The nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation has just launched an amazing new tool: Universal Subtitles. As the name implies, Universal Subtitles makes it ridiculously easy to add subtitles to practically any video on the web, including any HTML5 video, FLV, YouTube, Vimeo, Blip, Dailymotion (you can add subtitles to a video without having to host it yourself, and the same subtitle file can be associated with multiple copies of the video all over the net).
Why Universal Subtitles? Well, of course they're useful for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, but they're also a gateway to multilingual consumption of video (as a mostly monolingual anglo, I'm extremely keen to get a chance to follow along with all the fascinating videos made all over the world). Because Universal Subtitles hosts the subtitles separate from the video, it's easy to collaborate with others to produce translations, comic remixes (this is the world's easiest Downfall remix generator!) and closed captions.
For video creators, this is a dead simple way to increase the audience for your work — especially since there's a full-text search coming shortly. For subtitlers, the upcoming workflow management and collaboration tools will make volunteer efforts even easier to run.
Both Mozilla and Wikipedia will be including the Universal Subtitles tool for their videos — and the tool itself is free/open source software, which means that the community can be sure that it won't be orphaned and that the tool can always be improved.
If you're a popular YouTube video creator and want to get involved in the launch effort, please get in touch with Dean at the Participatory Culture Foundation. And if you want to try it out now, have a look at the Dirk Gently video I just posted — it's ready for your subtitles!
(Disclosure: I am proud to volunteer my services as a board member for the Participatory Culture Foundation, the charitable nonprofit that created and maintains Universal Subtitles)
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