Saturday, April 10, 2010

Crummy week

My crummy week started exactly a week ago today, with a sore throat right in the middle of gloriously record-breaking warm Easter weekend weather. The sore throat is still with me today, and has added its friends Stuffed Sinus and Plugged Ears. Yes, I have a fully congested head cold, and just as happened a few years ago, it has gotten bad enough to cause me partial hearing loss in BOTH ears this time.

While the cold was gaining hold, I was struggling to finish the subtitles for "Sortilèges", to the point where I think I pushed myself too hard. To complicate matters, I couldn't use my familiar and beloved Divx MediaLand Subtitler, because the film wouldn't play in it! I'm not sure why - the best guess I can hazard is that there was an MPEG 4 coding embedded in it. The movie played fine in my Divx player, and I burned a perfectly good dvd of it, but when I tried to play it in Windows Media Player - nada. DMLS is designed to work with WMP, so maybe this movie was made using a Mac or some weird European program, but the end result was I had my subtitles all written out and ready to go, and couldn't play the movie. I pottered around for a few hours, trying to download codecs that would make it work, but finally I abandoned that haphazard job and decided to try a fresh approach: I downloaded a completely different subtitle program other users had written about, called Visual SubSynch, and launched myself on a quick and dirty tutorial.

VSS *worked*, which was all I really cared about, and it's an interesting program that I might use again, although it takes a lot longer to use than DMLS. How it works is by ripping a .wav file of the movie, and then you attach each subtitle to the correct moment in the audio file, using the visual "graph" of the audio file to guide you as to where the dialogue falls. It produces a very high level of accuracy in terms of timing -once you've chosen your slice of audio and plugged in the text, you can shorten or lengthen the passage as much as you like, and you can shave hundredths of seconds off a subtitle length. This can be important when you have to subtitle fast dialogue exchanges, and need to squeeze many lines in quickly.

The only problem I can see is subtitling "inserts": text that appears onscreen, like a closeup of a sign or a letter. There's nothing in the audio to tell you what's onscreen, and you'd have to learn to memorize the background music to tell you when the text is onscreen. I only had to do that once, when the title came onscreen. This program would be utterly useless for subtitling a silent movie, but for very talky films, it's quite good.

Well, I finished on Wednesday, and now I have to wait for my hearing to clear up before I tackle Pabst's "Mademoiselle Docteur", which is what I've promised to do next.

I'm afraid this cold is going to be a long one; my partner at the library had it, and she said it took her 3 weeks to get over it! Some of the kids in my bus have been sick (and their mothers WILL send them to school) so I probably got it from them. All I've been able to do is drive my route, come home and go to sleep until it's time to drive in the afternoon. I am totally wiped out.

Oh, and my school van conked out yesterday, too. I was worried that the brakes (or maybe the wheels) were making a strange groaning sound and vibrating when I used them at low speed - very much the same feeling as when you're braking on an icy road, and just do a tiny skid before stopping. I called in to report this, and they said they'd send another driver with a different van to swap with me at the first school I stop at, and they'd take it in and look at it. When I was one block from the school, the engine suddenly conked out too! Fortunately a man came out of nowhere and got it started again, and I was able to struggle on to the school, but that sure started my day off in a miserable way. I hope they figure out BOTH the problems with the van; I'm quite useless in terms of fixing any problems myself.

One good thing happened, though: it was so warm last week, I planted a row of peas. This must be a record for Ottawa; usually I wouldn't think of it until well into May, but I figured why not take a chance? Especially as they're predicting a hot summer, which means they won't have a long growing season. They're not above the ground yet, but I expect I'll see them in a few more days, then I'll plant some more, for a more staggered crop.

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