How to quickly add subtitles to your digital home video clips

*** update 1/03/07 ****

I’ve posted an update that improves upon this blog post!

*** end update ***

When hearing people use their camcorder to capture events on tape, they can use their voice to add more information to the video.  What recourse do Deaf people have?  They can add subtitles to their videos to make them more interesting to watch!  It’s always a good idea to fill in empty scenes with some information to keep the viewers involved.

It took me some time to try several possible combination of software packages until I came across a setup that made it very easy to add subtitles to your digital video files which you can then burn to your DVD or CDs!

There are many expensive software packages you can buy to add subtitles to your video clips but this particular combination that I came across is almost ideal: it’s completely free to download and use! 

If you are attempting to do something like this, I’ll assume that you know your way around computers pretty well!  This isn’t the easiest package to get working properly so be prepared for some frustration before you get everything to click together. Once you do, it’s pretty easy to create and add the subtitles.

Here’s the combination of software to add subtitles to your home videos:

  • Subtitle Workshop to create the subtitles while watching the video in its own window.  Be sure to save the subtitles in "Substation Alpha" format.
  • VirtualDubMod – to be able to add subtitles via a special plugin
  • VirtualDub subtitle plugin – to add ‘substation alpha’ formatted subtitles to an AVI  (save the subtitler.vdf file to the plugins folder of virtualdubmod.  This plugin can be accessed inside VirtualDubMod via the filters.
  • ffdshow may not be necessary but it’s video related and I didn’t test my setup without it.
  • WinAVI Video Convertor or any AVI-to-MPEG convertor to convert from AVI to MPEG and save a lot of disk space. A 30 seconds long 48MB uncompressed video will be reduced to 3MB compressed! (this is a must if you are going to upload the video to the internet!)

The steps:

Take your raw footage that you created and convert it to a video clip in a digital format (such as MPEG, for example). Caution!! Make sure the video clip’s size is at least 640×480 for the subtitles to show in the final copy!

Open up Subtitle Workshop and view the clip inside the program.  Use the program to create the subtitles with the timecodes as you watch the video.  It’ll take some time to get the hang of this program, so play around with it a bit!

When you are done, Save the subtitles in "Substation Alpha" format

Open up VirtualDubMod and open the original video clip.

Add the "subtitler" filter and select the subtitles file that you created with Subtitle Workshop.

Test it in the preview window to make sure it works and shows up properly!

Save as AVI file and VirtualDubMod will automatically add the permanent subtitles onto the video clip.

The resulting AVI file likely will be large so you should try to compress it with a AVI-to-MPEG convertor program.

Here’s a sample video with subtitles that was created with this method.

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  • Thanks, this is JUST what I needed for a wedding video that I just shot.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I want “simply” want to add subtitles to a music video I have to translate the song into English. I have no idea where to being but I ended up at your blog and have tried browsing through other sites explaining how to add subtitles to a video but I’m completely lost and have no idea where to begin. I know you said “If you are attempting to do something like this, I’ll assume that you know your way around computers pretty well!” but I was hoping if what I am doing sounds easy enough to explain, if you would be able to!

    I downloaded Subtitle Workshop but I don’t know how to open my video in it, all I know is that it opens with realPlayer and that it should be in some other format. I’m guessing I have to convert it to some format but I don’t know how or to which one. I am totally new at this kind of stuff and it all seems very overwhelming and I’m feeling very stupid so I beg your pardon if this post doesn’t seem to be making sense. :)

  • In this situation, the runner posts(shows) an impertinent physical condition, while the others sink into the effort. At the conclusion of the journey(running) this runner shows an exceptional state of coolness, as if he had crossed(gone through) only some kilometres.

  • Jay

    hi how do I “Use the program to create the subtitles with the timecodes as you watch the video.” And Can I add english subtitiles to a japanese anime movie?

    Thanks alot

  • You can also add subtitles using tools included in both Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. While these aren’t as precise as using SubStation Alpha subtitles, the interface for the tools is far more intuitive and they’re included with most Windows and Mac operating systems respectively. I provide a brief tutorial on how to use each of these tools for subtitles.

  • NoobsRUs

    You prick the size my 8 min clip came out to be was 5.5gb… Thats a disgrace, It takes forever to convert it to a smaller size.

  • sally lee

    hello my name is sally lee.

    so, i dont’ know how to make subtitles… and it confuse me. and you know how to use Window Maker and Subtitle Work too and hope you could help me explian to me clear

  • Kazuki

    How do you add a codec, so you can add japanese subtitles to a movie…for substation, i can’t type japanese

  • Kazuki

    How do you add a codec, so you can add japanese subtitles to a movie…for substation, i can’t type japanese

  • sakti

    why when i want to install virtualdubmod came out this error : “this application is failed to start because corona.dll was not found. re-installing the application may fix this problem.”

    help plss thx…

  • Fred

    Hi Jared,

    thank you SO much for this information! It works great, though I still can not figure out how to place the subtitles on the bottom of the screen, instead of on top .. but I’ll find it out, I guess).

    Thanks again!

  • Kayla

    what do you mean by add subtitler? i tried looking for it everywhere on the virtualdub thing, but couldn’t find it now im stuck >_

  • Jim

    Thanks for this Jared, I found as long as I followed your instructions word for word everything worked great! Cheers.

  • cornelius

    Hi Jared, i need to translate some history movies that i`ve upload on youtube, so far so good, would u tell me how to make subtitles smaller, i`ve tried to find it and i can`t, thank u very much indeed, it looks easy to use..exept u know

  • If you need to translate youTube videos, use which offers an easy way to add subtitles to videos that have been uploaded to video hosting sites.

  • Bill Blass

    Mac users should download a copy of MovCaptioner. It makes adding captions to QT movies pretty easy. Also, if you already have the text transcripts, you can import them into MovCaptioner, then all you need to do is click a button while your movie plays to synch the captions with the movie. It puts out embedded captions, SMIL captions, and Flash XML captions for use with the new Flash CS3 caption component. Once you have all your captions input you can also save it as a transcript in either paragraph or line-by-line form. Oh, someone asked about synching music lyrics with videos. This will do that easily. I’ve imported line-by-line lyrics then just synched them by clicking a button. Here is their website: