Making Subtitle Search Better

Posted By: Nathan Betzen on Nov 15, 2013 in Dev Journal

We’d like to take a minute to quickly announce that we’ve dramatically changed the way subtitle search works under the hood in XBMC. In XBMC 12.2, all subtitle search services are part of a single piece of code that comes in the form of the XBMC Subtitles addon that is released by Team XBMC. This means every subtitle search developer must go through an XBMC Team gatekeeper if they want to make a fix, either big or small.

With the update scheduled to be a part of Gotham, subtitle search services have been broken into individual addons, so something like OpenSubtitles (a frequently used service) would be a separate addon from any other subtitle search service out there. More importantly, OpenSubtitles would be releasable by the actual developer of the service without having to go through Team XBMC.

This change should give addon developers in this area a great deal more latitude for implementing changes and fixes without needing to wait for other addon devs to submit similar fixes, all to the benefit of the user experience.

From the user perspective, the only significant change will be in the way a subtitle search service is downloaded. Right now, it is already available and merely needs enabling, as there is only a single addon. In the future, the user will need to select and download their preferred addon before starting a movie and searching for subtitles.

In the end, this is a fairly minor change that will make XBMC just a bit better from our perspective as users, but a major improvement from the perspective of the developers working for us all on a daily basis. For everyone, that makes it a win-win.

Update: It should be noted that if you depend on subtitle downloading on a daily basis, you should avoid nightlies and probably the upcoming alpha, as it will take some time for addon devs to update to the new system.

Discussion - 39 Comments

  • Rocker Nov 16, 2013 

    I like to suggest that also (Music) Lyrics Addons core handling code be moved to XBMC’s core for the same reasons.

    Since the Subtitles Addon core handling will be moved to XBMC’s core, maybe that code could be extended to also support similar lyrics service plugins?

    Perhaps the same new UI window(s) and concept could be extend or reused to be used for lyrics service plugins too?

  • jadas Nov 16, 2013 

    Will still there be an interface to all different addons? Sometimes I have to search 2 or 3 different subtitle providers, switching addons while viewing a movie would be quite uncomfortable.

    • Mike Nov 16, 2013 

      Same here. Having to switch between different addons to search different providers would be a huge step backwards for me.

    • Rocker Nov 17, 2013 

      Of course it will only be one common interface as it was before with the addon, ig is just that from now on all the subtitle download sources will be plugins for that common interface so that they can be upgraded seperatly in the background.

      This is why I also want a such common interface for music lyrics too, as it will add the possibility to use secersl lyric plugins for multiple sources, so you no longer have to into settings each time yu like ti change the download source.

    • Kibje Nov 20, 2013 


  • Andreas Nov 16, 2013 

    Same for me. It will be a step backwards not forward if I have to exit the movie to change the addon and then enter the movie again just to see if the subtitle is ok or not.

  • Frank Nov 16, 2013 

    And same for me. if I have to exit the movie to change the addon and then enter the movie again just to see or aving to switch between different addons to search different providers… iIt will be a step backwards.
    All integrated is better for the user, I think

  • Marco Nov 16, 2013 

    I hope the Subtitle interface stays the same because that works good now.

  • bibi Nov 16, 2013 

    The actual interface for subtitles is a killer feature, hope you will keep it.

  • amet Nov 16, 2013 

    ofc same format will be kept … and… no you will not have to leave the movie to change the addon. there is no more addons, the are now services and core search function coll them to get various info.

    I suggest you guys test nightlies and report back(on forum, not here) if its a must have feature for you as this is going to be in Gotham, old addon will no longer be supported.

  • corb06 Nov 16, 2013 

    Was it really working that bad before so they had to change it??

    I used to be able to use XBMC subtilte 3.9.15, but since i updated XBMC to Alpha10 I cant use that addon. So now Im stuck with OpenSub addon which is useless atm.

    • Martijn Nov 16, 2013 

      it was hard to maintain because everything went through one add-on. now they can be updated separate from each other.
      keep the developers aspect in mind too as they need to maintain all of it.

      well you updated to a10 yourself and you should know it’s still alpha software. you want something working keep with a stable version or monthly versions. other subtitle services should hopefully be added soon once 3rd party devs start adding them

      • corb06 Nov 21, 2013 

        Hehe yeah, I like being on the experimental edge of things =)

        But I had to revert back to Alpha 9 on my raspberry pi and PC. Staying with A9 untill developers make the new Subtitle addons more custimizeable like adding different languages and autosync download and so on.

        I used to use Podnapisi as a source aswell and they havent got any addon yet.

    • amet Nov 17, 2013 

      yes, it was really bad

  • Pedram Nov 17, 2013 

    I really liked how I could just change the subs site that was searched in the same interface, if the subtitle was not found. I hope that functionality remains the same.

  • Korkenzieher Nov 17, 2013 

    If I at first glance (mis?)read the post and interpreted it as (as some before me have) that we would lose the very convenient unified subtitle interface, would it be to much to ask that this is clarified in the OP?

    With all due respect to the developers this change concerns, when looking for subtitles for common things (i.e. for blockbusters, in english) having multiple sources doesn’t matter much. When it’s not though (e.g. less known productions in other, especially smaller languages), it matters a great deal. Raising the bar on finding adequate subtitles then might make it enough of a hassle to not even bother if it isn’t something you’re sure is worth it.

    If the only difference however is just that instead of flipping a switch to choose which services to use in the current setup you have to instead download the appropriate add-on (say OpenSubtitles) before it becomes available in the same (or equivalent) interface I clearly see how that small inconvenience is worth it for the stated gains. Is this a better interpretation than the first one I made?

    Luckily it works great now (as the end uses) and no one is forcing an update but a clarification would be greatly appreciated!

    • Martijn Nov 17, 2013 

      sounds about right. you install the services you need one time and that’s it. the rest is all taken care for like usual and perhaps even better.

      • Korkenzieher Nov 17, 2013 

        Thanks for the swift reply, good to hear :)

        Not to harp on the issue but with a decoupling of the individual services a prompt at first launch and/or suggestions for a decent default choice (or something to that effect) would be a nice thing to add as well. Can’t recall exactly how it is handled today since it was a while since I went through the process so feel free to disregard this if I’m kicking in open doors.

        Having recommended XBMC and helped a few people with getting started with it anything that reduces the amount of head-scratching for getting the basics going is appreciated.

  • Korkenzieher Nov 17, 2013 

    Obviously I can’t spell for shit, “(as the end uses)” is meant to say “(for me as an end user)”.

  • Oby Nov 17, 2013 

    One of most useful features for me was possibility to get subtitles for 2-3 Languages at once. Is this Feature coming back in future? Of course if service provides it?

  • Shish Nov 18, 2013 

    From the title I thought that XBMC was offering an option to search /within/ subtitles, for instance to skip straight to the scene in a movie where a famous quote is said.

    … could that be done? :O

  • Craig Nov 18, 2013 

    I’m still hoping for an simple way to disable/enable subtitles within the movie container on the OSD without having to go into audio settings and scrolling to subtitles to disable or select a different subtitle track.
    I was hoping that would be in the subtitles button on the OSD but it never has.
    Any way to get a enable/disable subtitle tracks on the main OSD? Its always a pain in the butt to have to cycle through those sub menus every time the movie starts to see if there is an forced english track or if i have to disable it.

    • Ned Scott Nov 19, 2013 

      Yes, it’s like that now for XBMC v13 Gotham.

    • Kibje Nov 20, 2013 

      It has been like that for a while in the nightlies :)

  • Mastrom Nov 18, 2013 

    Sounds a good change if the user can search all available subtitle addons at once. BTW the +-10sec limit to resync subtitles is not enough.

    • Andy Nov 18, 2013 


    • Paco Nov 19, 2013 

      You can change the limit in advancedsettings.xml (wiki has info on how to do it)

      • Mastrom Nov 20, 2013 

        Yeah, I know about the advancedsettings.xml option but the default settings should be “wider”. Another way would be to make it available for change in advanced level settings from inside the application. Anycase, this is not the place to discuss it, but it bugs me so much it was hard to resist.

  • ashlar Nov 18, 2013 

    Well, I hope this, once and for all, gives the Addic7ed people the tools needed to have their service working once more through XBMC.

    • Paco Nov 19, 2013 

      addic7ed does not work because it is a policy of them (addic7ed, not XBMC) to allow downloading just from their web page with a browser. If I am not mistaken, the functionality was retired at their request. So it will never work unless addic7ed administrators change their mind. I strongly do NOT recomend to nag them abiut this!

      • narcosis Nov 19, 2013 

        Is not working officially, but is really easy to make it work

      • ashlar Nov 21, 2013 

        The thing is that they want people to navigate their website, in order to get money from advertisers. Fine. With this new approach they could be the ones creating the add-on and linking it to a prepaid system.

  • Dave Nov 19, 2013 

    Huge step backwards from user experience point of view :(

    • Martijn Nov 19, 2013 

      Complaining without trying. Yeah thanks a lot.

    • amet Nov 19, 2013 

      Care to explain this useless post?

  • Sergiqu Nov 19, 2013 

    Anything better welcome. I now I have problems with I located any of the Subs

  • BigJRM Nov 20, 2013 

    Born a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Person) (I`m also non-religious, P usually means Protestant), my only language is English. It is a post like this that puts me in my place as I realize most of the world speaks other languages! So I tip my hat to the folks that need subtitles. What we really need is a way to automatically translate in real time like the communicator on Star Trek built into computers. There`s the idea folks, I just wish I was smart enough to get the project further along with more than just the idea.

    All the program coders that give of their free time to work on projects like XBMC have my greatest respect and my encouragement to keep up the great work! THANKS A LOT CODERS!

  • Roby Nov 23, 2013 

    Hello there,
    the option System disappeared from the menu in XMBC, now I am not able to manage settings of program. How I can put syemt option in the menu again?


  • ravetrancer Nov 24, 2013 

    so, how do i get subs from now? Is it something that i can do myself or do i havew to contact so that they make the sevrice available? Isnt it possible to put the old xbmc subtitles manually on the nightlyes and dailyes?

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