The Short Version
Studio ADTRW is using a relatively new media container format, called Matroska. It is amazing and new and cool and has 80 bajillion awesome features unseen in other formats, but you might not have what you need to view it. If you can’t play our releases, and are using windows, all you should need to install is the DefilerPak.
Don’t worry, the DefilerPak is a very lean codec pack, it does all you need and nothing else. As a bonus, it should also make practically all other video formats work for you too. After installing it, you should be able to view our releases in whatever media player you use. But if you’d like something better, read on. You might also learn something by reading the rest of this page, and Learning is Fun!
If you’re not on windows, or don’t feel like installing the DefilerPak on windows, we recommend VideoLan Client, which is available for nearly every OS under the sun, and plays nearly every video format out-of-the-box. But again, if you’d like a better solution, read on.
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Matroska
ADTRW has decided to use Matroska (.mkv) as our primary release format for subtitled anime. Matroska offers several advantages over .avi, both on our end and yours, which we feel make the format the ideal choice for fansubbed anime.
Among the features Matroska offers are support for video chapter indexing, similar to a DVD. In all of our .mkv releases (except a few early episodes of Panda-Z), the video files contain “chapters” for the OP sequence, main animation, ED sequence, and Next-episode Teaser (if there is one). If you are using a player that supports video chapters, i.e. pretty much anything more advanced than the generic Windows Media Player, simply click the next (>|) and previous (|<) buttons in your player to navigate through the chapters at will. Sick of watching the OP for every episode? skip it? Don't like the ED song, or just want to jump forward to see what's coming next? It's just like your DVD player. For Air-TV episodes, we will also put a chapter break at the Eyecatch sequence, and for movies, we may index groups of scenes, but for short OAVs, we will probably just keep the main episode footage as a single chapter.
Matroska also supports embedded soft-subtitles, which can be turned on or off at will, allowing "clean" frame and video capturing from our files, without the need to go acquire "raw" copies of the same video. More excitingly, however, because Matroska supports any number of soft-subtitle tracks in a single file, it allows us to explore even more advanced ideas. In our upcoming releases of Shin Getter Robo, for instance, we use a second subtitle track to hold "liner notes", giving detailed background information of the geographic and historical references in the show, translation footnotes, and other articles of interest, without cluttering up the main video screen. To signify that a "note" is present for a given scene, we add a small blue "+" symbol to the upper-left corner of the screen. When you see this symbol, if you want to see the note, go to the stream-selection drop-down on your video player (in most players, simply right click on the video and choose "Streams" or "Filters" and find the list of subtitle streams available. One of the "English" tracks should be selected by default. Switch to the other subtitle stream, and you will be able to see the liner-notes. You may want to pause the video so that you don't miss any dialogue while you are reading the notes. Remember that if you pause the video BEFORE switching the subtitle track, you will need to quickly unpause and repause, so that the video stream gets a chance to update itself with the new subtitle information. This feature was inspired by the "capsule" footnotes on Pioneer's Akira DVD, which we thought it was a fantastic idea, and this was the closest way we could figure out to re-implement it for internet video.
In the future, we may also explore the possibility of releasing video files with subtitles in several languages (Spanish, French, Portugese, etc). If you are interested in working with the team to translate scripts into your language, please contact us in our forums.
On our end, the ability to soft-subtitle our releases means that, in many cases we can escape the need to re-encode video, which is time-consuming, and usually results in signal-loss, which causes a slight degradation in video quality. It is also easy to mux, and because soft-subtitles aren't "burned" into the video, we can potentially release new versions of scripts in the future, which can easily be muxed into the video using the Matroska toolkit, an easy and free utility for working with Matroska files. Another possibility (although far-fetched and unlikely) is the release of alternate AUDIO tracks (yes, Matroska supports that too), which could allow us to do something fun like a fan-dub or parody dub of a release, that you could subject yourself to, at your discretion, all without having to download yet another copy of the same large video file.
We realize that some people are resisting the change to Matroska, mostly because they've had difficulty getting it to work. In our experience, the average computer user can enable their machine to seamlessly support Matroska in their own favorite video player, in a matter of a few minutes. For Windows users, the solution is simple. Either download MediaPlayer Classic, which supports .mkv natively, or install the Matroska Splitter (located at the same site), which will allow Matroska to play in any Direct Show player (i.e. just about every player that exists). An even EASIER way is to install DefilerPak, which is a scripted, bundled installer for the top 8 or 9 absolutely most essential filters for playing internet video, written by our own video expert, Defiler. We understand that some people hate the idea of codec packs, and truthfully, Defiler made DP specifically BECAUSE he hated codec packs and was sick of helping people troubleshoot problems that were caused by installing big, bloated packs. DP is lean and mean, and we guarantee if you have it installed, all of our files will play perfectly, and you’ll be hard pressed to find files anywhere else that won’t. As far as DirectShow players go, our favorite Zoom Player, although BSPlayer and Core Media Player are both reportedly excellent as well. Windows Media Player will work for our files, although some advanced features (especially chaptering, and possibly the alternate subtitles) won’t work.
Mac and Linux users are directed to install the latest version of mplayer, which supports .mkv and most common features. Alternatively, users on all operating systems can use VideoLan Client, which also natively supports .mkv.
Thank you, and we hope you enjoy our fansubs!