Video Subtitling


With the proliferation of inexpensive and accessible video cameras, an increasing amount of interesting and important video is being produced around the world.  Many of these videos are now created by both amateurs and professionals and find an international audience on the Internet through a variety of distribution and showcase channels.

Many videos, inevitably include people speaking in one language or another and to make such a video accessible and understandable to a global audience the video can either be dubbed or subtitled. These are the two methods of video translation.  The choice for either solution is largely a cultural and resource issue. However, subtitles are by far the easiest to produce, as audio dubbing requires a lot of time and software expertise whereas subtitles can potentially be created with only a video player and a text editor.

The technology needed to subtitle video has matured and both standards and technologies are now available to make video relevant to an audience that would not appreciate it otherwise.

Within Video Localization, producing subtitled video is a distinct realm unto itself.  Rather than changing the audio, the audio component of the video content is preserved and instead translated text is added to the video stream.  Adding this type of visual overlay presents the translator with many choices as to the outcome of the final product.  These choices are dependent largely on the intended audience and use of the final video product.

Work Flows

Production of subtitled video can follow many workflows, however there are commonalities in any translator's process.

  • Translation of Audio
  • Production of Subtitles from Translated Audio
  • Attaching Subtitles to Video
  • Distribution of Video


Fortunately there are many tools and services that aid the process along the way.  By using open source tools for subtitled video translation, the goals of translation itself (increased access and understanding) are supported and mirrored by the very structure of the workflow. 

Many FLOSS desktop applications are available to produce subtitles, and to facilitate their translation. Jubler, GnomeSubtitle, Gaupol and SubtitleEditor are available to subtitle video productions and export subtitles files for use in players or video editors.

Increasingly free-as-in-beer (proprietary software, no economical cost upfront) web services for video subtitling as a community, such as dotSUB, are coming into their own, but no notable free-as-in-speech (i.e. FLOSS) video subtitling web applications seem to exist.  However, like many open source communities, production continues and a number of FLOSS web technologies are emerging, like the Worldwide Lexicon, from which a coherent web application for video subtitling and translation may emerge, but as yet is highly specialised and contains mostly disparate components.


After the production of subtitles, the question then becomes how to distribute such 'localised' video.  There are many options that contribute to the dissemination of the video itself which range from file format and type to hosting services and storage.  These choices again depend on the purpose of your video content as well as the intended audience.  Forunately, the different choices that are available allow your subtitled video to be released to a broad audience from all over the world. 

Producing translated video in the form of subtitles is an effective and powerful way in which to not only increase the visibility of a piece of video content, but also to extend the reach of a message and information that otherwise would remain attached to its origin language.