Author Topic: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts  (Read 3148 times)

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Offline Asbestos Bill

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Sub Station Alpha is a freeware subtitle program which we at QuipTracks use for scripting. We make the script, assign the riffs (each of us has a text style), then record while we watch the movie and the script like a teleprompter. I think it would be especially useful for projects such as Riff-Raff theater due to it's feature that allows multiple scripts to be merged. One can then look at each overlapping riff (which are automatically labeled) and compare much more easily than with Word or Excel.

It is not without it's quirks, however.... So here's a complete tutorial:


Step 1 - Download. The original site is gone, but it can be found here: http://www.topdownloads.net/software/view.php?id=9740.

Step 2 - Install. (Who'da thought?)

Step 3 - Preferences. When you first install SSA, the default window size is maximized...over the top of your start menu. This can get kind of annoying if you are scripting and watching the movie on the same computer, so go to "Options - Preferences - Display tab." Check "Full Height" and select any width. The program will no longer cover the start menu.
 To the side of the Window Size section, check everything ("Display Toolbar," "Show Picture Previews," and two Flagging options).
In the Grid Columns section, check "Start Times," "Durations," "Styles," "Names," and "Texts." Displaying End Times is optional--it's not really necessary and just makes your screen that much more cluttered so I leave it off.
 Now lets go back to the General tab. Check "Enable Undo" and "'Smart' Word Wrapping." Set the Default Event Interval to 0. Don't bother with the other  default times unless, you know, you want to. They're fairly self-explanatory and you can right click on any of the labels to read a description at the bottom of the window.
 Last, we switch to the Edit-Mode Playback tab. Make sure "Timer Clocks," "Event Clock," and "Preview" are checked (and nothing else). There is no need to 'configure' them.
 There. We're done.

Step 4 - Styles. Go to "Styles - Define." Select *Default and click Edit. Make this the style for your most prolific riffer (or the one who's scripting); this isn't necessary but it will save you a little bit of work while you write your script. All you will ever need to change is the primary color unless you for some reason have an ensemble cast of, say, 257 people and can't scrape up enough colors for all of them. After you edit the default, add a new style for each of your riffers and give them each a unique color. I recommend also creating a style called "All" and making it white. If you are submitting to a community riff, check with the organizer to see what styles to make and what color to make them. The names can be changed, so I would suggest something like "Riffer 1" etc, but you must do as you feel is right, of course[/Obi Wan].


Step 1 - Get a video player. I recommend using WinDVD because of it's handy "Jump to time" feature, and because it seems to have a pretty accurate time code. Do not use PowerDVD. It has a very inaccurate time code. I use Windows Media Player because WinDVD costs money. It seems to be fairly accurate but the seconds sometimes change faster/slower than usual...I don't quite trust it, but it's the best I have right now. If anyone has suggestions, please post them.

Step 2 - Get DVD Decrypter. If you are not producing the final rifftrack, you can skip this. http://www.dvddecrypter.org.uk/. This program is also used in creating a Rifftrax DVD (tutorial found here) so you might already have it. Ripping the DVD to your hard drive makes it impossible for the movie to skip. You don't really have to worry about skips until you're ready to start recording, but why not take care of it now? In DVD Decrypter, set the Mode to "File," select a reasonable output folder and click the big button. Once it is done, you can either open the "VIDEO_TS.vob" file in that folder from your DVD player, or double click it and select a program to run it with. This will act the same as if you were playing the DVD, with all the menus and what have you.

Step 3 - Make a joke. Ideally, a funny one. Take note of the time code of the movie. In Sub Station, click in the "Start" box and put the time code in. Note: When you type a number, it overwrites the number immediately after the cursor; if you pressed Shift+Tab three times to get from the Name box to the Start box (recommended), the default location of the cursor will be after the minutes place. Act accordingly.
 Unless there is a specific end time for your riff, Tab twice to get to the Duration box. Just a guess will do. Avoid making it too short (ie. unless you have another riff coming up immediately, or you riff is "Hey!" don't go below the default 2 seconds). Very important note: Even if you leave the duration as the default, go to the duration box and press Enter. This will change the End time accordingly and unless you do this, the End time will override the Duration and will most likely mess things up. After you hit enter, you will be at the Name box.
 Assigning riffs to people will cause their name to appear before the line in the upcoming line preview during Edit-Mode Playback (which will be discussed later). If this is the first riff for a person, type their name in; after this you will be able to select their name from the drop-menu. Note: If you like, you can press the up and down arrows while in this box until his/her name appears, but be warned: for some reason this is glitchy. Not problem-causing glitchy, but the names aren't in order but they actually are if you go to the top and back down...I can't explain it but it's weird and it's something you'll just have to figure out yourself. After this, Tab (hitting enter will take you to the text box).
 Select the appropriate style. Hit Enter.
 Type the joke (ex. "Rosie O'Donnel in a brilliant cameo!"). Press Enter.
 You've made your first riff! Repeat this process until you are satisfied that Michael Crichton won't dare write another movie.
 If you are not producing this rifftrack, you're done. Name your file something useful and send it off. If you'd like to learn how to use SSA to record your track, read on. Also up ahead is a tutorial for editing scripts so that the timing is as correct as it can be (Useful information for those reading submitted scripts for community riffs).


This section will teach you how SSA can be used to facilitate efficient riff recording.

Step 1 - Set up the recording equipment. We use Audacity. Do your mic/level checks. Oh, and set up your recording stuff on a separate computer unless you absolutely can't. I don't have any tips for those of you who have oly one computer available. Good luck to you; you're in for many headaches.

Step 2 - Get your movie loaded in the movie player from your hard drive (see Section 2, Step 2) . Make the window size of the media player fairly small and set it to Stay On Top, or Always On Top. Put a line in your script for the starting point (the point in the movie at which one will un-pause your track). You can add lines in the middle of the script by selecting the row that will be right after the line you're adding and pressing Crtl+A (there's also a button in the toolbar). You can sort your lines chronologically by clicking on "Sort Into Chronological Order" in the Timing menu. Memorize the starting point time. In Sub Station, select the first line of your script and either press F12 or click on "Edit Mode From Selected" in the Playback menu. The screen will turn black except for the video player which should still be in front, a couple of timers in the corner of the screen, and something that looks like this:
 An alert will also pop up explaining that after you click it's OK button, you will need to press a key to start playback, after which pressing Esc will end playback. Press OK, but don't press anything else just yet. First start your movie playing (the cursor will be invisible when it isn't over the video player so flail it around until you find it). Immediately click back onto Sub Station and get ready to press a key exactly when the movie reached your start point (you did memorize it, didn't you?) Note: I realize that you could just look for whatever credit you chose to fade out and judge it visually, but it is best to go by the numbers. You'll have to, later, when you have to start recording somewhere in the middle. After you have started the playback of your script, the timer on top in the corner of the screen will start and several things will appear on the screen. Your next line will appear, with "[Name]:" in front of it so they can prepare themselves. The 0..1..2..3..4..5 dealie is a countdown; the numbers are seconds. Your upcoming lines will scroll from the 5 to the 0 just below it, and then appear in bigger letters at the bottom of the screen, in whatever style you've given them.
 Now you can start recording your jokes. Don't worry if the sync is a little bit off--the only way it could be a problem is if it messes up your timing or delivery. All that matters is that this recorded section is timed correctly, you will later sync the separate sections to a ripped copy of the movie's audio.
 In order to get the most out of this system, go for long sections at a time. This will make the track much easier to edit. When you have to stop, select a riff immediately before the line you just totally botched [insert slow-clap] and press F12 again (after memorizing the start time). Rewind the movie to at least 7second before it and do what you just did at the beginning.

Step 3 - ...of sorts. This is optional, but what this mode is actually intended for is script editing. If you press the spacebar, you will set the start time of the next or current line to the time you pressed it. There is an option in the Edit-Mode Playback tab of the preferences whether this takes place when the space bar is pressed down or released. I recommend using this method if you are organizing a community riff.


Step 1 - Open a script.

Step 2 - Go to "Insert Script" under File. A dialog will ask if you want to shift the times so they start after the current script ends. Retain original timings. Then Sort Into Chronological Order (in the Timing menu, or there's also a button in the toolbar).

Step 3 - Judge.  :speechless: The overlapping lines will be tagged in the "Flgs" column and possibly turned a different color. If one riff says "My sperm's top notch. It's her!" and the other says, "That guy looks stupid" I think you know what to do.

Alright. This has taken several hours. I'm going to leave it at that. If you have questions, ask away.

Offline Junkyard

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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2008, 08:04:49 PM »
Thanks for the heads up, Bill!

Offline RoninFox

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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2008, 09:31:14 AM »
Got the program downloaded and I'm playing around with it to see how it works.  This tutorial could just be a lifesaver for me.  Thanks for posting it.
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Offline Asbestos Bill

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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2008, 12:10:42 PM »
Glad it was useful. The only thing I didn't cover was ripping the audio from the movie. SecretAgentSuperDragon covered it quite thoroughly in his tutorial (Thanks, SASD!), so I think I'll just quote it here.

STEP 1: After downloading all the tools. We are ready to make movies. The first

step is to take your Cheesy DVD and place it in your computer's dvd r/rw drive.

When the selection screen pops up, close it. Go to My Computer and right click on

the drive that contains your movie. A list of options will appear in a little dialogue

box. Select "Decrypt Using DVD Decrypter". The DVD Decrypter program will open

and start analyzing the DVD. More than likely, a box will pop up asking you to

select the region code of the dvd. Most of the time there is only one option, and it

has already been chosen, so just click the OK button at the bottom of the box.

Now, you will be at the main menu of the program. Before we start ripping, we have

to alter some options. Go to "mode" at the top of the window, click it, and

make sure that there is a checkmark next to IFO. If there isn't, make it

so.(Side Note 1: To make sure your files don't split, go to options, then go to

IFO options, and make sure that the tab that says file splitting is set to

none. Also, if you would like to have chapters for your movie, you can check

the box marked Chapter Information - IfoEdit. It's on the same page as the

file splitting options.
) Then the program should go through the same initial

stuff with the Region Code and what not. Once you are again at the main menu,

you should see two tabs to the left: Input and Stream Processing. DVD

Decrypter will have already highlighted the main movie under the Input tab. Now

go to the Stream Processing tab. There will be a bunch of Video and Audio files with

check boxes next to them. Make sure all the boxes are unchecked except for the

Video box(At the very top of the list) And one Audio box(Ex: Audio-AC3/6ch/English).

(Side Note 2: If you want subtitles or a commentary track in your movie, you

can check them too. The IFOedit program let's you have subtitles, and more than 1

audio track for your IFO file, but I usually select Mike's track as the primary one,

and the regular audio track as the secondary one.
) Then right click and select

set all checked to demux, or something along those lines. Once ready,

create a new folder on your desktop with the movie title in it. Then click on the

folder next to destination on your DVD Decrypter and choose your newly

created folder on the desktop as your destination for the files. Once that is done,

click the DVD button below it and let it go to town. It Should take between 10 and

20 minutes depending on your Burner's speed. Once it is finished, close it out and

we go to step 2.

STEP 2: Open up the delaycut program because more than likely, your audio file in

your desktop folder will be delayed.(If the Audio(AC3) file says "delayed #ms" at

the end of your file you will need to do this." Click on browse under the input option

and select your audio file. Then click PROCESS at the bottom of the window and let

it process the audio file. After it is done, it will output the fixed audio file in the

same folder. The two files may look the same, but the processed will have the word

"fixed" at the end of the filename. Delete the delayed file to avoid further

confusion. Now you are ready for step 3.

STEP 3: Open up the PX3Convert program and click on the "..." tab next to the AC3-File

icon and browse around and find the AC3 movie audio and click open. Then for the WAV

file tab, choose a name for your WAV audio file (maybe Regular Movie Audio) and go

ahead and click Start Convert.Your new Wav file should be created, so let's

go to step 4.

ALTERNATE AUDIO CHOICE: If you feel you could handle a more challenging audio

converter than px3 convert, I would highly recommend BeSweet(The program) coupled with BeLight(The GUI).

Downloads and Instructions on how to use them are available here.

After downloading and having the Belight Gui properly set up, open belight, and for input,

find your ac3 file, and for output, name your outputted wav file(I usually call it Regular wav audio.wav).

Make Sure the WAV/PCM tab is selected and the output format selected is WAV @ 16 Bits Stereo.

Check dynamic compression and make sure it says normal. Don't check sampling rate, but

check Boost Mode and make sure it is set to LigH. Finally, check mode with Hybrid Gain

selected, and your ready to go(Don't worry about checking all these boxes again.They'll be preselected

each time you do this.) Click start, and it will begin converting for you at a rate of 1 minute of audio

converted every 3 seconds. The advantage of using this audio converter is that it normalizes the movie

audio quite well, and makes it so in audacity, you don't have to reduce loud parts or raise quiet parts.

Basically, all you will have to do is raise the rifftrax to +3db(sometimes not even that), sync it up, and output.

It is much faster, and much less time consuming. So see if you can swing it. ;).

This guide copyrighted by SecretAgentSuperDragon. September 30, 2006.

Once you have this wav, import it into Audacity with your recorded sections and sync them to it...Which reminds me: You should try to have at least one riff off of someone's line in the movie per section of recorded riffing so you can use it to sync with, otherwise you'll just be guessing. As a backup plan, whenever you start a new section, go back a couple riffs (ie overlap a joke or two) so at the least you can align those and be somewhere in the ballpark.

Offline Asbestos Bill

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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2008, 01:09:33 PM »
This thread should be moved to the Help/Tech Support section, but I don't have the power to do this..... *hint*


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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2008, 11:56:08 AM »
I think this should be moved to "Fan Riffing".

Offline CartoonDiablo

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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2008, 10:43:37 AM »
or you can just record it........ :o


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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2008, 11:12:56 AM »
Yeah, just record it! Skip the writing step altogether. Who needs riffs?

Offline RoninFox

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Re: Using Sub Station Alpha to create, share, and merge riff-scripts
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2008, 05:46:01 AM »
Maybe he means you should record a video of this guide?  I dunno.

While this isn't anywhere near what I did to record my first riff, I did follow it pretty close for the two I'm editing now and it made a world of difference.  Having those prompts on the screen is a freaking lifesaver while recording.  Even though I like to ad-lib too, this is even useful for that since the timers in the corner tell you how long you have to work with until the next written line.

CartoonDiablo, this might look like a lot, but take it one step at a time and you'll probably find it saves you a lot of time.
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