How to make subtitles

Below I will explain how I usually do when making subtitles, and some rules I follow. The programs I use is Subtitles Workshop (when transcribing)  and Aegisub (for timing). I know Aegisub can be used for it all, but I don’t like the newer version of Aegisub, so I keep using an older version.

English subtitles
I mostly transcribe: Manually type out low quality TVrips/VHSrips and time to higher quality RAWs. Not to confuse transcribing with translating, they are two different things. If I translate, it’s either from Swedish-English or English-Swedish.

I prefer to manually transcribe and time subtitles. Not ripping them. In this way I feel I have more control over the number of characters per line, scene changes etc.

Japanese subtitles
I mostly time subtitles from Jpsubbers. I know some basic Japanese, enough to time, but not to translate a whole drama.

Length of lines
One line shouldn’t be more than 37 characters long (this includes spaces), and when there’s a comma, change to a new line.

How to make subtitles: Font and font size

Font and font size
Generally I try to keep the font size around 30-34px for English, and 36px for Japanese so it’s easy to read the more complex kanji. Fonts I like to use myself are: Arial, Tahoma, Verdana. Nothing too squiggly.

Enough time to read and scene changes
The ending is a longer than the beginning, I’m doing this to give the viewer more time to read the subtitles. I try not to overlap the subtitles when there is a change in the scene (purple line), but sometimes it’s necessary to keep the subtitles visible a little longer.

If lines are close to each other, I will “connect” them. Where one line ends, the other begins. This will make the transition between different lines smooth.

How to make subtitles

If there is little time when two persons are talking and they aren’t saying that much, I will add them together like this.

- Is he here yet?
- No.

Last of all run spell-check before making the final quality check.

  • Open existing script with Aegisub.
  • Video menu – “Open video…” Locate and open the video you want to time the subtitle to.
  • Audio menu – “Open audio from video”.
  • View menu – Change to Audio + Subs view.
  • Keyboard shortcuts (Can be changed in the Options if you want to.)
  • F – scrolls forward.
  • A – scrolls backward.
  • S – starts the audio / space-bar starts audio.
  • G – saves work and moves to next part.

And if you’d like to do further reading.
BBC’s Subtitle Guidelines
Doki Fansub’s Timing Guide
Fan Translation Guide by 8thSin (archived)

English Grammar Rules