Adding subtitles to videos - how to do it easily (although, should you even bother?)

Updated: Jan 14

Before we consider either of the two points mentioned in the title above, let's just quickly consider what subtitles actually are. Well, if we're going to be precise, we may be referring to subtitles when we actually mean something else as, strictly speaking, subtitles are the translation of a language spoken by someone on screen into another language. For example, when one of the characters in "The Man in the High Castle" (a drama on Amazon Prime Video) says something in Japanese we see an English translation allowing us to hear the original language but still understand what's being said regardless of our foreign language skills.


What this blog is mostly focused on ought really to be referred to as "captions", whose purpose is to allow a video to be watched and understood without hearing the sound (which could be for reasons of disability or, as is the case for 80-85% of social media videos, because it's being watched muted). The words on screen replicate the video's soundtrack, and also include descriptions of none-vocal sounds, for example the words "[loud clapping]" for a video scene that includes enthusiastic applause.


When considering captions, for completeness we should probably also consider the two types of caption - closed and open. Closed captions are not visible until switched on, whilst open captions are burnt into the video and are always visible when the video is played.


It's fair to say though that, whilst there is this distinction between subtitles and captions, referring to what are essentially closed captions as subtitles is good enough for the BBC...

And if it's good enough for the BBC, quite frankly, it's good enough for us!


Even so, as we talk here about adding subtitles to video, our focus is actually on open captions - on-screen words that are included with a video, allowing it to be watched without hearing the sound.

But Should I Bother?

In short - yes! Probably the biggest driver has already been mentioned, i.e. that the vast majority of social media videos are watched without sound, at least until the viewer is interested enough to actively select the un-mute button. Remember that 74% of the value of a video is delivered within the first ten seconds and if your video is watched without sound it can be difficult for your audience to know what’s going on without subtitles.

How Do I Do It?

If you've had your video produced by a professional such as CreativeJigsaw they're sure to be happy to add subtitles for you, which will usually add some cost - in our case we can incorporate subtitles for just a little extra. If you've produced a video yourself, perhaps one of those self-to-camera videos that are popular on LinkedIn, you'll be looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive way to add subtitles. Fear not as we have the answer! You essentially need just two things:

  • A file containing the subtitle text and video timing information

  • A means to use this file to burn the subtitles into your video

The specific file you need is an SRT (SubRip Subtitle) file. You could create this yourself but we recommend you save a lot of time and effort by using a company called Rev whose team of human transcribers will do it for you at a cost of just US$1 per minute of video. Not only that but when you sign up at rev.com/blog/coupon they give you your first $10 worth for free! Rev claim at least 99% accuracy and say you'll receive your SRT file within 24 hours, although we've found them to be a lot quicker than this.


To burn the subtitles into the video we recommend using a free piece of software called Handbrake, which can be downloaded at https://handbrake.fr/. It has a lot of features but you'll need to use only a tiny fraction of them.

Step-by-step Instructions

1. Go to www.rev.com, click “PLACE NEW ORDER” and select “Subtitles”.

2. Click UPLOAD FILES and upload the video file. > An email will be received with a link to download the SRT file.

3. Open Handbrake, click “Open Source” and select the video that requires the subtitles.

4. Click on the “Subtitles” tab, click “Import SRT” and navigate to the location of the SRT file.

5. Make sure you tick to select “Burn In”…

6. Change location & name of output file, as required, in “Save As” at the bottom of the screen.

7. Click “Start Encode”.

A new video file, subtitles included, will be created in the location you specified in step 6. From there you can post your video to social media, your website, wherever!

Adjusting Subtitles

Before using your SRT file to add the subtitles to your video using Handbrake, you can tweak the contents of the file if necessary - it's a fairly simple text file that can be edited with, for example, Notepad. This may be to simply adjust a few words, however you can also adjust subtitle positioning.


By default your subtitles will appear at the bottom-centre of the screen, which you may need to change to prevent the titles concealing something important, e.g. a lower-thirds title. To do this add “{\pos(x-pos,y-pos)}” before the text. For example:


00:00:14,860 --> 00:00:17,350

{\pos(980,890)}The first line of your text

and the second line


The x-pos is the number of pixels from the left of the screen to the centre of the text, e.g. 980 to centralise the text of a 1960X1080 HD video. The y-pos is the number of pixels from the top of the screen to the bottom of the text.

Further Info

The Rev website also includes information about SRT files. They also have instructions about how to use Handbrake.


If you'd prefer to allow your viewer to control whether or not they see your video with subtitles (i.e. you want closed captions instead of burning the captions into the video) this can be achieved using your SRT file. The specific approach will vary according to the platform, for example LinkedIn provides instructions here, Facebook here and Twitter here.

Don't Miss Out!

Adding subtitles to your videos can be achieved with minimal cost and relatively little effort, so don't miss out on the benefits! If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via contact@creativejigsaw.com, and of course if you'd like us to film and post produce your video with subtitles included for any vocals we'd be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a no obligation quotation.


Happy subtitling!

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