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Subtitles are one of those things that most people initially sneer at. However, once you start using them, it’s hard to stop. Nowadays, I never watch any movies or TV shows without subtitles because the experience is simply subpar without them.

Reasons to start using subtitles include:

  • Translations. Obviously if you’re watching anime or a foreign language film and you don’t speak the language, you’ll need a translation. For most people, subtitles are less jarring than dubbed audio and therefore the preferred way to watch.
  • Inaudible dialog. I love British dramas, but as an American it can be tough to understand characters with thick accents. Problems with audio mixing are common as well, such as when sound effects are too loud while dialog can barely be heard.
  • Narrative comprehension. If you watch a lot of science fiction with made-up proper nouns or a series like Game of Thrones with hundreds of names, then subtitles can make it much easier to follow along and understand what characters are actually talking about.

Unfortunately, when you download movies and TV shows off the internet Capture Streaming Video From Any Website With These 5 Tools Capture Streaming Video From Any Website With These 5 Tools A majority of today's internet traffic consists of streamed video. But video streaming can be expensive with data caps. The solution is to capture streaming videos and download them to your computer. Read More , they usually don’t come with subtitles, which means you have to add them in yourself. This is actually a lot easier than you might think so don’t worry too much. Here’s what you have to do…

Where to Download Quality Subtitles

Before you can turn on subtitles for a video, you’ll need to find and download a subtitle file that has been synced with that particular video file. This can be easy as pie if, say, you downloaded a movie off of a torrent site 11 Online Sources to Find Legal Torrents 11 Online Sources to Find Legal Torrents Recent events have seen well-known torrent directories like BTJunkie closing their doors or being threatened with closure, leaving many people wondering about the legalities of torrents and which directories are still open to find them... Read More . However, you may not find any available subtitles if you download a YouTube clip.

When looking for subtitles, we only recommend these two sites:

  • Subscene — My personal favorite. Unless the movie or TV show you’re trying to watch is underground or decades-old, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find subtitles that work. Subtitles are categorized by title, language, and whether or not they include hearing-impaired cues.
  • OpenSubtitles — This database is pretty big and the subtitles do work, and you’ll even find some that can’t be found on Subscene, but beware that this site is heavy on the ads. Grabbing subtitles here can feel like a game of elimination as you try to figure out which download links are the right ones.

Once you have the relevant subtitle file for your video, you can add them using one of two methods. I definitely recommend the easy method because it’s faster, more reliable, and involves less work, but the hard method is fine too if you prefer to complicate matters.

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The Easy Way: Overlaying Subtitles During Playback

Most modern video players support file-based subtitle overlays. If yours doesn’t, then you should consider switching to ones of these Windows video players, Mac video players, or Linux video players. They’re all free and they’re all packed with nifty features, with subtitle support being the least interesting feature.

For this, we’ll demonstrate using VLC Media Player, because it’s free, open source, cross platform, and the most widely used video player as of this writing. But again, most other video players operate in the same way.

How to Add Subtitles to a Movie or TV Series phone booth subtitle example

Automatic Subtitle Overlay

If you name the subtitle file exactly the same as the video file (excluding the format extension) and keep both files in the same folder, then VLC will automatically load the subtitle file as soon as the video is loaded. Or in other words, when you start playing a video file, VLC will look in the same folder for any subtitle file with the same name.

So if you have a video named:

The.Shawshank.Redemption.1994.BluRay.1080p.x264.mp4

Then the subtitle should be named, for example:

The.Shawshank.Redemption.1994.BluRay.1080p.x264.srt

Manual Subtitle Overlay

If you want to keep the file names separate, if VLC doesn’t recognize the subtitle file you want to use, or if you have multiple subtitle files and you want to load a specific one, there are two manual methods you can use.

First, you can use the menu and select Subtitle > Add Subtitle File… to browse and select the one you want to use. Second, you can simply drag the subtitle file from File Explorer (or Finder or whatever file manager you’re using on Linux) and drop it onto VLC after the video is loaded.

The Hard Way: Burning Subtitles Into the Video File

Using Handbrake, this is relatively simple. It just isn’t as quick or easy as the overlay method above. But since Handbrake is free, open source, cross platform, and supports pretty much all modern video formats, don’t be afraid to give this method a try.

All you have to do is launch Handbrake, select the video file as the Source, switch to the Subtitles tab, click Add External SRT, and select the subtitle file.

Using this method, you have two options: “Forced Only” mode will burn the subtitles into the video data itself, whereas if you turn the “Forced Only” option off, the subtitle will be embedded as a separate track that can be toggled and selected in whatever video player is used to watch it. (With the latter option, you can embed multiple subtitle tracks into a single video.)

Why Do You Use Subtitles?

Now that you know how to add subtitles to a TV show or movie, hopefully you’ll never have to watch anything without subtitles to guide your viewing experience. That being said, I’m curious: for what reasons do you personally use subtitles? Are they reserved only for foreign translations? Or do you use them 24/7 because they aid in narrative comprehension?

Please let us know in the comments below! And if you know of any other websites for downloading subtitles or methods for adding subtitles to videos, feel free to share those too!

Image Credit: Sergey Shubin via Shutterstock.com

 

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  1. Jorge
    February 5, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you! I am going to try your methods. I use SUBS in English because nowadays some actors don't care about pronunciation, besides many times loud music, or other sounds don’t let you hear what they are saying.

    Even more, I am a second language speaker and all different flavors of English like Canadian, British, Australian, etc. add to make understanding problematic.

    You posted several other reasons that I couldn't agree more, I am glad you mentioned that, I thought I was the only person having the preference of understanding dialogs 100% with same language SUBS, I really hate translated subs, they usually ruin or betray the whole meaning of the show. Many times streaming sites don’t bother adding SUBS in the original language, the reason beats me, because if I’m right they already have them, and I guess it's not the case with translated ones. Sometimes you have to wait several days until they upload series with SUBS. Etc.

    Again, thank you for your posting (sorry i didn't read other comments)

  2. JES
    January 24, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    If I've got a current Roku player, can I add subtitles (via .srt) to an episode/film which is being STREAMED over a Roku channel (Netflix, Amazon, whatever)? Probably not, I know. But this would be supremely cool -- nothing more frustrating than finally finding (say) an old favorite movie, only to find that I can't follow it anymore because I can't hear it.

    Besides the "cool" factor, this would really stimulate the production of high-quality downloadable .srt's!

  3. ymo1965
    January 24, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Always have issues trying to add subtitles to 3D video files (SMS, OU etc) . Never comes out looking right. Double imagery or similar glitch. Any help would be great.

  4. James
    January 22, 2015 at 12:29 am

    I use the subtitle option in filebot (www.filebot.net)

  5. mkmkmk
    January 30, 2010 at 6:16 am

    simon, right?

    for some reason i couldn't find the TextSub 2.23 when i tried to add the filter.
    any ideas why?

  6. techpops
    January 18, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial. I've just tried it out with a small variation. I had to use the vosub filter in the list of filters rather than the textsub which wouldn't work for me.

    I'm running Windows 7 x64 with a quadcore cpu. A 700mb typical avi is taking me 25 minutes to render using xvids multi core processing. That's with the highest details enabled, including the post processing filters within xvid.

    Very happy with the results. I'm ending up with 1.4gb movies instead of 700mb but I wanted to retain every last bit of quality I could during the recoding of the video so don't mind this. And the CD is dead to me so no cares about trying to match that size heh.

    Again, great tutorial and hope these additional details can help someone in a similar situation as me.

  7. Arman
    January 15, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    jus very good very useful

  8. Arro
    January 12, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Hi,

    Interesting reading... I am looking to add subtitles to a film, is there a step-by-step guide for doing so? The film is 'little Lord Fauntleroy' (1980 - with Alec Guinness) and the subtitles should be in Dutch. How easy/hard is this to do, is there a 'dummies guide' or has anyone done this one before?

    Any help / comments greatly appreciated!

    Arjan

  9. watch movies
    December 31, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    It’s a useful guide!
    Thanks.

    Kaan.

  10. Rushabh
    December 23, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Hey thanks buddy....gr8 work...
    i m using it to add english subtitles...thanks a lot!

  11. watch movies
    December 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    It’s a useful guide!
    Thanks.

    Miley

  12. Goons
    December 16, 2009 at 10:05 am

    thank you so much just got my 1st video thanks to this step-by-step

  13. Donata
    December 10, 2009 at 3:50 am

    Thank you very much!))
    i had the DirectVobSub, but then it stop working suddenly without any reason, so i use the VLC now)) thanks

  14. helen
    December 8, 2009 at 10:56 am

    another problem, when i go to virtualdub and go to video-add filter, i dont see the subtext. what am i doing wrong?

  15. helen
    December 8, 2009 at 8:08 am

    and i have windows 7

  16. helen
    December 8, 2009 at 8:04 am

    hi, i did not do the second option. i downloaded the directvobsub. i have tv show episodes on my computer, i downloaded subtitles from a site, i have them now on the computer (compressed) but the WMP and VLC do not find them. so shld i try the second (longer, more complicated)way? i have no internet usually,is that why it wont work?

    thanks for any help.

    • Simon Slangen
      December 8, 2009 at 12:45 pm

      You mean the first option? Overlay them temporarily while watching?

      You should name the subtitle the same as your video file, and put them in the same folder. (everything unzipped)

      With DirectVobSub installed, your video players should now detect it automatically. Otherwise, you can still browse manually to the subtitle file using VLC, as demonstrated in the article screenshot.

      Good luck!

  17. fabien
    December 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    after the install of vobsub it need:You’ll also need to specify the directory where you’ve unzipped VirtualDub.when i am click next window show me error and stop the vobsub......any help

  18. sridhar
    November 26, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    gd site....

  19. watch movies
    November 26, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Thanks

    It’s a useful guide!

  20. Bizteck
    November 19, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Just to say Thank you the VLC player works a treat I never knew it was so easy!

  21. Jason
    October 25, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I couldn't find textsub. I still am a problem with it.

    • Simon Slangen
      October 28, 2009 at 11:39 am

      It's included in the VirtualDub installation (just be sure to select it like in the screenshot)

  22. Simon Slangen
    October 10, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Of course it does! :-D Glad to be of help.

  23. Saty
    October 9, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Hey... It really works!! Amazing stuff... Thanks a ton!!!!

  24. Bryan
    October 5, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Thanx !! Great info... A detailed and thorough guide indeed.

  25. watch
    September 22, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Thanks

    It’s a useful guide!

    Miley.

  26. Simon Slangen
    September 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Have you tried other subtitle files?

  27. watch movies
    September 18, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    It’s a useful guide.

    Sarah.

  28. Stu
    September 12, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Simon, you're a genius. The only problem is that the link to this site is on page 3 of a Google search. I wasted a lot of time on crappy solutions before I got here!

    For others - Follow the download/install instructions to the letter, especially about choosing the TextSub component at the start of VoxSub installation.

  29. music videos
    September 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you for this article...

    Miley.

  30. sid
    August 29, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Hi, on my website I have a program which is called Sido and you can subtitle .srt subtitle with it. It doesn't require instalation and it's freeware. It runs in a browser window so for char set tweeking you just change the page encoding from the browser. The website is 2sid.com

  31. marwan
    August 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks very much but i have a problem with the language i ont know what is this language i have choosed english sub but it apears in the video in another language like that ( úåøâí îùîéòä ò"é\nr0bert-å )
    plzzzzzzz help me i need help

  32. watch videos
    August 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks... It’s a useful guide.

  33. Lajk
    August 12, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Thanks

    It's a useful guide! But i'm having some trouble. The size of the avi-file with subtitle becomes too small. About 300mb? How come?

    • Simon Slangen
      September 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm

      That probably depends on the used video compression codecs.

  34. Bruno
    August 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    It subtitled twice ...
    Have I gotten anything wrong ?

    • Simon Slangen
      September 18, 2009 at 2:38 pm

      I'd think you've got two filters doing the same job, e.g. VobSub and ffdshow. During playback, both of these ought to be visible in the system notification area of your taskbar (bottomright). Right-click one of them and disable functionality.

      Another possibility is that you've got a video player with integrated subtitle support. This would make the use of an external filter like VobSub superfluous.

  35. Andrew
    August 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    :(( don't know why but when I add the filter the program will not open my subtitle file :( what could be the problem ?
    the subtitle is a supported file (.sub)

    • Simon Slangen
      September 18, 2009 at 2:40 pm

      Have you tried other subtitle files? If that doesn't work, I'd re-install everything, while keeping a very close eye on the steps described in the article. A single missed checkbox could mess up the whole installation.

  36. cas398
    July 20, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Thanks for this, it's running now.

    I was using ConvertXtoDVD which is good and very easy to add subs but it only burns to DVD, Quality is very good though, hardly any loss.

    This will save me using a disc, and it's easier than it looks now you have shown me how, so thank you.

  37. watch video
    July 11, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Thank you for this article

  38. Dia
    June 22, 2009 at 10:04 am

    THANK YOU SOO MUCH
    this was by far the easiest , i can not thank you enough

  39. niks
    June 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    hi..
    i did everythin as mentioned bt i found that after burning the subtitles thier timing was incorrect (title appear way be4 the audio.......) sir ...its really frustrating!!!!!

    • Simon Slangen
      June 20, 2009 at 12:28 pm

      Read the above comment.

      Note that when planning to burn the subtitles, only the first technique will pay off. (the difference lies in adjusting the subtitle timings, or auto-correcting them while playing - obviously the latter is a mere temporary fix)

  40. Roman_Khr
    June 15, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    JUST SHIFT SUBTITLES APPEARANCE

    Hello,
    I was confronted by difficulties with movie subtitles. They display earlier than I need it. Movies assist me in my English studying. I watch and hear but I do not understand all yet. In that case my eyes go down at subtitles. But it relates to next phrase that will be said. And I have to return slider back each time when I need to understand what is said at screen. It is uncomfortable. So I solved this problem. I wrote mega small application to shift subtitles appearance time. Furthermore it resulted simple in use.
    I could provide you this application with exhaustive help for general usage. I thank you for your work that I may get subtitles to any movie. And I want to contribute my share.
    Roman
    ceasor(a)yandex.ru

    • Simon Slangen
      June 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm

      You can do one of two things.

      a) Edit subtitles
      You can 'delay' (positive or negative) the timing of your subtitles. I recommend using Subtitle Workshop.
      [Picture how-to]

      b) Edit timing - temporarily
      Some media players, like VLC, allow you to adjust the timing of your subtitles - while you're watching - by simply using the hotkeys. Press ctrl+j to decrease, or ctrl+h to increase the subtitle delay.

      NOTE: This can only be done before are burned into the video (using the second technique). You will need to have them in a separate file, like srt or sub.

  41. Lynn LU
    May 21, 2009 at 2:03 am

    For mac users:
    here is a cool freeware ffmpegX which can help you easily add subtitle files ( srt and sub ) to Videos on mac
    just follow this gudie:
    (dvdburnermacosx.com/tutorial/how-to-burn-srt-sub-subtitle-to-dvd-on-mac.html#129) How to add srt and sub files to videos on mac

  42. ryan
    May 10, 2009 at 2:47 am

    i cant install vobsub checking the “VobSub for VirtualDub” and “TextSub for VirtualDub and AviSynth” under plugins,causing errors and stops the instalation

  43. Rafael
    April 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Just subtitled my 1st video thanks to this step-by-step
    Hurray
    awesome

  44. Rafael
    April 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Dude... thanks.
    I knew nothing, now I know all I need to do this subtite thing.
    Major thanks

  45. watch movies
    April 24, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you for this article.

  46. vlademir
    April 7, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Thank you for this article , really is very interessent

  47. peter
    March 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    what if there is no TextSub. file? like in Music Video files. using VirtualDub, i opened a music video file and cant seem to locate the TextSub file. now what?

    • Simon Slangen
      March 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm

      The TextSub file does not depend on the type of video, it's there or it's not.

      Are you sure you installed the program correctly? (see instructions)

      • peter
        March 24, 2009 at 2:01 am

        Thank you so much for the quick reply. Yes, i got up to the part where i had to locate the TextSub. None was found. so is it the video? or installaion problem?

        • Simon Slangen
          March 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm

          Installation problem probably.

          You need to check "TextSub for .........." during the installation. This ought to put the plug-in there for once and for all.

          Reinstall?

        • peter
          March 25, 2009 at 4:50 am

          I redownloaded, reinstalled. stil lthe same problem. im using Vista. The virtaldub version 1.8.8 Ill try a movie instead of music videos. when i unzip, there is no window that allows to to click on plug-ins.

        • Peter
          March 26, 2009 at 12:09 pm

          i cant figure out what to do. i know its a simple thing, but its not working for me. Im using Vista. i downloaded the Virtualdub for vista, installed it and nothing. cant find the "Textsub" file on the video i opened. help!

        • Simon Slangen
          March 26, 2009 at 1:12 pm

          The TextSub file is installed during VobSub installation.

          At the start of the install; - Choose Components - , expand the Plugins list and select TextSub, like in the article picture.

        • helen
          December 8, 2009 at 10:59 am

          i have the same problem, maybe its vista/windows 7?

  48. Marthinus Raath
    March 5, 2009 at 4:55 am

    I never before saw how to do this - but I like the idea thereof. I am slowly but surely getting convinced that VLC is the best out there. I wrote about it on my blog. I often found that other media players would get out of lip-sync, but somehow VLC handles it very well.
    Thanks again for this tip - this rocks.

  49. vasu
    March 3, 2009 at 3:08 am

    this method takes long time to finished.tell me alternative method

  50. Bart Moore
    February 5, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Anyone know how to embed subtitles in an mp4 so they can be toggled on/off with iPhone / Apple TV, etc? We really just want one file, not the video file with a companion .srt text file. I'm not eager to deface my videos with burned 'hard' subtitles (who is?) but I still _need_ subtitles. Can anyone help???

    • James
      January 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

      @Bart

      Bart, Use "Media Player Classic" or "VLC Player" to use soft-subtitles that can be toggled on and off.

      Use "VOBSUB" to overlay subtitles on other media players during playtime.

      http://www.youtube.com/jamesjburt my videos!

  51. Kaushik
    February 5, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Hey man, there is an easier method - using Virtualdub and Subtitle workshop.

    http://www.instantfundas.com/2008/10/how-to-sync-subtitles-to-video.html

    • Simon Slangen
      February 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm

      Looks like the same method to me, just in less detail ;-)

  52. Bill Bell
    February 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I haven't tried out this advice but it looks extremely useful. Thanks very much for taking the time to provide it, Simon.