Note to Self: Using Tesseract to Extract Subtitles

Say you have video such as this one on Facebook. Most of these come with hardcoded subtitles, which we’d like to extract (for whatever reason).

Opening the page in Chrome and inspecting the network requests quickly uncovers the media URL:

By cutting off &bytestart=0&byteend=953, we can download the video file completely.

Next, we can use ffmpeg to create frames every half second:

./ffmpeg -i .\23354483_145400712877976_2778300398300037120_n.mp4 -r 2 .\frames\image-%07d_original.png

And apply some cropping using Python:

from PIL import Image
from glob import glob

for png_file in glob('./frames/*_original.png'):
    image =
    cropped = image.crop((50, 850, 1080, 1080))'.png', '_cropped.png'))

As well as some leveling to only retain white and yellow text:

from PIL import Image
from glob import glob

def level(img):
    copy = img.copy()
    for x in range(img.size[0]):
        for y in range(img.size[1]):
            pxl = list(copy.getpixel((x, y)))
            if pxl[0] < 220 and pxl[1] < 220: 
                pxl[0] = 0
                pxl[1] = 0
                pxl[2] = 0
                pxl[0] = 255
                pxl[1] = 255
                pxl[2] = 255
            copy.putpixel((x, y), tuple(pxl))
    return copy

for png_file in glob('./frames/*_cropped.png'):
    image =
    leveled = level(image)'_cropped.png', '_leveled.png'))

Next, download Tesseract (unzip the setup file using 7-Zip and just dump it somwhere, to prevent running the installer — it works fine in a portable setup).

Extract the text for every file:

from glob import glob
from subprocess import run, PIPE
from pickle import dump

def get_ocr(file_name):
    out = run(["./tesseract/tesseract.exe", file_name, "stdout", "-psm", "11"], stdout=PIPE)
    return out.stdout

lines = []
for png_file in glob('./frames/*_leveled.png'):
    output = get_ocr(png_file)

dump(lines, open('lines.p', 'wb'))

Perform a little cleaning using some regex and the Levenshtein distance to remove duplicate lines:

from pickle import load
import re

def levenshteinDistance(s1, s2):
    if len(s1) > len(s2):
        s1, s2 = s2, s1
    dst = range(len(s1) + 1)
    for i2, c2 in enumerate(s2):
        dst_ = [i2+1]
        for i1, c1 in enumerate(s1):
            if c1 == c2:
                dst_.append(1 + min((dst[i1], dst[i1 + 1], dst_[-1])))
        dst = dst_
    return dst[-1]

lines = load(open('lines.p', 'rb'))

cleaned = []

for line in lines:
    clean = line.decode("utf-8")
    clean = clean.rpartition('telus')[2]
    clean = re.sub('\r\n', ' ', clean)
    clean = re.sub('\s\s+', ' ', clean)
    clean = re.sub('[^‘,\.\?!%a-zA-Z0-9\s]+', '', clean)
    if cleaned and cleaned[-1] in clean:
        del cleaned[-1]
    if cleaned and levenshteinDistance(clean, cleaned[-1]) <= 7:
        del cleaned[-1]

for clean in cleaned:

The resulting strings should now be easy to manually clean and finalize:

It seems to me that you don‘t believe climate change is real.
I  l am un
I am uncertain.
You‘re uncertain?
No, I‘m not. I‘m sorry. I jumped ahead.
Climate change is of course real.
Human activity affect climate change?
More than likely, but the extent to which,
I think is very uncertain, and my  Would you rely on scientists
to give you that answer, or not?