Alex ([personal profile] alexbayleaf) wrote in [community profile] wiscon_vidparty2011-05-07 01:06 am

Tutorial: Subtitling vids for the WisCon Vid Party singalong show

As mentioned in our info post, we'll be holding a "singalong" show as part of the Vid Party. During this show (approx. 1 hour in length) all the vids will be subtitled, so people can sing along. (As an added bonus, this also means that a portion of the Vid Party is more accessible to those with hearing difficulties or who just find it difficult to follow the lyrics while watching vids.)

This is a tutorial for people who are subtitling vids for this show, but it should be useful to anyone who wants to subtitle a vid.

First things first: there are two ways of creating subtitles: using an app or website to create them, or doing it yourself in a text editor. [personal profile] laurashapiro has a tutorial on creating subtitles using dotsub, a website that helps you with the process. This tutorial describes the other way, which I think is easier and faster -- but please feel free to use either! Whichever works for you is fine with us. Just email us the resulting subtitles file and we'll be happy!


Subtitles for vids are simply a text file in a certain format. We're going to create that text file, save it with the correct filename, and then we'll be able to see the subtitles when using VLC or other subtitle-friendly vid playing software.

The format

Here is a small snippet of a subtitle file, taken from [personal profile] such_heights' vid Temple of Love:

00:00:24,000 --> 00:00:29,000
With the fire from the fireworks up above me

00:00:29,000 --> 00:00:32,000
With a gun for a lover and a shot for the pain at hand

00:00:35,000 --> 00:00:37,000
You run for cover in the temple of love

As you can see, each subtitle that will show on the screen is listed in order, with some information to show what order to show them in, and at what time to show them. The format is:

Line 1
Line 2

N = a sequence number, starting with 1 and increasing (i.e. 1, 2, 3... and so on)

HH:MM:SS is hours, minutes, and seconds, eg 1:23:45 would be 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 45 seconds into the vid

DDD is the decimal part of the seconds. Note that there's a European-style comma separating the decimal from the seconds, so that eg. 1,500 = 1.5 = one and a half seconds.

You can have two lines of subtitles, though usually you'll only want one.


First, you will need a text editor.

Windows: Notepad will work fine. I think it's under Accessories in your Start menu (can someone confirm?)

MacOSX: TextEdit will do; it's in your Applications folder. Mac TextEdit users only will have to do the following quick setup:

  • Go to Preferences (Text Edit -> Preferences)
  • Under "Format" choose "Plain text"

Linux users, I presume you already have a favourite ;)

You will also need VLC. If you're into vids you probably already have it, but if not it's just generally a great player for all kinds of vids, and is available for almost any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux).

We strongly recommend you use VLC and not any other player as you work on your subtitles, as that's the player we use at the Vid Party, so you'll be able to see the subtitles exactly as they will be on the night.

Making your subtitles

  • Find the lyrics for the vid. I recommend googling "song title lyrics".
  • Open a new file in your text editor.
  • Open your vid in VLC. Play the vid, hitting pause regularly to get the right timings for each line of lyrics.
  • For each line of lyrics, create an entry in your text file, in the format described above. For instance, if the lyrics "La la la la la" are the first line of lyrics, and are sung starting at 20 seconds into the vid until 22 1/2 seconds, you would enter:

00:00:20,000 --> 00:00:22,500
La la la la la

  • Repeat this for all the lyrics.
  • Save the file as -- it should have exactly the same name as your vid, but with a .srt extension -- in the same folder as the vid.
  • If for some reason your text editor doesn't like the .srt extension, save it as MyVid.txt and rename it using the Windows Explorer or OSX Finder.
  • Now open your vid in VLC. You should see subtitles! If not, try this in the menus: Video -> Subtitle track -> Open file. (Other vid playing software may or may not show subtitles, we're not sure. But VLC definitely should, and it's what we use for the Vid Party, so we recommend it.)
  • Watch your vid and see if you like the timing of the lyrics. Tweak as necessary until you're happy!

By my estimate, using this method will take about an hour or perhaps a bit more to subtitle one vid of average length (say, 3 minutes) and with averagely-fast lyrics.

If you are subtitling for the WisCon Vid Party, once you're finished please email the results to Please attach the file (don't paste it into the body of the email) or provide a link to download the .srt file.

ALSO! we are still seeking volunteers to help us subtitle vids! If you would like to help out, please see this post and give us your contact details. You don't need to be attending WisCon to volunteer!

ETA: tips for newbie subtitlers (aka things we learned the first time we tried to subtitle a vid)...

* Test out your .srt file after you've done the first verse and see how you're going. If you have any systematic problems it's better to catch them early.
* If in doubt, have the line of lyrics come in a little early rather than a little late
* If there is a musical interlude or sound effects or something, feel free to mention it in subtitles eg. "(musical interlude)" or "(laughter)" or whatever.
* The first time you do this, it can take longer than you expect. Your first vid may take ~90 minutes instead of the 60 we originally estimated. Don't be disheartened; as you get used to it, you'll most likely speed up. It also depends a lot on the lyrics of the song in question.
sparkymonster: (Default)

[personal profile] sparkymonster 2011-06-01 02:50 pm (UTC)(link)
FYI, I'm happy to do this next year and/or for other cons that want/need subtitling to happen.
sparkymonster: (Default)

[personal profile] sparkymonster 2011-06-01 05:50 pm (UTC)(link)
You're welcome. It was unexpectedly satisfying (although I still have "Tik Tok" in my head)