How to Create Subtitle Files

Date: 09/20/2019 2 Minutes to Read

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Web accessibility deserves more attention. This is why we cover important tasks like testing website accessibility with Tenon.io and improving WordPress accessibility. It takes more time but the effort benefits blind, deaf, and other disabled users who may want to support your brand – if you support them.

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)
Text

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:
    1
    00:00:01,000 --> 00:00:06,000
    Rey: This text will show from the one through six second marks.

    2
    00:00:06,000 --> 00:00:10,000
    Rey: This will show from the six through ten second marks.

    3
    00:00:12,000 --> 00:00:15,000
    [woman sneezing]
    4
    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:

SoftwareWindowsMacUnixOnline
AegisubXXX
VLC Media PlayerXXX
Subtitle EditorX
YouTube Video CreatorX

Learn more from our other Accessibility articles or a11yproject.com.

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