Sunday, April 28, 2019

No Safe Harbor

In the bad old days, like the mid-00s, getting subtitled anime to play properly was an exercise in frustration. The new Matroska (MKV) format was barely supported. There were many players, each with its own idiosyncrasies. Every codec was standalone and had to be installed separately. Codecs often stole each other's identities or registry entries, producing chaos. It was every subber for him/herself, and God against all.

Then a group of fansubbers got fed up and decided to set a de facto standard. They created the mischievously-named Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP, the Cyrillic acronym for the USSR) to dictate how fansubs should be decoded. They assembled a player, a set of filters, and a subtitle renderer into a coherent package, and it basically all worked. Peace and stability returned, to Windows at least. But in 2016, the CCCP project disbanded.

Personally, I barely noticed. True, the last CCCP didn't handle PGS subs correctly; I didn't care much. PGS subs are for (lazy) BD rips, not fansubs. However, Commie recently released its batch of Chihayafuru S1, and it didn't play. When I complained about this, I was peremptorily told that CCCP was "really old" (3 1/2 years!), and I should upgrade to the latest and greatest version of MPC-HC or MPC-BE or mplayer or some other playback gadget. So I did. Chihayafuru played correctly. PGS subs played correctly. Victory!

...until I started my release check on the second Sangokushi movie. To my horror, signs that I had set in Aegisub and that had played correctly before no longer looked right. Correct in VLC and CCCP; incorrect in MPC-HC and -BE. After some digging, I traced it to a bug (feature?) in the internal subtitle renderer in MPC-HC. Sangokushi is encoded anamorphically. The correct display aspect ratio is set during Matroska muxing. The subtitle renderer is ignoring the Matroska aspect ratio and using the encode aspect ratio. CCCP overrode the default MPC-HC renderer setting and forced use of an external package called vsfilter. Viewers using later versions of MPC-HC/BE must do that as well.

So, if you have abandoned CCCP and want to use MPC-HC/BE, then you  must first install xy-vsfilter separately (look it up on Google). Then, in MPC-HC/BE, override the default internal subtitle renderer and choose xyfilter instead. The option to do this is in different places, so you'll need to poke around. Once you've changed the subtitle renderer, Orphan's anamorphically encoded videos will play properly. Chaos tamed, at least temporarily, and at least on Windows. Everyone else will have to use VLC unless/until the internal renderer starts to respect the Matroska aspect ratio.

In the longer term, Orphan will stop making anamorphic encodes. They're only an issue for DVDs anyway, not VHS tapes, laserdiscs, or Blu-rays. They're an incredible PITA for typesetting, as well as a fruitful source of playback errors. In the meantime, here's a list of affected releases:
  • Alice in Dreamland
  • Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989
  • Cosprayers
  • Code Breakers OVAs
  • Hidamari no Ki
  • Okane ga nai!
  • Sangokushi movie 1
  • Seikima II: Humane Society
  • Stop!! Hibari-kun!
  • Ultra Nyan 2
  • Wild 7
  • Yume Tsukai
It is, unfortunately, very unlikely that we'll ever re-encode these shows. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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