Public history

Using Digital Tools to Generate Subtitles for a Radio Play

Using Digital Tools to Generate Subtitles for a Radio Play

Two dummy heads: Neumann's KU81 (left) and KU100 (right).

This entry briefly describes how we generated English subtitles (using digital tools) for the binaural radio play "Glanz und Elend der Kunstkopf-Stereophonie" we produced in 2017.

In December 2016 and January 2017 Andreas Fickers and I produced a binaural radio play on the history of Kunstkopf stereophony in the 1970s and 80s that was aired by radio 100komma7 on June 11, 2017 (a description of the radio play can be found here). Although it was in German, the radio play reached an international audience through my English project blog page. Not surprisingly (we were thinking about producing an English version of the radio play) I received requests for English subtitles. To provide our readers/listeners English subtitles we had to answer two questions: first of all, how could we easily generate the English subtitles, and how should we then insert the subtitles into the radio play?

Manually generating subtitles can be a very time consuming and tedious task - even for a 21 minutes radio play. So we looked for digital means that could help us to partially automatize the process. While we commissioned a traditional (human) translation of the German script, we used an online automated transcription service (trint) to generate a (German) transcription of the radio play. The speech recognition was of rather mixed quality (some parts were transcribed fine, some with many little language errors), however our main idea was to get a transcription file (*.srt) with computer generated time-codes. Next, we manually copied the English translation into the different sections of the German transcription file. This file could then be added as subtitles to a slideshow that we uploaded as video file to youtube (see below). Finally, we used the youtube subtitle editor to correct the timing, and to add some additional subtitles for parts that were not included in the automated transcription. The YT editor is very easy to use so that the final editing could be done swiftly.

We answered the second question, how to include subtitles in the radio play, by producing a slideshow to go along with the radio play. Instead of having a black screen with the subtitles, Werner Bleisteiner used historic images, photos from the production process, and as a special feature a small video sequence from one of the scenes (see 07:27-08:06) to compile a 21 minutes slideshow that is synchronized with the radio play. Many thanks, Werner, for the wonderful slideshow!

Although we still had to invest a lot of manual labour, we found that the automated transcription service and the youtube subtitles editor were helpful digital tools to support us in generating English subtitles for our German radio play. The result of our joined efforts can be found here: