YouTube has been everyone’s favorite soap box for quite some time now. For anyone who lives in a country where TV programs are just painful to watch, YouTube is such a lifesaver. Not only is it a great source of information and misinformation, it’s also a practical platform for citizen journalism. It has been so effective in its instant gratification, and so convincing in its democracy, that we almost forget that our worshiped soap box is still controlled by a corporation that has its own interest to look out for. Not every video is treated equal. Sure, it can’t prevent you from getting on the soap box, but it can give you a defect megaphone; it can’t tell the pedestrians to go away, but it can employ warm bodies to pose as bystanders to block you from view.
Monopoly is bad and dangerous anyway, so I decided to look around for more soap boxes that stand around at less frequented corners in cyberspace and haven’t been bought by the same corporation yet. There are more than you think, such as veoh, blip.tv, clipshack, vimeo, viddler, gofish, flurl, and many others. One that particularly caught my attention is dotSUB.
What makes dotSUB stand out from the rest of the video hosting services is its caption functionality. After a video is uploaded and viewable to the public, anyone, or selected people you’ve given access to, can caption the video – in any languages they want. You don’t need any third party software; the caption functionality is built in right into the website interface. When viewing a video, the caption is hidden by default. Once enabled, you can select from a list of caption in available languages. The transcript in srt. Or stl. Format can also be downloaded.
Watch how to caption a video here.
I love the idea of captioned videos. Since most of the videos online are in English, adding captions will certainly encourage more viewing among non-native English speakers, non-English speakers as well as people with hearing difficulties or impairments. The multilingual subtitles also make this a great resource for language educators and students alike. Of course, adding those subtitles line by line can be a tedious drudgery for anyone, and that’s why you can open and“wiki” your subtitles to let anyone share the work. You don’t have to caption the whole video in one setting. Work as much or as little as you please. The added subtitles will be shown, and anyone can jump right in and take up where someone else has left off. Once the caption is complete, just mark transcript as complete. Those language gifted will then be able to translate the caption into different languages.
Another good news is that there is no restriction on the length of video playtime, as long as the size does not exceed 300 MB (whereas YouTube has a restriction of 10 minutes). dotSUB accepts all major video formats, including flv. File. This is good news for people who use programs to download YouTube or Google videos: they can easily upload these flv. Files to dotSUB without having to convert them first.
I have a couple of suggestions for the developers of dotSUB:
- Many important features and functions, such as video translation/caption, codes for embedded videos, description edit, etc. are hidden from view on my laptop of 1024×768 resolution and are only accessible by using the horizontal scroll bar.
- When uploading a video, there is no indication of how much percent of the video has been transmitted; in fact, nothing seems to happen when you click the “post new film” button. This might confuse first-timers.
- There are four videos clips in the help section explaining how to view, upload, caption and translate films. There are no searchable texts. If you are looking for help in, say, using the various shortcuts in the caption functionality, you have to watch the whole video.
- There is no indication whether or not a video is momentarily being transcribed or translated. What happens if I begin to transcribe a film that’s being transcribed by another concurrently? Not only is it wasted time and energy, worse still, it might totally mess up the caption.
- Once you hit the “mark the transcript complete” button it’s final, and you won’t be able to make any more changes. Before you hit that button, however, nobody can do any translation. It’d be nice if a coordination between transcription and translation can be devised so both processes can be undertaken concurrently. That way, the “no more changes” rule can probably be done away with too.
DotSUB has a very simple and clean interface, and despite its beta status, I haven’t had any problems uploading, viewing or transcribing videos. You’ll notice that most of the videos here on dotSUB have a more narration oriented, documentary, show-and-tell nature than the more flashy ones on YouTube. Do have a look around. Upload some of your priced and proud productions. you might reach a whole different kind of audience. Why not? Didn’t some wise man tell us not to put all your MPEGs in one corporate basket?