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How to disable subtitles in mplayer by default

November 16, 2013
[howto] [mplayer]


I really like mplayer because:

  • it is very powerful;
  • yet quite easy to use from command-line;
  • has sane defaults;
  • no GUI which just stands between me and video I want to watch.

So far, so good. The only thing that bothered me for a while is that subtitles are enabled by default.

I download subtitles quite often, but use them rarely, mostly when I don't get something. For such workflow it would be ideal to have subtitles loaded always, but displayed only when I need them (on pressing v key), thus subtitles should be disabled by default.

Looking for a solution

It sounds like an easy task, doesn't it? Well, I spend quite a lot of time to solve it. Initially I expected to find a simple command line option which does the trick. I tried these two:

  • -nosub
Disables any otherwise auto-selected internal subtitles (as e.g. the
Matroska/mkv demuxer supports).  Use -noautosub to disable the loading of
external subtitle files.
  • -noautosub
Turns off automatic subtitle file loading.

The -noautosub worked fine with external subtitles, but hitting v didn't enable subtitles. The options don't suppress displaying subtitles, they disable loading of them, making loading later impossible (one would have to restart mplayer without specifying them). Such behaviour obviously doesn't fit the desired workflow.

Reading man mplayer further lead me to the -input command. It wasn't clear whether it's of any help, but the description mentioned some new commands that are not listed in the manual. Other "strange" options are -list-options and -list-properties. The first one gives a list of regular options, but output of the second one contained something new to me, in particular (mplayer -list-properties | grep sub):

 sub                  Integer         -1         No
 sub_source           Integer         -1         2
 sub_vob              Integer         -1         No
 sub_demux            Integer         -1         No
 sub_file             Integer         -1         No
 sub_delay            Float           No         No
 sub_pos              Integer         0          100
 sub_alignment        Integer         0          2
 sub_visibility       Flag            0          1
 sub_forced_only      Flag            0          1
 sub_scale            Float           0          100
 teletext_subpage     Integer         0          64

See it? sub_visibility, that's it! All that's left is to set it, that sounds easy again, but neither mplayer -sub_visibility=0 ... nor mplayer -input sub_visibility=0 works.

What about that -input command? mplayer -input cmdlist | grep property:

osd_show_property_te String [Integer] [Integer]
set_property         String String
get_property         String
step_property        String [Float] [Integer]

OK, trying mplayer -input 'set_property sub_visibility 0', and fail again. Consulting man mplayer again reveals the following: one has to put the command to a file and pass it to mplayer -input file=<path/to/file>. Finally...

The solution

$ echo set_property sub_visibility 0 > ~/.mplayer/init
$ cat ~/.mplayer/init
set_property sub_visibility 0
$ mplayer -input file=$HOME/.mplayer/init video.mkv