How to Create Subtitle Files

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With YouTube being the second most popular search engine, video content can drive a lot of new traffic to your website. But users with disabilities, who don’t know the language fluently, or simply in a noisy environment, may need an additional feature to enjoy your videos – subtitles.

Also known as closed captions when related to TV and DVD, subtitles transcribe or translate verbal dialog while a video is playing. There are many file formats, subtitle types, and methods to add subtitles to a video. In some cases, it’s best to hardcode subtitles directly into the video.

For videos uploaded to Vimeo, YouTube, or your server, you can create a softsub, or closed subtitle. This means the subtitles are in a separate file from the original video. These files are small. Our example below will use the SubRip (.SRT) format – less than five kilobytes for 18 subtitles – and can be created with any text editor.

The format is simple. Each subtitle within the file has the following format:

Subtitle Number
Start time --> End time (HH:MM:SS,MLS / Hour:Minute:Second,Milliseconds)

Our example below will include subtitles for the deaf or hard-of-hearing (SDH) to be more accessible to the hearing impaired.

Below we’ll cover how to create a subtitle file, useful tips, and popular software.

Create a Subtitle

  1. Open a text editor on your computer – e.g. NotePad, CherryTree.
  2. Add as many captions as needed with a subtitle number, start and end time, and text. For example:
    00:00:01,000 --> 00:00:06,000
    Rey: This text will show from the one through six second marks.

    00:00:06,000 --> 00:00:10,000
    Rey: This will show from the six through ten second marks.

    00:00:12,000 --> 00:00:15,000
    [woman sneezing]
    00:00:16,000 --> 00:00:18,000
    Amy: Sorry!
  3. Save the file as the same file-name as the video but with the .SRT extension in the same folder.
  4. (Optional) If the video is saved on your local workstation, open it in a media player that supports subtitles to test that your subtitle shows automatically. VLC Media Player is a popular option.

After you create your .SRT file, you can upload it to your server alongside your video, Vimeo, or YouTube.

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A few Tips

  • Convert the SRT file to Web Video Text Tracks (WebVTT – .vtt) for the ability to use basic HTML elements like <b>bold</b> and <i>italic</i> – e.g. <b>Rey:</b> This text will show from the one through six second marks.
  • Try to limit each subtitle to 2 lines for easier reading during the video.
  • Be mindful that user settings can affect subtitle text and background appearance.
  • It may be helpful to provide instructions on using subtitles with popular software if your videos are downloadable.
  • Some video editors can hardcode subtitles.

Popular Software

There are video editors and dedicated software with advanced options such as specifying time-frames using the video audio waveform visualization:

VLC Media PlayerXXX
Subtitle EditorX
YouTube Video CreatorX

Learn more from our other Accessibility articles or

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