WD TV LIVE subtitle issues

I’m rehashing a post I’ve made on AVS forums a while ago in the hope that the powers that be will finally take notice and do something about it, especially since some of the issues should not take to much work to get fixed.

First of all there’s a distinction between text and image based subs and between external and internal subs:

srt internal/external: transparent outline, hardly readable (external are displayed higher than internal)
idx/sub external: fine (as of 1.01.11)
idx/sub internal ISO: fine (as of 1.01.00!)
idx/sub internal MKV: messed up

Since WD is in the business of selling hardware it may be understandable that new features/fixes are predominantly applied to new models (WD TV -> WD TV LIVE) but what I really can’t wrap my head around is that some features that worked fine in previous models get broken in newer hardware. Case in point: SRT files were readable on the original WD TV but someone (Sigma?) apparently thought it to be a good idea to change the usually black outline of a sub (which is supposed to make the text stand out from whatever background picture) to a transparent one which makes it barely readable:

WDTV 1.xx external/internal srt


WDTV LIVE 1.xx external/internal srt


Internal Vobsubs (idx/sub) are messed up, apparently some colors of the palette are ignored/replaced ( update : mjuhasz determined the cause of this). Which is even more annoying and inexplicable considering that idx/sub are the very same bitmaps from the original DVD that are depicted just fine when in VOBs or ISOs. This bug was present with external idx/subs in the 1.0 firmware as well. Apparently someone forgot to apply the fix introduced with the 1.01 update to internal subs as well.

WDTVL 1.01.xx external idx/sub


WDTVL 1.01.xx MKV internal idx/sub


Some more, please add any issue not mentioned here in your reply posts (anime/SSA fans anyone?):

  • dropouts (fixed as of 1.??)
    External/internal dx/sub with more than 1 stream show irregular dropouts of certain items. FF/RW will show these previously dropped items but then other items of the stream will be dropped.
    update: mjuhasz discovered that dropped items are due to these items missing end times. Since these are spec compliant the LIVE should support them. Workaround for the time being: open and save the sub in BDSUP2SUB.

  • default stream settings are ignored
    With subs set to on the LIVE will always display the first stream no matter what flag is set in the MKV or ISO.
    Partially fixed as of 1.03.38: MKV are fine, VobSub setting is ignored, ISO/VOBs are pending investigation

  • external subs are preferred
    When you have both external and internal subs for the same video always the external are displayed by default.

  • no internal subs for MP4
    I’m not too familiar with this container but it can contain subs which are ignored by the LIVE

  • the vertical distance between two lines of srt subs is too big

  • PGS subs (SUP) from Blu-Rays are only supported in M2TS but not MKV containers
    Fixed as of 1.06.15 : PGS have to compressed with zlib (MKVToolnix: default, MakeMKV: use WDTV profile)

  • As tinuadmin pointed out, as of prebeta 1.03.22 on playback of DVD ISOs subs have to be turned on manually  despite Settings > Video Settings > Subtitle Default being set to on

  • As board mentioned, MicroDVD linebreaks are ignored. Instead the whole item is displayed on 1 line with a | in between. Problem: the LIVE manual lists SUB as a supported format. However, there are several formats with this extension: MicroDVD, MPSub, Philips SVCD Designer, Sofni, Sonic DVD Creator, Subsonic, Subviewer, TMPlayer.

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I’d like to add some criticism of WD’s support for SSA as well as it’s implementation of Advanced SSA (aka _ASS subtitles) support.

Basically, SSA support is so crude it’s at the point of it being questionable whether you can even call it “support”.

What’s lacking is:

  • Support for Styles (no colour, no fonts, no karaoke animations / fades)
  • Support for Positioning (WD Live only positions at bottom of screen, ignoring instructions within the SSA file)
  • Support for Concurrent Subs (if there are multiple threads of dialogue, only the most recent line will show)

If you’re a fan of animé, these are quite commonly used features.

WD’s SSA ‘support’ makes the styled subs look like basic SRT, with all the same limitations of that format.

Here are some visual examples (originals screencapped from VLC; WD Live shots photographed from TV):



In the above example, the Top image is as the file plays in VLC (although PCH and Boxee Box can apparently manage this too).  

The Bottom image is as the file displays on the WD TV Live range: plain, unstyled subs displayed just a little too high up the page by default.

Another example:

VLC-ASS_font+multi-dialogue.jpg WDTV_ASS_font+multi-dialogue.jpg

In the above example, you can see in the Top image that there are multiple lines of dialogue that are meant to be displayed.

The 2 visible characters are talking and then someone off-camera speaks.  Their line should be stacked on top of the other dialogue.  The SSA file explicitly instructs this; the Live players don’t understand this instruction.

As you can see in the Bottom picture, the WD TV Live units simply erase their dialogue from screen and replace it with the new dialogue.  

Often in animé, you’ll have goofy dialogue in the background while another conversation continues in the foreground.  On the WD Live, you get a weird, disjointed mish-mash of two conversations that is hard to follow.

Another issue shown above it the lack of fonts.  Many (most?) fansubs employ embedded fonts, for better or worse (Gintama’s are quite nice).  They’re right there in the file, the player simply needs to use them.

Yet another example:

VLC-ASS_font+position.jpg WDTV_ASS_font+position.jpg

Here we can see the Live’s inability to position dialogue where the SSA file requests it.

In the Top image, you can see that the lyrics for the opening song are displayed at the top, presumably because there’s no existing dialogue there.

In the Bottom image, you can see the Live ignoring this instruction and displaying the subs at the awkwardly high bottom position it defaults to.  In this case, the words are illegible because there is already text hard-coded into the video stream.  The SSA sub has been created to avoid this; the Live ignores the SSA standard and the end result is subs that can’t be read.

Final example:

VLC-ASS_font+position+color.png WDTV_ASS_font+position+color.jpg

Here we see use of colour, fonts and positioning, in the Top image at least.

The WD TV Live units ignore all these things, so instead of an easily readable translation at the top we get black and white text printed over a large black and white background near the bottom.

So, in summary, SSA / _ASS support on the WD TV Live, Plus and Hub is a shambles.

I believe WD have been aware of this since the launch of the Live or earlier; it’s been an acknowledged issue in the Ideas Lab for a long time and I would assume people complained about this on the Gen1 / Gen2 WD TV unit as well.

If you watch a lot of subbed animé on the Live, you’re going to be annoyed on a regular basis.

Any player which nails SSA subs will gain a following from the animé community.  Missed opportunity.


Another problem where subs aren’t displayed correctly: Problem with Persian subtitle rendering.

I have also noticed complete sentences being cut out of some files. 

Also if you watch Macross Frontier episode 7 there is singing while people are talking and it seams the singing takes priority.

I have had the WDTV Live for about a week so I dont know how much they update and what exactly they are working on but hopefully fixing the subs so that it can display more than 1 stream at a time.  As for the color of the stream that I am not worried about because it is not something that breaks the experience for me.

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Thanks for the bug reports.

Do you think that rolling back the firmware would improve the subs. I am thinking about it, and i am wondering since there are anime viewers if any of you have tried any files with ogg soundtracks because it is also having problems with that?

carlrhxphn wrote:

I have also noticed complete sentences being cut out of some files. 

That issue is mentioned above under dropouts.

carlrhxphn wrote:
Do you think that rolling back the firmware would improve the subs. 

As you can see above these bugs are already present from the beginning so no, a rollback won’t help. Please start a new thread about your ogg question, I want this one to stay on topic of subs only.


I just bought a new WDTV live Plus and don’t seem to know how to get the subtitles to work. I have many movies with .srt subtitles and when I play them using VLC on my desktop, I can select the .srt file and the subtitles appear. Now with live plus, when I play the movie, I can see in the options there’s a subtitle menu item and  can set it to “Subtitle 1/1”. The odd thing is no text shows up in the screen. Is this some kind of a bug? Are there workarounds?

The firmware is 1.03.29_B. I have not updated to any of the latest firmware(1.04.XX) due to many issues that are being discussed in the firmware threads.

Thanks for any suggestions.

i thought when i buy the wd tv live,i can watch all my anime with it,but since the sub didn’t good enough like the subtitles are being placed on way bottom of the screen and gets cut off…:cry:

N what  pixel power said,it was quite annoying when u watch anime like that,…:cry:

now i started watch my anime with my laptop,

so my question is that possible wd tv live will do something about what pixel power said,…:cry:

(sorry if my grammar still not properly,…still learning)

I have ripped to an MKV format 400 DVD’s. I would say that 95% play the subs  perfect but the others are transparent. I do not know the technical term, just that they are an outline of the letters. This is no big deal but they are harder to read and I am interested as to whether that is correct for some subs or there is a fault to deal with or if the subs for those films should not be in the MKV envelope.

I rip with MakeMKV and keep everything within the MKV envelope. Any ideas please.

Of course it’s not correct cause subs are supposed to be readable. As listed above this is one of the bugs of the LIVE and it’s very annyoing. To verify this please extract a sub from one of those 5% and playback with the sub as external file to see if it makes a difference.

Thanks Techflaws I shall give it a try.

Edit: I have used MKV Extract and sucessfully removed the subs and just placed them in the same folder. The result is that they are now OK.

Although you guys already know, it is advisable to remove the subs from the MKV otherwise both good and trabsparent subs will appear as options on the WD Live.

I haven’t been able to work out how to completely remove the subs from the MKV package using MKV Extract although I can extract them, the original still remains in the package. I therefor have to redo the MKV without the subs so I only have the one I want.

Given the time it takes muxing 40 GB MKVs as opposed to switching between internal and external subs I would always keep the subs inside the files so that one day you get a new player that handles them properly or WD fixes the firmware (don’t hold your breath) you’ll still have all in one file.

I strongly second this with respect to more subtitle options.  Definitely the need for colored fonts in the subtitle.  It is very annoying to view a black and white movie with white fonts.  Should at least have the option to display the subtitle in yellow, similar to Divx player. 

The problem is not the white font but the fact that the black outline is missing. If the LIVE would depict the sub properly you would be able to read this white sub even on a black and white movie.

I have the WD TV live with latest firmware 1.02.22_V and my subtitles are white with a black border around them, in the settings I can choose either a thick or thin border around the subs. As far as I’m aware this was fine prior to the latest update also. i mainly use SRT files or ones embedded into MKV container files. I wonder if someone can suggest an encoding software that can burn in subtitles into the picture. I have used AVI demux which seems to support this with SRT files but then crashes. I tried handbrake and that doesn’t seem to do it either though i have the already embedded sub selected and burn ticked.

For some reason my subtitles are off-centered (shifted about 2-2,5cm to the left) and I was wondering if this could be changed somehow.

Never experienced this problem, what kind of subs are these? AFAIK you can only change vertical position using the up/down keys on the remote.


To save the process of re-encoding (with its inevitable quality loss) use AviAddXSubs to make Vobsubs out of your SRTs and keep them external for proper playback.

@lucid To save the process of re-encoding (with its inevitable quality loss) use AviAddXSubs to make Vobsubs out of your SRTs and keep them external for proper playback.” Thank you techflaws for your reply but i was wondering if you could recommend a software to do exactly that :wink: ie re encode the file (which is an xvid avi) to burn in the srt sub file into the image (as opposed merging it within the container.) This is for a foreign language and i want to burn in the English sub file permanently into the image. Non of the sw i have tried so far has worked. Thanks again.

Handbrake should work though I never tried. I have done it successfully with AutoGK (straight from DVD though).