How to create Subtitles (.srt files)

We all know how important subtitles are in movies for hard of hearing or deaf people. What the subtitling process looks like?

In this video you will find out:

  • Why should movies be subtitled?
  • Is it better to make closed captioning or open captioning? And what does it even mean?
  • How to create subtitles for a movie?
  • And how to add subtitles to your video on YouTube and Facebook?

Why should the movie be subtitled?

Because the movie with subtitles can be watched by deaf and hearing loss people. Thanks to this, the movie is available to a larger group of recipients. According to the Digital Accessibility Act, public institutions are required to publish subtitled films. The inscriptions are also important:

  • for people who are learning a particular language when we find out a word,
  • that we don’t know (e.g. from a foreign language) when we cannot; or
  • do not want to use the loudspeakers or headphones.

An additional benefit is a fact that subtitles can better position our video on YouTube or Facebook. On the other hand, foreign-language subtitles may expand the group of the video’s audience to include other countries.

Closed or open captioning?

Closed captions are optional. They can be turned on or off by the user. Open captions are added to the movie permanently. They cannot be turned off. Which choice? Definitely the first, closed ones. Why? And what are the pros and cons of each solution?

Open captions are displayed in the movie all the time. This is undoubtedly a plus for people who need subtitles, but they aren’t able to turn on them by themselves, e.g. for the elderly. However, for people who don’t need subtitles, they are a barrier because they cover part of the film. Contrary to open captions,  closed captions can be turned on or off in the movie, depending on the needs.

What are the benefits of using closed captions on YouTube?

After turn on closed captions on websites like YouTube, you can change: 

  • the type,
  • colour,
  • size,
  • colour and transparency of the background or subtitles.

How to create subtitles for a movie in Subtitle Edit?

So now we are going to the final information: how to create subtitles for a video? First, prepare the text. Check it, even several times, to avoid mistakes. It will be possible to correct the text later, but it will take more time. Now install the Subtitle Editing program. The program is free. Below we show the settings in Windows for the program version 3.5.16.

There are several ways to review this program. We will present to you which one we are told is the fastest and which we use at the Świat Głuchych Foundation.

Subtitle Edit settings

After installing and starting the program, enter the “Options” tab and then “Settings”, “Keyboard shortcuts”. Find “Text Box”, then check “Split line at cursor/video position”. With this box checked, assign a shortcut key to it at the bottom. It can be any key in the check box that appears. We have assigned the letter “Q” as the abbreviation (In Polish, the letter Q is practically not used, which is why we chose this abbreviation. If the letter Q is common in your language, choose another abbreviation such as F1). After selecting, click “Update” and “Ok”. Fortunately, you only need to change these settings once, at the first time starting a program.

Inserting subtitles

Then: Open the video file you want to make subtitles in the program. You can do it: by clicking on the black field of the player – a window will appear in which you find your file, then open it; or by dragging your video file to the program. Click on the text “Click to add a waveform” located at the bottom of the black box. The movie’s waveform plot appears – this is a graphical representation of the sound in the video.

Now copy your text. But do not copy more than one page at a time as the program runs very slowly with more text. Let’s go back to the program. Left-click on the start of the waveform. Then, in the “Create” tab on the left, click: “Insert subtitles in pos. Video”. A grey box will appear in the wave chart. It shows the beginning and end of displaying the string. You can move them, shorten or lengthen them. Above the wave chart, there is a check box called “Select Current Subtitle while playing” – select them.

Return to the field with the waveform plot. Go to the end of the chart, i.e. the end of the movie,  and left-click on the chart. On the left side, in the “Create” tab, click “Set end time”.  Go back to the beginning of the movie. A grey checkbox showing subtitle time will be displayed over the entire length of the video. Make sure the selection is active – it should turn red.  Now you can paste the previously copied text. Paste the text into the “Text” box above the waveform plot. Use the arrow on the keyboard to go to the beginning of the text.

On the graph, place the cursor in the place where the subtitles should begin. Drag the beginning of the text box to this place or click the “Set start time” button on the left side. Start playing the movie.  Stop it when you want to change the subtitles.  In the “Text” window, click where the subtitles should be divided. Then, on the keyboard, click the “Q” key – or another one, whichever you choose earlier in the settings. The text has been split. A new check box has appeared in the wave chart. Remember that the red field is active.

A new line has appeared in the List View window. The highlighted line is active. Proceed to dividing the text further by repeating the previous steps.

Time of displaying the subtitles and their length

In the “List view” window, some cells may be marked in red. They require correction, although this is not always possible. And now: a red cell in the “Duration” column means that these subtitles are displayed for too short or too long. If the inscription is displayed for too long, it is not a major problem. If it is displayed too briefly, the viewer may not be able to read the content of the caption.

It is assumed that the display time of the subtitles should be long enough so that the person who reads them for the first time would be able to read them aloud calmly.

A red cell in the “Text” column means that the amount of text characters in a single line is too large. Try to split them up. Split the text to the end of the movie. Once done, save the file as .srt.  Ideally, the text file name should be the same as the video file name. This is what the finished text file with subtitles looks like. Let’s see how it looks like splitting the subtitles for this entire movie, at an accelerated pace.

What to do with the .srt file?

You already have subtitles with timecodes in your .srt file. What now?

First of all – you can do nothing. If the recipient of the movie has a movie file and a subtitle file in .srt format, movie playback programs will display the subtitles from the .srt file. Additionally, in the settings of the movie playback program, the recipient of the movie can change the properties of the subtitles,  e.g. their size or colour. It is important that the name of the movie file is the same as the name of the .srt file.

Second – you can add subtitles in the form of a .srt file to your movie permanently (so-called open subtitles). You can do this with movie editing programs that support .srt files (e.g. Adobe Premiere).

Third – if you share your movie on YouTube or Facebook, you can add subtitles in the form of a .srt file so that the viewer can turn on or off the subtitles in the movie. How to do it?

How do I add captions to my YouTube video?

When you add a video to YouTube, you are presented with a window in which you enter information such as the title of the video or description. At the bottom, there is a button “More options” – click on it. Additional options will develop, including the “Language and Subtitles” section. Click on “Send subtitles”, then in the “Select subtitle type” window, select “With timecodes” and “Continue”. Find and select your .srt file, then click “Open”. Ready! Your subtitles are already on YouTube. Click “Next” to finish uploading the video. 

Of course, you can also add subtitles to a video that you have previously shared on YouTube. To do this, go to YouTube Studio on your YouTube channel, click on “Content” – will be displayed a list of videos on the channel – and click on the video to which you want to add subtitles. On the left side you have tabs such as: “Details”, “Statistics”, “Editor”, “Comments”, “Subtitles”. Click on “Subtitles”. On the right, we see “Subtitles”, “Add”. And in the next window you click on “Upload file”, then in the “Select subtitle type” window,  select “With timecodes” and “Next”. Find and select your .srt file, then click “Open”.  If everything is correct, click “Publish”. And it’s ready! You can also add subtitles in another language here.

How to add .srt subtitles to Facebook videos?

How to add subtitles in .srt to a Facebook video? Facebook requires subtitle files to have a country code and a language code. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? In practice, you just have to change the file ending from to, where pl_PL is for Polish. Now you can add the .srt file to your Facebook video. Click “Create post”, add Photos / video to the post, find your video and click “Open”, here you can add the title of the movie, its description and other necessary information, on the right side there is the “Subtitles” tab – click, then “upload”, your file with the suffix and click “Open”, the following information should be displayed: “Polish: sent” click “Next” to continue uploading the movie.

You can also add subtitles to a video you’ve previously uploaded to Facebook. To do this, find the post with the video to which you want to add subtitles and click on “Edit post”. The same frame as described earlier will appear, so repeat the steps above. Finally, click “Save”.

That’s all. You already know how to make and add subtitles to your movie. If you are wondering why there should be a sign language interpreter in the movies, if there are subtitles in the movie anyway, click on the movie to find out more.

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