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3 Jul 2019

How to create subtitles – a Step-by-Step Guide

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Automatic subtitles

Want to create subtitles for your video, but don’t know where to start? No reason to worry, this guide will reveal all “how’s” and “why’s” behind subtitling! If you’re a vlogger, Youtuber, or filmmaker, adding subtitles to your video content can make a world of difference!

Spoiler alert: with Amberscript this process becomes automated and super simple!

Types of Subtitles

Before we start, you need to know that there are 2 most common types of captioning: open and closed:

  • Open captions are are “built-in” your video file. They are an inseparable part of a video and you can’t turn them off. This also means that their quality is directly tied up to the quality of the video itself (e.g if the video file is pixelated, it will also apply to subtitles).
  • On the other hand, we have closed captions. You can turn them on or off, whenever you wish to do so. Besides this added convenience, closed captions are separated from the video. In other words you can edit them. Overall, unless the circumstances require, closed captions are the way to go.

How to create subtitles?

Here comes the fun part. How do you actually create subtitles and add them to your video? There are several ways to do it, which we’re going to discuss right now:

  1. You can create subtitles manuallyThere are many free software packages (such as Aegisub or Subtitle Workshop), that allow you to type in the subtitles yourself and lock them to a specific time code (e.g 00:45-00:51). You should keep in mind one thing – adding the subtitles manually is a very time-consuming process. Moreover, you will have to dedicate some time to learn the interface and shortcuts of the software of your choice.
  2. You can outsource creating subtitlesIf you don’t have the time and resources to create subtitles manually, you can hire a person or an agency to do the job for you. Although this method saves you a lot of time and effort, it might easily create a loophole in your budget. The current market price for subtitling 1 minute of video is between €5-€10 depending on the language of your content.
  3. You can automatically create subtitles using a softwareThis last method combines the best of both worlds since it’s both inexpensive and time-efficient. You probably know that YouTube can automatically produce subtitles for your video. Unfortunately, they are only 60-70% accurate, which usually results in confusion or makes people laugh. Luckily, Amberscript developed an innovative speech recognition engine, which automatically generates subtitles with up to 95% accuracy. What’s more, the subtitles are by default embedded into a particular time code, saving you a load of unnecessary work.

What subtitle formats are out there?

At Amberscript we support 3 different subtitle formats: SRT, VTT, and EBU-STL. Let’s quickly discuss the main differences & similarities between them.

  • What does SRT stand for?The SubRip text (format) is the most common subtitle format. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, etc. support it. SRT dates back to the age of DVD players and it became popular due to its simplicity. An SRT file consists of a timecode (when should subtitles appear and disappear from the screen), the subtitle text itself, and a number, that indicates the order of displayed subtitles (from 1 to X). Each blank line indicates the start of a new subtitle.
  • VTT (or WebVTT or Video Text Tracking)It uses HTML5 code functionality and is designed for the web. In essence, SRT and VTT are very similar and both can be easily edited using any software, including notepad. The main difference lies in the number of features that they offer. While SRT supports basic formatting options (such as making the text bold, italic, and underlined text), VTT supports more advanced features (variety of fonts, font color, text placement). Additionally, VTT doesn’t require caption numbers, although they can be used. Last, VTT supports metadata (comments) and STT doesn’t. Both SRT and VTT subtitles can be manipulated using almost any subtitle editor on the market, or even notepad.
  • EBU-STL (European Broadcasting Union)EBU-STL is a format optimized for TVs and based on Teletext technology. It was developed in the 1980s for broadcast purposes. Support all formatting options as VTT. Teletext is an older technology, and thus works slightly different from what was described above. Teletext subtitles are stored and transmitted through sequential numbers, assigned to specific pages. For instance, if the news appears on page 100 – a user can type “100” in his remote control to view all the text information from that page. While the majority of dedicated subtitle editors support STL, you can’t edit them in a notepad.

Are there any other considerations?

If you’ve read this far, you’ve come very close to mastering the art of subtitling! There are only a few things left, that you may want to consider:

Choose appropriate word speed

You don’t want people to practice fast-reading or pause your video just to read subtitles. But you also don’t want them to get bored, looking at the same text twice. In general, subtitles should go at a speed of 160-180 words per minute, as this is the average reading speed of an adult. However, depending on the number of characters, it can be more or less.

Make sure your subtitles are not distractive

Usually, subtitles are placed in the middle of the bottom part of the screen. Additionally, BBC strongly recommends not to exceed the subtitle length of 2 lines. Otherwise, subtitles may start to get in the way and block the view, making it difficult for a viewer to read the text and watch the scene simultaneously.

Include additional information, if necessary

You might want to add textual descriptions to the sounds that surround your scene. These descriptions are usually put in brackets, such as (people screaming) and help people with hearing disabilities to get a better understanding of the scene. Moreover, if the scene in your video includes any text in a foreign language, you can include the translation in your subtitles.

How to create subtitles automatically with Amberscript?

And now, let’s discuss the process of creating subtitles:

  1. Upload your video file to Amberscript and your transcription will be done within a few minutes.
  2. Make quick grammar adjustments using our built-in text editor or order our Manual Subtitling service and this will be done for you.
  3. When you’ve made all the necessary changes, chose the option export as subtitles, then select the subtitling style between Netflix or BBC, the type of alignment, and export the file in the SRT, VTT, or EBU-STL formats.

How to edit your subtitles?

Now that you have your accurate subtitles, it’s time to adjust the formatting. Regardless of what software you use for this purpose, the process is quite similar. All you need to do are cosmetic tweaks, that affect how your subtitles are displayed.

P.s – Try not to play too much with those settings. Remember that in most cases you want your subtitles to look simple and consistent. Additional colors, formatting options are either applied for particular settings like karaoke or to convey a certain style. 

Example 1:

Default subtitle

That’s the default look of the SRT subtitles

Example 2:

stylized subtitles used in the movie “John Wick”

That’s the stylized subtitles used in the movie “John Wick”

In case you do want to get creative, you’ll need to use the subtitle editors. Some of the most popular ones include:

You can find a more comprehensive overview of the subtitle editors in this blog post.

All of them offer similar functions, and in this article we’ll stick to AegiSub, as it’s free and has everything we need.

  1. Upload your SRT file to AegiSub File → Open Subtitles → Choose a file from your computer

Edit your subtitles

Formatting

These are the local changes, that you can apply to each separate line of text individually.

Select the line you want to edit – highlight the words you want the effect to be applied to – press on B (for Bold), U (for underline), and I (for Italics).

It should look something like this:

Font & Color

If you want to change the font, you’ll have to create a style.

Style changes are global, meaning that they affect all of your subtitle text.

Go to Subtitle → Styles Manager → Create a new style

Now you can:

  • Choose a font
  • Choose primary and secondary colors (if needed)
  • Choose a shadow color (if needed)

When you’re done – simply apply the style to the current script.

  1. Export your subtitles Go to File → Export subtitles

P.s – make sure to leave the default format to make sure that your changes were applied

Let’s look at the fancy subtitles we’ve just created:

  1. Add the subtitles to your video. You can do this by simply adding a subtitle file to your video in any media player (the one we use is called VLC). Alternatively, you can embed your subtitles into the video itself. This is called “open captioning” and we described how to do it in one of your blog posts.
  2. You’re done! Yes, it was that simple! We hope that now you’ve mastered the art of how to create subtitles and can apply it to your personal or business projects!
Our services allow you to create text and subtitles from audio or video.
  • Upload audio or video file
  • Automatic or manual speech to text
  • Edit and export text or subtitles

Amberscript has rebranded!

We hope you enjoy our new look.