Subtitling your video in 3 simple steps

26 March 2020

Company videos, instruction videos, training courses, testimonials, vlogs, tutorials, animations; these types of video content are used more and more by organisations who want to find and retain their target audience, especially now that many of us are working from home. Organisations hold their training courses online instead of offline. We will be happy to explain how to subtitle your videos in three simple steps.

Video content like this is distributed via channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. In order to use your video to reach the largest possible target audience – both domestically and internationally – good subtitles are essential. It is even recommended to subtitle videos for a domestic audience as more than 85% of your viewers will initially watch the video with the sound off.

Step 1 – Creating a subtitle file

The first step is to create a subtitle file. This is basically a text file in which all subtitles for your video are entered. An example of how this looks:

00:00:10,12 –> 00:00:15,30
Above is the time code, indicating how long the subtitle will be displayed.

00:00:17,05 –> 00:00:22,69
This text forms the actual subtitle.

Every line of text (subtitle) is given additional information in the form of a time code; the exact moment – down to one hundredth of a second – at which the text is to be displayed. This timing needs to match the moment at which the text is spoken in the video. So in this step it is crucial to make sure that the subtitles are well-timed. Subtitles should appear at exactly the right time. Not too early, and certainly not too late.

We are only able to read a few words per second. That is why a subtitle must be displayed for at least 1 second to allow your viewers to read it. Subtitles should also not be displayed too long. As a rule of thumb: do not display it for longer than 7 seconds. Sometimes rules are laid down with regard to the number of characters per line. Most professionals never use more than two lines in one subtitle. One line usually consists of a maximum of 43 characters. Are you unable to create your own subtitle file or are you simply lacking the time? Then feel free to outsource it to us. We have professional experience in creating and translating subtitles.

Various software packages are available for creating subtitle files. Here are a number of suggestions:

Five solutions for Windows

  • Subtitle Edit
  • VisualSubSync
  • Subtitle Workshop
  • SubtitleCreator
  • Aegisub Advanced Subtitle Editor

Five solutions for Mac

  • Aegisub Advanced Subtitle Editor
  • Amara
  • iSubtitle
  • Subtitle Edit Pro-Video Editor
  • Subs Factory

All subtitle files contain both the spoken text and the time codes that indicate the time at which the subtitles must be displayed. There are multiple types of subtitle files. Well-known formats are:

  • SubRip (SRT)
  • Subviewer (SUB)
  • Web Video Text Tracks (WebVTT)
  • YouTube ondertitelbestand (SBV)

These formats can easily be opened and edited using a word processor.

Step 2 – Translating your subtitle file

Has the groundwork been laid? Are the timings correct? Then you can have the file translated into the languages of your choice. Subtitle files are fairly small, which means they can easily be sent to a translator or translation agency. Be sure, however, to give the translators access to the video as well. With access to the context, your translators will be able to produce an optimal end result.

Step 3 – Subtitling your video

The next step is to upload the subtitle files, any translated versions, and your video to YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook. The subtitles will be immediately available.

Translating directly in YouTube

Another solution for translating your videos using YouTube is to directly translate them in YouTube itself. YouTube Studio automatically generates subtitles of your video and gives you immediate access to them. In this environment you can easily add languages and edit subtitles.

Burning subtitles

You can also opt to ‘hard burn’ the subtitles into your video. This means adding the text or translated text to the video during the editing phase. The text will then become an integral part of the video. The advantage of this approach is that you have complete control over the form in which the subtitles are displayed. The disadvantage is scalability. If you aim to serve multiple language regions with your video, a separate file with separate subtitles must be created for each language. And making even the smallest change requires a lot of effort. Moreover, and this is probably the most significant disadvantage: the video will not be indexed by search engines. This means the video will be hard to find online.

Would you rather outsource the process to a professional?

If you have already spent much time on creating your video and would prefer to outsource subtitling/translation to professionals with expertise, then feel free to contact us.

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