Tech Talk

This week: The Rosetta Stone for downloading television shows and anime.

Let’s start with the basics. Titles can contain all sorts of useful information about what you’re downloading: the season, the episode(s), the video and audio codecs used to encode it, the source-video format and the groups responsible for its release.

Knowing the video and audio codecs is important, and the file title will often tell you if you already have the codec or if you need to download it. The most common third-party video codecs are Xvid and DivX, and the most popular audio codec is AC3. A quick Google search should help you find any codecs you don’t already have.

The source-video information tells you what format the file was recorded from, but it’s pretty inconsequential unless you have a lust for high-quality video. Video sources usually fall into 3 categories: NTSC, PAL and HDTV.

NTSC is the North American television standard, and it is the lowest quality of the three. PAL is the European standard, and is marginally better than NTSC. HDTV is the highest quality.

All formats will work fine on your computer. If you plan on playing what you download on your television you should stick to NTSC and HDTV. Keep in mind that in order to get HDTV picture quality on your television, you need a High-Definition TV.

Who released the file might seem unimportant, but it can be useful as a way to gauge its quality. If you are familiar with a particular group then you know what to expect from them.

Other terms you might see thrown around are DSRip and RAW. DSRip stands for digital stream rip. These are copies captured from a digital stream like HDTV. RAW describes a piece of video that has yet to be subtitled.

Anime can be a bit more complicated. An anime can be one of three things: a movie, a series, or an Original Video Animation (OVA). A movie is pretty self-explanatory. A series is destined for television and is usually 26 episodes, of around 23 minutes each, per season. An OVA is comparable to a television mini-series. OVAs generally have 2 to 20 episodes.

A lot of the anime downloaded outside of Japan are fansubs. A fansub is, in this case, an anime that has been subtitled by fans into a language in which it was not available commercially.

For a long time, there was an unspoken agreement between fansubbers and copyright holders that they wouldn’t fansub an anime if a local distributor had licensed it. This was seen as symbiotic relationship between the industry and fans that was necessary to promote anime in foreign markets. Recently this has changed. Many copyright holders now believe that fansubs are no longer necessary and are actually a threat to international markets.

Now down to the nitty-gritty of subtitles. There are two types: Hard and soft.

Hard subtitles are imbedded in the video files and require no extra files or software to work. The downside is that you can’t modify hard subtitles.

Soft subtitles are generally separate files that are rendered by your video player. They are usually text files with special timing codes in them that tell the player when to superimpose the text on the picture. This means that you can open them in a word processor and fix timing issues or change the on-screen content. Good video players will allow you to change the position, colour and font of subtitles. You can recognize subtitle files by their “.sub” or “.srt” file extensions.

If an anime doesn’t have hard subtitles, soft subtitles are usually included. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use different subtitles if you like. Just make sure your replacement subtitles are made for this particular file, otherwise their timing might be off.

To get Windows Media Player to play subtitles, you need to install something called DirectVobSub. Also, the subtitle file has to be in same folder as the video file and have the same filename.

You might encounter files with an “.ogm” file extension. These are Ogg Media files, and you’re likely to see them if you download complete seasons or files marked as “dual audio.” These files usually contain a video track, at least two audio tracks (usually Japanese and English) and subtitles in several languages. A good guide on how to set up your computer to play these files is available at

Next week I wrap up the file-sharing series with applications, games and music.

Link O’ the Week:

Otaku Anime of Concordia University
Concordia’s anime club. Screenings are open to the public and members can borrow anime from their library.

Webcomic O’ the Week: Bonus Stage by Matt Wilson
Preheat oven to 250’C. Slowly knead the randomness into the sarcasm. Bake to a golden brown. Garnish with parody. Serve.

Free Application O’ the Week: Subtitle Workshop
One of the best subtitles creation and editing tools available.


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