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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