Uproar in Heaven

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DVD cover
DVD cover
Uproar in Heaven (大鬧天宮) caught my eye while searching for Chinese animated movies. It was made by a Shanghai studio in 1965 and tells the story of the mythological monkey king Sun Wukong. After a little searching I found it on YesAsia and ordered a copy, noting that it didn't have English subtitles. Upon its arrival began the quest for English subtitles for this old, obscure movie.


With a little help from the Internet

I posted a request for help on a few forums where I expected there to be some people knowledgeable in Chinese. Surprisingly easily I found someone willing to help me and so I sent him a copy of the movie along with the Chinese subtitles. He translated part of it before disappearing. Since I wasn't giving anything in return I couldn't really be upset, so I tried finding someone else, which wasn't too difficult. Before long I had a translation of the whole movie, but it needed quite a bit of editing.

Editing subtitles without real tools

Apart from spelling and grammar that needed fixing, the timing of some subtitles was wrong and others had to be merged together. I had used spuunmux from dvdauthor to extract the Chinese subtitles from the DVD and used this as a starting point for the English translation. spuunmux creates an XML file with the timing information, so it was quite easy to write a script which created and srt subtitle file from the XML file and the translation file. The srt file would then be read by spumux (also from dvdauthor) to create DVD subtitles.

Throughout the movie there were things written on screen which weren't in the Chinese subtitles. For these I had sent screenshots from the movie to the guy doing the translation and had gotten translations for most of them. I wanted these to appear in italics in the final subtitle, but spumux couldn't handle combining several subtitle streams. I thought that hacking spumux to handle this wouldn't be too difficult and started making some changes. When I got to the point where I needed to initialize multiple independent subtitle renderers with different fonts I found that the subtitle renderer was borrowed from mplayer and its setup was handled with global variables... Trying to modularize that sort of code isn't much fun at all, so I gave up. The solution I used instead was creating two DVD subtitles, extracting them as images with spuunmux, editing the resulting XML file by hand to mix the two and then using spumux again to create the final subtitle track.

A conclusion to be drawn from this is that there are no good free software DVD subtitle editors. As a matter of fact, several parts of the DVD authoring process lack good tools, such as editing/creating menus or creating a stripped down version of a DVD. Most of it can be done with a lot of manual labour at the console but there needs to be software for DVD editing/authoring that human beings can use too...

Why don't we just make him good?

Why don't we just make him good?
There were some lines in the translation which just didn't make any sense, e.g. "Why don't we just make him good?" Spirit of Planet Venus said this after discouraging the Jade Emperor from using violence against Sun Wukong again. The Chinese subtitles were simple bitmaps (as all DVD subtitles are) so I couldn't just copy it into a translator.

I used different techniques to get a better translation. I could use my limited pinyin skills with SCIM to identify the characters by typing what I thought I heard and looking for the characters in the Chinese subtitles. When that failed, I sometimes found a character that looked similar and looked it up in the Unified CJK Ideographs unicode chart. Similar characters are grouped in the chart so I could usually find the one I was looking for. When I had the whole sentence in writing I could put it through Google's translator. The sentence “还是把他软禁的好哇” (orignally translated "Why don't we just make him good?") was translated by Google to "Or puts under house arrest well him ha". This didn't make much sense either so I actually restorted to asking real people in these cases. The translation? "Why don't we just put him under house arrest?"

The results

Let Sun Wukong have a taste.

A DVD with the english subtitles is available on Asian DVD Club.

The 2-disc edition

After I got the 1-disc edition of the movie I found out that the 2-disc edition included the even older animation by the same studio, Princess Iron Fan. The 2-disc edition was available at YesAsia at one point, but it went out of stock before I got around to ordering it. What to do?

I ended up ordering from 11china.com using Google's translator and some guess-work. Last I checked that order was listed as "正在處理訂單" ("processing order") and I'm guessing that it will stay that way. I turned to joyo.com instead and used the same technique to order a copy which actually arrived two weeks later. The packaging had been quite severely mistreated in the mail, but the data was intact. Apart from the amazing Princess Iron Fan, there were some illustrations which will make nice little decorations if framed.


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