How To Use Handbrake To Attach Subtitles To A Movie File

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00 Handbrake logo-1.jpgIf you love watching movies and are willing to open your horizons a little bit, you should probably be aware that there are lives outside of Hollywood. Good movies come from all parts of the world.

But knowing is one thing and finding is another. Due to the concepts that we call marketing and profit, there are times when the only way to find good non-English movies is by doing treasure hunting on the net.  Most of the time, the treasures will still be in their original language.

As good as the movie might be, there’s no way of enjoying it if you don”t understand a single word the character says. Especially if the movie is the kind that relies heavily on dialogue.

The Search For Subtitles

The easiest way to enjoy movies in a foreign language is by finding subtitles and then attach subtitles – in your language – to the movie.  Even though there is no guarantee of the availability, subtitle files are surprisingly easy to find on the net. Just do some searching using “movie title” + “your preferred language” + “subtitle” as the search strings.

These subtitle files are actually text files with time codes. Basically, it tells the movie to display a certain text at a specified time. Two of the most common formats for subtitle files are “.srt” and “.sub”

There are already several articles about subtitles in MakeUseOf. You can read them here, here and here.

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Adding Subtitles The Soft Way

Using a common media player like Quicktime or VLC to play the movie, you can also display the subtitles simply by putting the subtitle file in the same folder with the movie. The only requirement is that both the movie and the subtitle files should go under the same name but with different extensions. Something like “title.avi” and “title.srt“.

02 Same name movie srt.jpg

Using this method, you can choose what language to display by changing the subtitle file inside the folder. But the method will not be effective if the movie file is edited as the subtitle will appear at the wrong time.

Another way to display subtitles is by making it a permanent part of the movie. This method is called hard-subbed and will guarantee the consistency of the subtitle even if the movie is edited. However, rendering subtitles on the movie will reduce video compression and it could not be turned off nor changed into another language.

The new version of Handbrake – the 64-bit build – that we discussed in the previous article comes with a feature called soft subtitles. This ability allows users to add subtitles as a part of the movie with the option to turn the subtitle on and off. Something like DVD movie subtitles.

If you already have both the movie file and the subtitle file, you can start adding soft subtitles to your movie.

  • Open Handbrake and choose the source.

attach subtitles to movie

  • Open the Subtitles tab and click “Add external SRT” button.

add subtitles to a movie

  • You could add more than one subtitle to the movie by repeating the above process.
  • If you prefer to attach subtitles to a movie file as hard subtitles, check the “Forced Only” box next to the file.
  • Choose the desired format from the side window.

03c Choosing format.jpg

  • And click “Start

03d Start the conversion.jpg

After the conversion is finished, you can then enjoy the movie using any kind of media player. If you are using Quicktime, you can easily turn the subtitles on and off by going to the “View > Subtitles” menu.

04 Turning Subtitle On.jpg

Other players use slightly different names. Under Mac OS X, you can easily find the menu by going to the Help menu and typing “Subtitle“. You will be guided by the Help menu to find it.

05 Find Subtitle Menu.jpg

Handbrake is available for Windows, Linux and Mac.

Do you know another alternative method to attach subtitles to a movie?  Please share using the comments below.

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Comments (5)
  • Evy

    THANKS SO MUCH!!!

  • AJB

    worked perfectly… thanks v much!

  • Node Tech Blog

    Probably the best free video encoder app there is out there, that can be used on any operating system.

  • Haplo

    I use GOM Encoder to add hard subs, but after 30 days you have to register or uninstall, clean reg and reinstall…

    A question: Does this method (handbrake + soft subs) will show subs on iPods? That’s why I use hard subs, they show on devices…

  • dan

    “aviaddxsubs”, for all windows os.portabble.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.