Mozilla Labs is helping us out by hosting the Collaborative Subtitling Design Challenge. While the challenge is primarily directed towards budding designers, anyone interested in design is welcome to participate. To get started, read the brief, check out our initial product concepts, make your own improvements/revision, and then submit your ideas and mockups.

The challenge will help us by bringing fresh thinking to our interface concepts and push us to take the subtitling widget to a higher level of usability. All the best work will be featured/honored by Mozilla.

18 thoughts on “Subtitles and Captions for Every Video on the Web

  1. Marcel Laudatu

    Greetings!

    I’m an active member of Softwareliber Project (In Romanian: FreeSoftware Project). This project includes Romanian Translation of all major Free and Open Source software: Skype, Mozilla (Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, Fennec), OpenOffice, Fedora Linux, KDE, Gnome, Audacity, Inkscape … and so on. See my profile here: http://tradu.softwareliber.ro/narro_user_profile.php?l=ro&u=46#p1 .
    I want to participate in your project, please.

    Yours,
    Marcel Laudatu.

    1. Ivan

      Hi Marcel, nice project you have,

      just remind you that Skype is not OpenSource.

      best regards.

  2. Dean Sheridan

    I would like to caption science-related YouTube links. Also, I’m working with an university on a free online chemistry “who-done-it” mystery video…trying to get this captioned as well (waiting for the transcripts). I’m a High School Chemistry teacher for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

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  4. Eric Haya

    Looks fabulous and very inspiring. Will this system allow uploading of completed transcripts, or time-coded .xml or .srt files? Keep up the great work.

  5. Dean Jansen

    @Marcel
    We’d love your help! Please sign up for the update list and we’ll let you know when we’re doing a test of the beta subtitling widget.

    @Eric
    Yep, uploaded transcripts is something we intend to support.

  6. Catherine

    Thank you so much. There are lots of times when I just want to give my ears a rest from the hearing aids and watch a Youtube video. unfortunately, I cant hear what they are saying. Its very discouraging. I look forward to the dream becoming a reality!

  7. Wong

    Nice job! Although I am not able to donate for some reasons, I do hope Mozilla will successfully make Universal Subtitles universal!

    Good luck.

    1. Wong

      Sorry. Please ignore my picture. I AM NOT THE ADMIN.

      I set this picture because I am the admin of my site. I am NOT the admin!!

  8. Patti

    think it is a fantastic idea would love to help. have so many deaf friends and my husband is partially deaf so it would help us personally :-)

  9. Charbax

    This sound great. Feature I would like:

    – Base manual collaborative subtitling on Youtube’s automatic subtitling generation. This way, any user should be able to select any part of any subtitle and submit manual corrections.

    – People that submit subtitles and translations should be able to do it for payment. For example, very popular videos may have some fund to pay out for the high quality manual subtitling that is submitted by any users. Writing subtitles, translating subtitles is a lot of work, and you cannot expect subtitlers and translators to just work for free. For popular videos, the fund will increase to have the most perfect subtitles. If you click to submit just a few words, depending on how large a percentage it represents of the overall required work to subtitle the video, it may only pay out something like $0.001 per word or something like that, but there should be a system to thus reward work on this.

    I wonder though if Google isn’t just going to release these features eventually anyways.

    Another aspect of subtitles that I would like, is automatic download of .srt files for DivX Movies. But that, I guess, is a different topic.

  10. Tony Parkin MBT

    Great project idea…. just some thoughts.. (which you have probably had already ;)

    1. Assuming videos can have multiple subtitles (to deal with translation) so will multiples in one language have rating system attached so you can crowd-source the preferred ones? Likewise reporting/suspend/takedown technology for dubious versions?

    2. Given popularity of Hitler subtitling, hope you going to build in some form of humour channel to allow creative anarchy and competitive humour for less serious sub-titlers ? Otherwise these people may swamp ‘straight’ sub-titling efforts? It will happen – so build it in to manage? Also could be useful for PR and driving interest?

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  12. wapr (screencastblog.net)

    Hello guys. Very enthusiastic project you have here! I mean, creating a protocol to build in subtitles in desktop applications and web is not that easy. And how can you match the stand alone videos in internet (e.g. Youtube) to your subtitels?

    But I am sure you know what you are doing. Good luck I wish you.

    btw. wrote a post about your project in my german blog about screencasting and webvideo.

    greetz

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  14. Keita

    I had a similar thought to this project but I would prefer to have the subtitles/captions on my computer and be able to overlay it to the videos online.

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