Subtitle Guide: Definition, Purpose, Creation, and Usage

Guide to use subtitles, with 'SD' play button icon, for video accessibility.
Master subtitles and learn how to transcribe and create subtitles, enhancing accessibility.

Transkriptor 2024-01-17

Subtitles represent content of any kind of audiovisual content such as films or television shows. They usually provide the translation of spoken dialogues. They are also direct transcriptions of the dialogues. Subtitles are for people who are not able to hear or who do not know the language of the audiovisual content.

Subtitles’ purposes include ensuring accessibility, facilitating language translation, minimizing noise or distractions, aiding in search and navigation, and meeting legal and regulatory standards. Accessibility is the method and approach of ensuring that products, services, and information are usable by everyone.

To create captions with a software, choose and download a dedicated subtitle software. Some popular options are Aegisub, Subtitle Edit, Subtitle Workshop, and Jubler. Download the video content and create a new subtitle file within the program.

Save the transcript in a format compatible with the video player. Use a subtitle editing software to sync the subtitle block. Save the subtitle file.

There are several uses of subtitles which are accessibility, language translation,and noise-free viewing. Subtitles make video contents more accessible for people with hearing impairments.

What are Subtitles?

Subtitles are textual representations of spoken dialogue, sound effects, and other auditory information in a movie, film, television show, or other multimedia content. They appear at the bottom of the screen, synchronized with the soundtrack in real-time. It is accessible for a wider audience.

One of the most popular tools that create subtitles is Subly. It is a software and online service that provides tools for creating and translating subtitles for videos. It allows users to upload videos and generate or edit subtitles.

How Does Subtitles Work?

Subtitles work by providing a textual representation of spoken dialogue, sounds, and sometimes other audio information in a video, film, or other multimedia content. Subtitles display a text-based representation of the spoken dialogue and other relevant audio elements on the screen while an audiovisual program, such as a movie or video, is playing.

Hands holding a smartphone displaying a 'Get Subtitles!' button, indicative of the ease of adding subtitles.
Enhance video experience with easy subtitle integration, right at your fingertips.

What is the Purpose of Subtitles?

The purpose of subtitles is accessibility, language translation, noise or distraction reduction, search and navigation, and legal and compliance requirements. Accessibility refers to the design and practice of making products, services, and information usable and accessible to all individuals.

Language translation provides people watching content in a language. Subtitles provide a better comprehension for people. Instead of listening to the content, people are able to follow the subtitles.

Subtitles are helpful for learning new things such as a foreign language. It is possible to open a movie in a language you know and follow it with subtitles in a language you do not know helps the learning process.

Subtitles are helpful in search and navigation as they make video content more discoverable by providing context. They allow the audience to access the content and improve the user experience. Subtitles also help the audience find and engage with the content that aligns with their interests and needs. Subtitles ease the comprehension process of cultural aspects.

Who Uses Subtitles?

Many different kinds of people use subtitles for various reasons. People with hearing impairments or deaf people take advantage of subtitles. They follow the subtitles.

Foreigners use translated subtitles to understand the content. People who understand better by reading things are also using subtitles, rather than depending on the audiovisual content.

How to Create a Subtitle?

To manually produce subtitles, follow the steps below.

  1. First transcribe the video material.
  2. Add timestamps at regular intervals after transcription to synchronize the subtitles with the audio. Timestamps indicate when each subtitle appears and disappears on-screen. Break the transcript into subtitle portions because subtitle frames are typically 2-7 seconds long.
  3. Save the transcript in a format that the video player can understand.
  4. Use subtitle editing software to sync the subtitle block with the video's timestamps
  5. Save the subtitle file.

To create subtitles with a software, follow the steps below.

  1. Choose and download a dedicated subtitle program to make captions with. Aegisub, Subtitle Edit, Subtitle Workshop, and Jubler are some popular solutions.
  2. Utilize video editing tools like Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, or DaVinci Resolve. These software products include subtitle tools.
  3. Load the video footage into the program.
  4. Generate a new subtitle file within the program.
  5. Save the subtitle file.

What Parts of the Video are Covered by the Subtitle?

The parts of the video that are covered by the subtitle are listed below.

  1. Sound Effects. Subtitles of anything audible in the video.
  2. Music Lyrics. Subtitles of lyrics of the music content.
  3. Narration. Subtitles of third person narration in the video.
  4. Speaker Indication. Subtitles that show who is speaking on the screen.
  5. Foreign Language Translation. Subtitles that highlights subtitles of different languages in the video
  6. On-Screen Text. Subtitles of the written content on the screen.
  7. Spoken Dialogue. Subtitles of dialogues in the video.

1. Sound Effects

Sound effects usually serve  for people who have hearing impairments or deaf people. They provide a better experience for the users, by creating the exact same environment of the audio content.

2. Music Lyrics

Music lyrics cannot be heard when watching something on mute. SMusic lyrics as subtitles are helpful for people to comprehend the lyrics better and clearer.

3. Narration

Narration is another important aspect. Some movies have narrators that are not visible on the screen. Subtitles for narration serve for people to follow the narrator’s voice both audibly and readably.

4. Speaker Indication

Speaker indication is a need when there are more than one person on the screen. Subtitles indicate the speaker directly so that watchers are able to follow who is speaking at the moment. Speaker indication is a need when there are more than one person in the scene as subtitles generally are in the same font and style.

5. Foreign Language Translation

Foreign language translation is a need when there is more than one language spoken in the video.

6. On-Screen Text

On-screen texts are not readable due to the quality or the font of the text. Thus, subtitles also include on-screen texts for the audience.

7. Spoken Dialogue

Spoken dialogues in subtitles is the most common type of subtitles. They aim to transcribe the spoken content into written content for the audience.

Stylized artwork of open and closed signs, representing the different types of subtitles.
Navigate the types of subtitles, from open to closed captioning.

What are the Different Types of Subtitles?

The different types of subtitles are open caption, closed caption, and live caption.

Open captions are often called hard-coded captions, closed captions, or burned-in captions. These objects are “burnt” into the video frames after production and become an indivisible and permanent part of it.

Closed Caption (CC) is a textual version of the dialogue/audio content of a video, movie or a TV show. Standard settings usually hide them, but viewers are able to toggle them on or off through TV or video player preferences. Captions serve for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and also like to read the text while listening to the audio.

Live captions are a kind of textual portrayal of spoken substance produced continuously in live occasions, transmissions, or introductions. As a last type of subtitles , people know live captions as real-time captions or live captions. Human captioners or automated speech recognition (ASR) technologies create these captions.

How to Add Subtitles to a Video?

To add subtitles to a video, follow the steps below.

Option 1: Manually Creating and Adding Subtitles

  1. Create a subtitle transcript. Put in words what people say in an open world report if the video has sound.
  2. Format the transcript . Break the transcript into smaller sentences or chunks for readability, and sync with the video timing.
  3. Save the transcript file. Store the subtitle in a plain text (.txt), subtitle file format ( .srt ) or WebVTT (.vtt ). Make the name of the CSV file the same as the video’s name so that it would be easier to match them.
  4. Choose a video editing software . Use Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, iMovie for Mac, or some of the free options like Shotcut, HitFilm Express, or DaVinci Resolve.
  5. Import the video and subtitle file. Launch the video editing software and add both the video file and subtitle file to the project.

Option 2: Professional Captioning Services

  1. Choose a captioning service. If you need to, hire professional captioning services or utilize an audio transcription tool with speech recognition like Rev, 3Play Media, or the YouTube auto-captioning.
  2. Upload your video. Make sure to upload the video to the preferred service/application.
  3. Generate or order captions . Captioning can be either done automatically with ASR technology (Automatic Speech Recognition), or manually depending on the service.
  4. Review and edit . Check the translated captions and make modifications as needed.
  5. Export or download . Export the video with captions in it or save caption file to playback with your video.
  6. Sync subtitles with the video. Move and set the SRT filename on the video timeline. Align the timing of each subtitle to the spoken portion of the corresponding audio in the video.
  7. Edit subtitle appearance. Change the font, size, color, and location of the subtitles to make them readable and let the main visuals play their role.
  8. Preview and fine-tune. Run the video with captions so as to assure proper synchronization and legibility. Make any necessary adjustments.
  9. Export the video . Click on Export Video with subtitles. Select the right video format and settings.

Option 3: Using Online Subtitle Tools

  1. Find an online subtitle tool. There are some online tools to add subtitles to the videos. Some of the popular choices include Kapwing, VEED and Amara.
  2. Upload the video . Visit the website of the selected online tool and upload the video file.
  3. Add subtitles. Then add the subtitles by using the tool’s Interface.  Users are able to upload the SubRip file if they have one.
  4. Customize settings. There are some online tools in which the users are able to change the style, shape and delays of the subtitles.
  5. Preview and adjust. Check the video with captions. Make adjustments if needed.
  6. Export the subtitled video. The application allows users to export the movie, along with the subtitles embedded. Choose the desired output format.

How are Subtitles Edited?

To edit subtitles, follow the steps below.

Option 1: Editing Subtitle Files Manually

  1. Open the subtitle file. Find the subtitle file of the video. Common subtitle file types include SubRip (*.srt), WebVTT (*.vtt), and SubStation Alpha (*.ssa/.ass).
  2. Use a text editor. Open the subtitle file in a simple text editor – like Notepad (windows) / TextEdit (macOS) or using a dedicated subtitle editing – software like Subtitle Edit (Windows) / Aegisub (cross-platform) / Jubler (cross-platform).
  3. Edit the subtitles. There is a timestamp (begins time and ends time) in the subtitle file and the message of each subtitle. Edit the text including timing or the placement of subtitles.
  4. Save your changes. Save the edited subtitle file with the same format and extension (e.g., .srt, .vtt).

Option 2: Using Subtitle Editing Software

  1. Choose subtitle editing software. Get and install a specialist subtitling text editor such as Subtitle Edit, Aegisub, or Jubler.
  2. Open your video and subtitle file. Open the subtitle editing software and import both the video file and the subtitle file.
  3. Edit subtitles. Users  modify the text, timing, and formatting of subtitles within the application’s interface. Almost all subtitle editors have a visual timeline which makes it easier to alter stuff.
  4. Preview your changes. Make sure the subtitles match the video by playing the video with the edited captions.
  5. Save or export . Save the changes on the subtitle editing software and export the subtitle file.

Option 3: Online Subtitle Editing Tools

  1. Find an online subtitle editor. There are some online platforms which provide basic editing features for subtitles like Kapwing and VEED.
  2. Upload the video and subtitle file . Open the website of the online subtitle editing tool, upload the video as well as the subtitle file.
  3. Preview and Adjust. Preview the changed subtitles on the  video & edit those if required.
  4. Save or export. Save the modified subtitle records or export them.

What Stage of Video Production are Subtitles Typically Added At?

Subtitles are usually added in the part of post production of video content. Post-production is the part of film or video production following the filming stage and which comprises various tasks including editing, sound design, color grading, adding titles or subtitles.

How are Preferences for the Color, Size, and Style of Subtitles Determined?

Preferences for the color, size, and style of subtitles are usually determined according to various factors. These factors include audience needs, visual aesthetics, readability, consistency, and clarity. Subtitles must meet the needs of the audience, so they must be accessible. Accessibility is important for people with visual impairments and color blindness.

Subtitles must be in harmony with the video’s general design and mood. They must not distract the video content. For instance, subtitles in a documentary have a different style than subtitles in a romantic comedy movie. Subtitles are easy to read and follow. High contrast between the text and the background is crucial to achieve readability.

Subtitles in a video must be consistent in terms of font, size, and style. Subtitles must be clear and legible on small screens such as smartphones. Subtitle creators avoid overly decorative fonts and they must prefer larger font sizes as much as possible.

What is the Best Font Commonly Used in Subtitles?

There are different font choices for subtitles. The most common subtitle fonts are Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana.

Arial is widely used because it is simple and readable. Arial, as one of the best subtitle fonts , is available almost on all programs. Helvetica is a highly legible font style. It has a clean and timeless design. Verdana is specifically designed for being readable. It has generous letter spacing and an open design.

How do Subtitles Assist Individuals with Hearing Impairments?

The advantages of subtitles for people with hearing impairments are access to spoken content, enhanced comprehension, equal access for everyone, and independent viewing opportunity.

Subtitles provide access to spoken content for individuals with hearing impairments. They follow the written content on the screen instead of pushing themselves to hear the spoken content.

Some kinds of subtitles include background noises as well. This way, people with hearing impairments are able to comprehend the whole content as if they are listening to it.

People with hearing impairments are in a more disadvantaged place than other people. Subtitles provide equal access for everyone by giving accessibility for people with hearing impairments.

Individuals with hearing impairments are not able to watch audiovisual content on their own without subtitles. They need someone who will translate the content with sign language. Subtitles provide independent viewing opportunities for people with hearing impairments.

How are subtitles used to understand something spoken in a foreign language?

Subtitles are commonly used for watching audiovisual content in a foreign language. Watching something in a foreign language with subtitles contributes to the learning process of a new language. Audience is able to connect subtitles and video.

Audiences are hearing something in a foreign language and reading its translation in their native language. Therefore, their vocabulary and listening skills improve in that foreign language.

Is it Possible to Use Subtitles in a Foreign Language?

Yes, it is possible to use subtitles in a foreign language. Foreign language subtitles provide translation for a global audience.

In addition, foreign language subtitles are very helpful for language learning. Audience is able to watch something in their native languages and use the subtitles in a language that they want to learn.

 A screenshot of a subtitle file showing timecodes and dialogue, demonstrating the standard format.
Master the art of subtitle formatting to ensure the video content is accessible.

What Type of Subtitle File Formats are Commonly Used?

The most popular subtitle formats are SubRip (.srt), WebVTT (.vtt), and SubStation Alpha (.ssa/.ass). SubRip is one of the most widely used subtitle formats. It contains text along with timestamps indicating when each subtitle should appear and disappear on the screen. Most video players and streaming platforms support SRT files, which are plain text files.

WebVTT, or Web Video Text Tracks, is a subtitle format used for web-based video players. It supports more advanced styling and positioning of subtitles in HTML5 video players.

SSA and ASS are subtitle formats known for their advanced styling and formatting options. Fans often use them for fansubbing, which involves adding subtitles to fan-translated versions of media, and in anime subtitling.

What Are the Effects of Subtitles on Video Content?

The effects of subtitles on video content are accessibility, multilingual accessibility, language learning, cultural exchange, and content localization.Subtitles make video contents more accessible for people with hearing impairments. They use subtitles as those people are not fully able to follow the audio of the video.

Foreign language subtitles provide accessibility for people who do not know the original language of the video content. Subtitles make improvements in the language learning process possible. The audience is able to choose subtitles in a language they want to learn.

People are able to watch videos in foreign languages with subtitles. This provides accessibility for videos from different languages.Subtitles are a key component of content localization. They allow content creators to adapt their videos for specific markets or regions.

How to Download Subtitles from YouTube?

To download subtitles from Youtube, open the YouTube video from which you want to download subtitles, making sure it has subtitles. To access the subtitle tracks, go to the "Subtitles/CC" menu.

Choose your favorite language if multiple options are available. Then, find the download icon (a downward-pointing arrow) and right-click on it. Select "Save Link As" from the context menu and save the subtitle file to a location on your computer. To finish, click "Save."

How are Subtitles Used in Educational Materials?

Benefits of subtitles in education are improved comprehension, language learning, and enhanced note-taking.

Some learners are not able to comprehend the audible lectures and they prefer written information. Subtitles improve such kinds of learners. Subtitles are preferred when there are a lot of complex terms in the lecture content. Students are able to comprehend better those complex terms with subtitles.

Learners are able to follow the content in subtitles which are in a foreign language they want to learn. Sometimes it is hard to follow the lecture audibly and take notes simultaneously. Subtitles provide enhanced note-taking opportunities for students.

What is the difference between subtitles and captions?

The difference between subtitles and captions are their use areas. Subtitles provide a translation of spoken dialogue in a video. Subtitles do not include written forms of sound effects, music, or other background noises.

Captions provide text-based representation of all audio elements in a video. These elements include spoken dialogue, sound effects, music, and the other audible elements in the content. Another point of captions vs subtitles is their primary target group which  is people with hearing impairments or deaf people. They provide accessibility laws and regulations to ensure that people with hearing impairments have equal access to video content.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, subtitles are not mandatory for all video content, but they are highly recommended for accessibility and reaching a wider audience.

Creating accurate subtitles involves challenges like ensuring linguistic accuracy, synchronizing text with audio, capturing the tone and context of spoken dialogue, and accounting for cultural nuances in translation. Technical challenges include maintaining readability in terms of font size, color, and background contrast.

Subtitles can significantly enhance the viewer's experience by providing clarity in dialogue, aiding comprehension for non-native speakers, and making content accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

Yes, Transkriptor can be used to create subtitles. It utilizes AI-powered speech recognition to transcribe audio into text, which can then be formatted as subtitles.

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