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12 April 2004
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Korea Life Blog - Subtitle Trauma

In my town there is a single video store with a patherically small, old collection. The guy who runs it, a Star Craft addict, gets a new movie in about once every two months. He charges 1,500 won for "new" and old movies alike, 2000 won for a DVD. (To anyone not living in Korea, that still may sound cheap, but usually old videos are 500-800 won and new movies 1,000, maybe 1,500 on DVD at the most). Every time I've gone there, I've ended up frustrated and usually leave empty handed.

After awhile I got to downloading movies off Overnet. It's illegal, sure, but who cares when you're living in a small town in the middle of nowhere with one lone video store and no selection and a lethargic owner who can barely pause Star Craft long enough to check you out much less take time to order some new videos and increase sales. Also, by downloading, I am able to see movies that never make it to Korea, which are usually the ones I want to see anyway.

The only problem with this is that I want to watch some of these movies with my girlfriend. Julie, as you know, is Korean and speaks English very well - just not enough to follow a movie 100% without subtitles. So I started to look into using subtitles on ripped movies. This is where my story of trauma begins.

Sometimes I think I could never live without a computer and the internet. Between playing games, downloading, surfing the net, updating my website, writing, listening to music and watching movies and porn, etc., I don't have need for much else. Yet other times, when things don't work properly, I feel like throwing the whole thing off a high rise building and moving to Alaska. You know what I mean. Those times you start it up and some error pops up on the screen. You get online and find the solution which requires 35 steps, one of which you completely can't understand inevetibally you create 5 other problems until you end up so frustrated you reinstall the entire operating system while cursing at Bill Gates and at yourself for not having backed up your files.

Back to my story. I'll break it down into steps:

1. I have the movie About Schmidt which I got off Overnet. I love that movie and want to watch it with Julie. We need subtitles.

2. 10:00 PM. I get online and figure out there are in fact such things as subtitle files. Great! Julie calls her brother and he told her some websites where she can find them in Korean. Julie tries, there are subtitles but mostly for big name movies like Lord of the Rings.

3. Now I try. (Then she tries again, then me, then she for a good hour...)

Despite the fact Korean displayed properly on my computer, reading and typing, it wouldn't display on Overnet. All the Korean characters looked like this: $%!%^!??!?. Even so, I was able to find the Korean subtitle file for About Schmidt and downloaded! Unfortunately they too were garbled. Why won't the damn Korean display! I shouted. However, when I opened the file in notepad, I used select all and changed the font, presto: Korean! I danced around joyfully, startled by my own genius. I woke up Julie and started the movie. Unfortunately, now the changed files wouldn't play in the subtitle player. I overwrote the orginals and had to find them again on Overnet. Why won't the original files display in Korean? I shouted again! I searched online for a solution until my face is blue. Julie started to fall asleep again, as you probably are by now.

4. I try installing new Korean fonts. They don't work. I try downloading Hangul Word, nothing changes. Next I engage in a step by step process of deleting Korean from my computer and reinstalling the language packs from the net and off the XP CD. Restart! To my astonishment, it works! Korean displays in Overnet and in the About Schmidt file without changing the font! YES! Excited I wake up Julie again. Unfortunately, for some reason, the subtitles are too small. Julie suggests we just see the movie in a DVD bang the next day in Seoul or something. Forget that, by this time it's become an obsession on my part to get this working properly. Not only for this movie, but for all the other movies I've downloaded.

5. Julie goes back to sleep. I try several more players until I find one that allows you to adjust the size of the subtitles. At last I find one but it won't play the files. After a lot of cursing to myself, I finally figure out the problem: this particular player won't play .smi subtitle files. I need to convert them to .sub. I find a free converter and download it. Success, the file converts. The subtitles work! I'm jumping around again and wake up Julie. "I'm a little tired," she says. It's near 1:00 AM now. No, no, I reply, shaking her awake. Come on! She agrees. I set the computer monitor up on top of TV and get the movie going.

6. Finally now, 2:30 AM everything is working, it seems. I enlarge the font so that she can see better, but the the extra size shrinks the already small, widecreen formatted movie. We give up watching from the bed and lay on the floor now. The movie starts. The subtitles are working - but they lag by 30 seconds. At this point I want to scream but instead we both start laughing and can't stop.

7. Julie convinces me it's OK and watches the movie from start to finish and enjoys it, even though she laughs 30 seconds after every funny part. Sigh...


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