Adding Subtitle Tracks To Videos

You can add subtitle tracks to your videos by using third-party software. This is different than imprinting a bottom-third title on to your video. Subtitle tracks can be turned on and off in QuickTime Player, iOS, Apple TV and elsewhere. You can also add more than one language. All you need to do is to create a simple text file with the subtitle information and then use the software to import it and add it to your video.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Adding Subtitle Tracks To Videos.

Hi, this is Gary with Let's look at how to add subtitle tracks to your videos.

The goal here is not actually to imprint text at the bottom of a video. You can do that adding a lower third title in either Final Cut Pro or iMovie. I'm talking about how to add an actual subtitle track.

If you go to View/Subtitles you actually see a subtitle track here like English. You also you will be able to see this track on iOS devices, Apple TV, and various other places. Let's see how we can add that to our videos.

So you would think you would be able to do this with iMovie, Final Cut Pro, maybe even the QuickTime player but in fact you can't. All you can do there is to put lower third titles and put them across the whole video. Painstakingly making each one which can get pretty tedious if you are making a long video. Then they are permanently on there so you can't have say English, French, and Spanish or the ability to turn it off. If is just a permanent part of the video.

We're going to use an app called iSubtitle. I found this in the Mac App Store. There are various different ones but this one does the trick. We're going to drag and drop this video to it. It will open it up in there. You can see here I've got the video up in here and I've got the sidebar on the right that has various information about the video including Subtitles for which there are None.

Now one of the things this software does is if you've say ripped a video from DVD and you want to apply special subtitles to it in the language of your choice it will search the web for them. But we are not doing that here. We're looking at home movies or maybe professional videos you are making for work and how to add subtitles.

We're going to not use any of the built in functions that search the internet for subtitles but actually create our own subtitle file.

So to create a subtitle file we are going to go to TextEdit and we're going to create a new document and make sure it is set to Plain Text Format, which we know that it is because we have the ability to make it Rich Text. I'm going to put in here the subtitles I actually have copied into the buffer. I'm going to paste it in. You can see what these look like.

They all start with a number of the subtitle and then from and two times here, in hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds. You need the colon there. You need them to be two digits and this to be three digits. You need the comma and then you need the spacing and the appropriate characters in-between. You can see here it is pretty simple basic text stuff but you have got to get it just right or it won't work.

Then you have the actual text you want to appear. You can even have more than one line of text. Whatever playback device you've got, whether it is QuickTime player, or Apple TV, or whatever it is will figure out how to appropriately display this stuff.

Then when you've got that all done you want to save it. You want to save it in what is called an SRT file. So a SRT file is basically a text file that has this data in it but we want to make sure we're putting the right file extension. We are going to pay careful attention to the text encoding here because we are going to need to know that when we actually use this in iSubtitle.

So I've got ready to go now. I'm going to go back into iSubtitle here and I'm going to hit the plus button. Not do drag and drop because the plus button will allow me to make sure I choose the encoding. I don't want to leave to guess because it may guess wrong and think it is supposed to be windows encoded text. I want to make sure it is UTF-8 like when I saved it. I'm going to go here and I'm going to open up the file.

Now it appears here and if I were to scrub back and forth I can see the subtitles generated by iSubtitle, so they are going to look slightly different when they are generated by QuickTime or something else, and they are in their proper places.

So now all I need to do is Save and I'll do Save As and I will save to that same folder and call it FireworksSub, there we go, So now I can see I've two different versions in here. Both the same because the text isn't going to take up much space but this one is the new one that I have added the subtitles to.

Now if I were to double click on this it is going to open up in QuickTime Player and when I run it I'm going to see I'm not going to get any subtitles because I haven't selected any subtitle up here. Remember at the beginning when I went to Subtitles there was nothing. Now, there is something there.

I'm going to select English and I can see now that the subtitles will appear. You can see how they do look a little bit different because QuickTime Player is rendering it in a different way. It will render it in a different way with any software you are using. You want it to actually render it in a way that it feels appropriate for whatever the playback device or the software is. So now I've added that. I could have added more than one track to there and then I would be able to see English, French, Spanish underneath here.

Comments: 5 Responses to “Adding Subtitle Tracks To Videos”

    Steve Maynard
    5 years ago

    After doing this, if I insert the Quick Time movie into a Keynote presentation file, will the subtitles appear when the movie is played during the actual Keynote presentation?

      5 years ago

      I’m pretty sure no. This is for media players where you can choose a subtitle.

    5 years ago

    Hi Gary, thanks for the lesson.

    2 questions:
    1)Is there a way to format the text, ie italics, bold, font style or color or is that not available since the file is plain text?
    2)Near the end you stated you can choose a choose to render it however we want that is appropriate for the device. If we have a video that may be played on a PC when someone is on youtube, or streamed from itunes to my appletv, would I need different rending for each situation? Thank you

      5 years ago

      The file is plain text because subtitles are plain text. The way they are presented depends on the player software. If you want styles you’ll need to use regular titles, but those are part of the video and can’t be turned off and on like subtitles.
      For instance, try looking at subtitles on a commercial DVD on different DVD players. They may look different because each DVD player takes the text and displays it a different way. The same is true for cable boxes and even televisions. The same concept applies here.
      The devices chooses how to render it. All you do is provide the text.

    4 years ago

    Two questions:
    (1) Can videos be exported as MP4 files?
    (2) I use Handbrake to merge the files for me, but one video has Spanish subtitles. Attempts to use accents get shown as weird characters in Quicktime. Any suggestions on how to fix?


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