Adding subtitles to your film

Why should I add subtitles to my film?

Once your film is finished, Subtitles are an important element of preparing it to be seen, being it at festivals, distributed on VOD, or just uploaded to the internet.

Whilst true that most top festivals will want a film in English, or with English subtitles, once you’ve targeted these you may start aiming for the other more genre specific ones in certain localities, and the more provincial ones may want subtitles if part of their funding is by local bodies to bring film to the community.

When selling your film on VOD, Amazon will want English subtitles to allow it to go on Prime in the US, and other distributors  may want them too, and you may need to translate these

if just uploading to the interned, some social media apps by default play videos without sound so subtitles are useful in those cases also.




Here We are going to cover my tip on adding subtitles to your videos, and some of the tools that are out there that can be used to do it!

Spanish Mano a Mono


then correct them where necessary.A site that we’re all familiar with, has a great subtitle editor, which is free to use and allows you to download an .srt file. if you’ve got clear speech in your video you could even get yourself a head start and allow it it auto generate subtitles and then correct them where necessary (just upload your video as private whilst you work)

In the automated subtitle generated below, all the text is correct, but the line-break is in the wrong place, hardly a disaster to fix!

automated subtitles

Subtitle Edit

A tool that I rely on a lot is Subtitle edit, which use mainly for converting subtitles between various file formats, such as Adobe Encore text, and the universally recognised .srt file. I often subtitle videos using a timeline in Encore as personally I find this easy, and then export the result.

Subtitle Edit also allows you to resynchronise subtitles, and as many other helpful utilities I haven’t even began to explore.

One of its more questionable tools is the autotranslate feature, allowing you to instantly translate an entire subtitle file via Google Translate, beware the viewer will in most cases know that this is what you did, but you may occassionally have to produce subtitles in a specific language to tick a box and, when you are unsure whether or not having them done professionally is going to be economically viable for said language. It also has its own Swedish to Danish translator.

what do I do with my .srt files?

You have your .srt files In English, and possibly other languages as you went and got it translated.

if your video is on Vimeo or YouTube, why not add these subtitles and make them more accessible, our film Mano a Mono was translated into several languages over the two years it was touring festivals:

  • On Vimeo, click the “CC” button on the timeline and select the language
  • On YouTube, click “CC” to enable the Closed Captions and then use the Cog to change the language settings.

if you have submitted it to a film festival submission platform, then upload it to them, make festivals aware of which language you have subtitles available in.

Import all you subtitle files into a DVD and make a multi-lingual DVD (or just the image for the disc, in case you need to send it out to a small festival which still takes submissions on disc.

use the .srt to burn subtitles into the video for upload, there are some great free package that enable this, such as handbrake, and Wonderfox HD Video Converter