Entertainment

How to Add Subtitles to a Movie or TV Series

Dan Helyer Updated 03-07-2020

Subtitles are one of those things many people sneer at. But once you start using them to better understand what’s going on, it’s hard to stop using them. And if you’re watching a foreign-language movie, you might have no choice but to use subtitles.

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In this article, we’ll show you how to add subtitles to movies or TV series on your computer. It’s quick, easy, and totally free to do.

Reasons to Start Using Subtitles

If you’re hard of hearing. subtitles are a lifesaver. They allow you to follow the plot or a movie or TV show without having the volume turned up to room-shaking levels.

If you’re watching a movie in a foreign language, you need to use translated subtitles to understand the plot. For most people, subtitles are less jarring than dubbed audio because you can enjoy the original performance of the actors without getting distracted by out-of-sync dialog.

But there are good reasons to add subtitles to a movie or TV show even if it’s in your native tongue:

  • Inaudible dialog: It’s tough to understand characters with thick accents, even when they’re speaking a language you know. This also happens when actors mumble their lines, making them impossible to hear over other sound effects.
  • Narrative comprehension: Sci-fi and fantasy shows include a wealth of made-up proper nouns for names, planets, and technology. When you’re watching complex shows like this, subtitles make it easier to follow what’s going on.

The Abyss movie with subtitles turned on

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Unfortunately, when you download movies and TV shows to watch offline How to Legally Download Movies for Free to Watch Offline Here's everything you need to know on how to download movies to watch offline, for free and legally. Read More , they don’t always come with subtitles. This means you need to add them yourself, which is actually a lot easier than you might think.

How to Add Subtitles to Movies or TV Series

Now that you know why you should consider adding subtitles to movies or TV series, we can move onto the process of adding them. Which starts with finding subtitle files.

Where to Download Quality Subtitles

Before you can apply subtitles to a downloaded movie or TV show, you first need to find and download a subtitle file for that particular title. If possible, it’s best to download the subtitles from the same place you got the content. That way they are most likely to sync up with your video file.

However, if there aren’t any subtitles available from the same place, you can use other websites to download subtitles from Where to Download Subtitles for Movies and TV Shows: The 6 Best Sites Subtitles elevate the viewing experience. Here are the best subtitle download sites where can you get quality subtitles for free. Read More instead.

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We recommend the following two sites:

  • Subscene: Unless the movie or TV show you’re trying to watch is rare or decades old, you’re almost guaranteed to find working subtitles on Subscene. Subtitles are categorized by title, language, and closed captions for hearing-impaired people.
  • OpenSubtitles: This is a large database with plenty of working subtitles—including some that are missing from Subscene—but it is very heavy on the ads. Downloading subtitles can feel like a game of elimination as you try to figure out which download links are genuine and which ones are spam.

Subscene website showing subtitles for The Abyss

After downloading the subtitles you need—which should be in an SRT or SUB file—there are two methods you can use to add them to your videos: soft and hard.

Soft subtitles allow you to turn them on and off, switching between different languages or no subtitles at all while watching. Whereas hard subtitles merge with the video file itself. You can’t turn them off, but you never need to worry about adding subtitles again.

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We’ll explain how to add subtitles, both hard and soft, to a movie or TV series below…

How to Add Soft Subtitle Tracks to a Downloaded Movie

All of the best modern video players 5 Best Free Media Players for Windows The best media player for you is the one you most enjoy using. Here are the best free media player apps to consider on Windows. Read More support file-based subtitles. This means you can add as many subtitle tracks to a downloaded movie as you like, and switch between them at any time from the subtitle menu.

We’ll demonstrate how to add subtitles using VLC Media Player, which is free, open source, cross platform, and the most widely used video player around. But most other video players operate in much the same way.

Download: VLC Media Player for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)

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Add Subtitles to a Movie Automatically

The easiest way to add subtitles to a movie is to give the subtitle file exactly the same name as the video file (excluding the format extension). Then keep both files in the same folder. When you open the movie in a media player, such as VLC, it automatically loads the subtitles along with the video.

So if your video file is named:

The.Abyss.1989.BluRay.1080p.x264.mp4

Then you need to make sure the subtitle file is named:

The.Abyss.1989.BluRay.1080p.x264.srt

Since it doesn’t allow you to add a specific language to your subtitles file name, this method is best if you only want to add subtitles in a single language.

Folder with video and subtitle file with the same name

Add Subtitles to a Movie or TV Show Manually

If you want to use different file names for your video and subtitles files, you need to manually add the subtitles instead. This is the best method to use if you have multiple subtitle tracks you want to add to the same film.

There are two manual methods you can use to add subtitles in VLC.

First, open the video file in VLC, then go to Subtitles > Add Subtitle File from the menu bar and select the subtitle file you want to add.

Add Subtitle File menu from VLC options

Alternatively, open the video file in VLC, then click-and-drag the subtitle file from your file manager and drop it into the VLC window.

Drag-and-drop subtitle file in VLC

If you add multiple subtitle tracks, use the Subtitles option in the menu bar to switch between them.

How to Permanently Add Hard Subtitles to a Video

If you want to permanently add subtitles to a movie or television show, you can create a new video file using HandBrake. This isn’t as quick or easy as the methods above. But since HandBrake is free, open source, and cross platform, it’s still a good option if you never want to worry about adding subtitles again.

Download: HandBrake for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)

To get started, launch Handbrake and select the video file as the Source. Switch to the Subtitles tab, then open the Tracks dropdown box and select Add External Subtitles Track. Select your subtitles file from the browser that appears.

Next to your subtitles track, turn on Burned In to permanently add hard subtitles to your movie. Alternatively, add multiple subtitle tracks, select a Language for each of them and choose one to use as your Default subtitles. This allows you to switch between various subtitles tracks without worrying about different files.

HandBrake window showing Subtitles track

After configuring your settings, click Start to burn the new video file.

Create Your Own Subtitles

You might struggle to find subtitles for niche or independent movies. You also might not find subtitles in a particular language if it isn’t widely spoken across the globe. In either of these circumstances, you should consider creating your own subtitles to add to a movie or TV show instead.

It’s a time-consuming endeavor. But you can follow our instructions detailing how to make your own subtitles How to Make Your Own Subtitles With Any Text Editor & Aegisub With Aegisub, creating your own subtitles for movies and TV shows has never been easier. Read More , then use the steps above to add them to your movie. If you do a good job, don’t forget to share your subtitles online for other people to use as well!

Related topics: Media Player, Television, Video Editor, VLC Media Player.

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  1. Jerry Smit
    August 3, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Hello, I know one software really works well to add subtitles to a movie, which is Joyoshare Video Joiner. It supports multi-subtitle and multi-audio video files.

  2. Miry
    May 10, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Hey, sometimes I see a 500 website message when I browse this site. Just a heads up, regards

  3. 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)

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

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

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

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

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

    jus very good very useful

  10. 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

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

    It’s a useful guide!
    Thanks.

    Kaan.

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

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

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

    It’s a useful guide!
    Thanks.

    Miley

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

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

  15. 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

  16. 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?

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

    and i have windows 7

  18. 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!

  19. 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

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

    gd site....

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

    Thanks

    It’s a useful guide!

  22. 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!

  23. 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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thanks

    It’s a useful guide!

    Miley.

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

    Have you tried other subtitle files?

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

    It’s a useful guide.

    Sarah.

  30. 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.

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

    Thank you for this article...

    Miley.

  32. 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

  33. 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

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

    Thanks... It’s a useful guide.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

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

    Thank you for this article

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

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

  41. 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)

  42. 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.

  43. 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

  44. 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

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

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

  46. 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

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

    Thank you for this article.

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

    Thank you for this article , really is very interessent

  49. 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?

  50. 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.

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

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

  52. 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!

  53. 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 ;-)

  54. 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.