Mon, 20 Nov 2000

VideoMax lets you create your own VCD subtitles

By Lim Tri Santosa

BANDUNG (JP): What is violence and sex on television/film, and are they necessarily bad? In truth, both are part of life and as such both have always been part of the world.

I think television airwaves are owned by the public, not the networks, for the simple reason that television programming is beamed directly into the family living room where impressionable children are watching. As such, historically there were self- imposed limits on what was produced, from sexual content to the degree of violence.

What of foul language? I remember back to a time several months ago in TV action films. I was reading a newspaper (I was not watching the TV), when suddenly I heard a lot of bleeps emitting from the TV. My first thought was there was something wrong with my TV. It turned out that the actors were using obscenities in their conversation, including the "f" word.

Oh-so-cleverly obscenities are often bleeped out, but done in such a way that viewers can clearly understand the word; indeed, bleeping out expletives serves to amplify them, to focus even more attention on them.

For TV, films should of course be censored before being screened, but how about VCD films? Everyone knows that many VCD films in Indonesia are pirated VCDs that have not been censored, not even children and preteens films. Ask any VCD vendor; he will tell you that if you cannot watch the genuine version, no worries, you can see it on a pirated VCD. But it would be dreadful if our children were exposed to obscene/indecent scenes.

You can watch VCDs on your TV by various means. The first and easiest way is to buy a portable VCD player. Another way, although not as easy, is to have a computer set up with TV-OUT. The quality is usually pretty good, although it is not very convenient if you want to watch a VCD at a friend's house. I wouldn't recommend this way, but it works well for people who don't want to buy any extra hardware.

The VCD is based on MPEG technology and uses the MPEG-1 file format. Movies are usually around one gig on two discs. A VCD is made much like an audio CD that uses wav files. The wav files must be properly etched onto the CD using a program that makes audio CDs. The same is true for a VCD. The MPEG files must be properly etched onto the CD using a program that creates VCDs. If you just etch the mpegs onto the CD without actually creating a VCD, it will still work in your computer, but on nothing else. Like if you were to etch wav files onto a CD, without creating an audio CD, it would still work in a computer, but not in your Discman.

Is there any way that we can block the obscene pictures or sounds from a VCD film, hence making them suitable for viewing by children? The answer is yes, but you should use a computer, not a VCD player. There is a special VCD player software that can be adjusted by parents to block any specific steamy pictures or sounds from VCDs. The software is VideoMax version 1.0 and can be downloaded for free at 836_index.html

You can censor parts of a video by either blacking out the screen or skipping the part; you can even control the volume. The interface is very user-friendly -- there is no need to read a help file, because there is no help file. You simply put the starting time and the ending time for every picture frame that you want to censor. Thus if there are several pictures to be censored in different time frames, just see the timer at the left-hand corner of the screen, note the starting time and the ending time.

After you are done with the "screening process" and "taking notes of the intended censored frame time", click the Censor tab- menu, type each starting time where you want to skip or black-out the offending scene. Don't forget to enter the ending time, otherwise you will be watching a blank screen for the remainder of the film. I suggest using the skip option in case there is some bad language, hence viewers will not be able to read the actors' lips.

VideoMax is also a subtitles editor for your VCD. You can add Indonesian subtitles to your favorite videos. No changes are made to your VCD file. However, since it is etched onto the VCD, you cannot modify or alter the content. VideoMax cleverly saves the subtitles that you edit in a separate file (sbt extension). All you have to do is insert your VCD and press "Open VideoCD" command in VideoMax, and also open the associated sbt file. Click the play button, and voila ... you're watching the movie with Indonesian subtitles.

It is very useful edutainment software, you can practice your English-listening abilities by typing in Indonesian subtitles or you can practice your Indonesian skills by typing the English subtitles for Indonesian movies. Exhausting, but somebody has to do it. Sbt files can be exchanged with friends via e-mail. The file itself is very small, around 20K for a one-disc film with full conversation dialog.

VCD films need not be reviewed solely as a negative force. They have their advantages. Remember that if a child is watching a good educational movie, he/she will learn also by reading the subtitles. This will help the child bounce off ideas, motivate it to read more about the subject of the movie or question adults about it. This VCD player freeware is very useful, especially if the film has a lot of "bad parts" and no subtitles.

Perhaps you can be a good censorship operator and subtitle translator. (