Subtitles

Posted on 5 March 2013

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I like to make my subtitles as .srt files so I can add them to my youtube movies or burn them into a viewing copy. For this – and for format-conversions – I use the free program Subtitle Workshop.

Conversion

 

Because SW only runs on Windows and I am editing on FCP, the first step is opening Compressor to convert my Prores master to a mp4. Then I go to Windows, open Movie Maker and convert this mp4 to a WMV file.

Later on I found that Subtitle Edit might be a good alternative as it uses VLC player so might support mp4 or even ProRes playback. But for now we’ll stick with SW. 

Shortcuts

Now you are ready to open Subtitle Workshop, make a new file (ctrl+N) and then imported the WMV video into Subtitle Workshop. It will start playback immediately, you can start/stop using the Spacebar. Press Insert (fn+Return on MBP) to create a new title. Then wait for the first spoken line and press alt+C to set the inpoint of this title. Type in the text until you entered about 80-90 characters and then press alt+V at the start of the next spoken line. Press Insert to create the next title, type the text and press alt+V at the start of the next spoken line again. Continue like this.

Subtitle files

When you’re finished, save the file as .srt. This .srt file can be uploaded to youtube or placed as a sidecart file with the video-file, for playback with titles in VLC or on media-TV’s, or can be burned into the master.

You can also use Subtitle Workshop to re-open this .srt file and edit it, or export it in many other formats, including the Spruce Subtitle File (.stl) for DVD studio Pro. If you do, please bear in mind that Subtitle Workshop does not support UTF-8, so you’re special characters might get mangled up if you don’t convert it in a text-editor. It’s a good idea anyway, to edit this file in a text-editor to delete all configuration lines and leave only this one:

$FontName = Arial Unicode MS

Tips

  • Try to catch about 80-90 characters per subtitle and divide them over two lines (40 characters per line). This way they will fit on a SD screen, but at the same time be visible long enough to read them.
  • Use a capital to indicate the start of a sentence, and a period to end the sentence. If the sentence spans over more titles, indicate this by continuing without dots or capitals.
  • If you have one title with two people speaking, use the first line for person 1 and start the second line with a – to indicate that this is the other person speaking.

There are different uses for subtitles: translation and accessibility. If you are writing the titles for the hearing impaired, you’ll also need to indicate sounds like laughs and music. If you are writing it as a transcript you might even want to indicate things we see. More about this later.

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Posted in: Post-production