Understanding and Creating SRT Files

Have you ever watched a movie with subtitles and thought “hmm…I wonder how these lines of dialogue magically appear on my screen?”

Well, that’s exactly what SRT files are for.

Also known as “SubRip Subtitle files,” these text files are used to store video subtitle information, like timecodes, subtitle text and sequences.

These originally come from SubRip, which is a software that takes video files and records them to a text-format.

And if you really want your mind blown, SubRip can also save these subtitles as bitmaps, which is a way to store images.

SRT files are compatible with most media players, and can also be used to enhance a website’s SEO, or search engine optimization.

Aka, search engine platforms, like Google, love videos with subtitles. The reward? Potential page 1 rankings.

You can download existing SRT files in virtually any language, or easily create your own using a Text Editor.

Because why just watch women fight on Desperate Housewives when you can also read their back and forth banter?

What is an SRT file?

Before we dive into how SRT files are useful and all that jazz, let’s discuss what makes up an SRT file.

There are 4 main parts, which are:

2. Time codes that correlate to a subtitle appearing and disappearing

3. The actual subtitle

4. A blank line to show the beginning of a new subtitle

(image source)

Here’s an in-depth look at the 4 parts of a .srt file:

1. The number that corresponds to the subtitle in the sequence

Let’s take a look at the following image:

(image source)

See those pretty blue arrows? Those point to the numbers that represent the order at which the subtitles appear.

In other words, “1” represents the first subtitle that would appear on screen.

“2” would be the second subtitle that would appear on screen.

And so on and so forth.

2. Time codes that correlate to a subtitle appearing and disappearing

You ever wonder how subtitles appear precisely when an actor is speaking?

Well, we can all thank time codes for that.

These basically tell the subtitles when to appear and disappear from the screen.

This is the basic format for time codes:

Hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds

(Milliseconds are always rounded to 3 decimal places)

Let’s look at the previous image again, but with a closer look at what time codes actually look like:

(image source)

Notice how the first time code says “00:00:00,498.”

The hours, minutes and seconds all say 0, which means that at the 498th millisecond, the following subtitle will appear:

“ — Here’s what I love most about food and diet.”

This subtitle is also set to disappear at “00:00:02,827.”

So at exactly 2 seconds and 827 milliseconds, the subtitle will transition off screen before the next one appears.

This “time code cycle” will keep repeating until all of the subtitles have had their turn in the spotlight.

3. The actual subtitle

Also known as “caption text” this refers to the text that will appear on screen:

(image source)

These caption texts will always be located directly underneath the timecodes.

Usually, there are only 1–2 lines of text that appear on screen at a time.

Even for giant monologues that an actor does, subtitles break down lots of dialogue into small snippets that make it easy for the viewer to read.

4. A blank line to show the beginning of a new subtitle

So how do we show the separation between each and every subtitle?

Through “lines?” Nope. Think more basic.

As in, “blank space” basic:

(image source)

Also known as “blank lines,” this invisible space separates the caption text from the next number in the subtitle sequence.

Because actual lines you can see are so overrated, right?

Why you should use an SRT File

Simply put, SRT files are compatible with a ton of media players and popular platforms.

I mean, just look at this long list of options:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Windows Media Player
  • Adobe Presenter
  • Slideshare
  • VLC
  • MediaCore
  • Vimeo
  • Wistia
  • Mediasite
  • thePlatform
  • Camtasia
  • + a million more

And if that’s not enough, SRT Files have a host of other benefits, like:

  • SEO
  • Higher audience engagement
  • Ease in repurposing content
  • Clarity and comprehension
  • Ease in viewing videos in sound-sensitive environments

SEO

It’s no secret that adding subtitles enhances search engine “crawlability.”

Huh?

Crawlability refers to those pesky “crawler bots” that work day and night scanning and indexing where a particular website should rank on Google (or other unpopular search engine platforms).

And guess what?

Subtitles actually increase the chances of your video content ranking on page one.

In fact, a study was conducted by This American Life (TAL) on the correlation between transcripts and SEO.

Take a look at this graph:

(image source)

Over a 36-month period, TAL found that out of 15,824,728 unique visitors, 1,143,454 of these visitors viewed at least one transcript.

This equates to a 7.23% increase = higher user engagement.

TAL also found a:

  • 4.18% increase to the number of unique visitors to its website through transcribing its library/radio shows
  • 6.68% increase in the number of unique visitors who discovered TAL via organic search results
  • 3.89% increase in inbound links

So what happens when you reap the SEO benefits?

Money, money, money:

(image source/Liveclicker study)

Yeah, those SEO benefits are no joke.

Higher audience engagement

It’s also no joke that transcripts increase a user’s overall experience, therefore, increasing website and video content engagement.

In fact, a study was conducted by MIT OpenCourseWare that found the following benefits of transcripts:

  • 95% of students were able to find specific content through interactive transcripts
  • 97% of students said transcripts enhanced their learning experience
  • Creation of study guides and course material through downloading a transcript
  • 95% of students found transcript-based navigation useful
  • Transcript-based navigation allows ESL students to easily navigate through a video by clicking on “terms” through the transcript
  • Enhanced comprehension through both audio and visual senses

Not only is there an increase in audience engagement regarding students in an academic setting, but also in a social media setting (go figure):

Facebook also conducted a study regarding video advertising and found the following:

  • 41% of videos are incomprehensible without sound or captions
  • Captions increase view time for Facebook videos by 12%
  • One client in the study saw an increase in watch time of 25% for captioned videos

PLYmedia also wanted a piece of the caption pie and decided to study the effects of video captioning to hearing impaired users.

They also found a pretty substantial increase in video view count:

(image source)

So what can we conclude through all of these stats and facts?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that there is a direct link between video captioning and a higher audience engagement.

Because who doesn’t want more Facebook views and likes, right?

3. Ease in repurposing content

Transcripts make repurposing video content a breeze.

How?

By leveraging social media, of course:

  • YouTube: Keep it under 2 minutes for maximum exposure (Wistia)
  • Facebook: Since 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound (Digiday), subtitles are best used to increase viewership
  • Instagram: Trim the video down to 60 seconds or less and use those hashtags
  • Twitter: Videos also initially play without sound, so repurposing subtitles for Twitter is also ideal
  • LinkedIn: You can share the same clips (with embedded subtitles) from Twitter/Instagram on LinkedIn
  • Blog: Same as above. You can repurpose subtitled content for your own blog (or a guest blog) which will automatically increase those SEO benefits

Transcripts also allow video content creators to easily sift and scan through all of their clips and reels since they are scannable and searchable via specific keywords and phrases.

You can even use tools like Clipmaker to create your videos using actual transcripts.

Pretty cool, eh?

Clarity and comprehension

Ever watch a movie and think “wait..what did this character just say?”

So you rewind back and try to listen again.

But you still can’t understand what the heck the actor is saying.

Maybe he or she is speaking in alien language or technical jargon that flies way above your head.

Either way, transcripts provide clarity and comprehension benefits since you can now read all of that technical jargon.

It’s also great for dialogue that is spoken too quickly, or dialogue that is simply not spoken loud enough.

Because nobody should have to constantly rewind back to “make out” what an actor is saying.

That’s just wrong.

Ease in viewing videos in sound-sensitive environments

Imagine trying to watch a video in either a really loud environment or a super quiet environment (like a library, or your own house when everybody is sound asleep).

Sure you could use headphones, but let’s say your friend borrowed them and forgot to give them back (because you have such great friends).

Now what?

Enter yet another benefit of SRT files and captioning, which are great for sound-sensitive environments.

So you can read and watch a video in virtually any place (with half decent Wifi…)

How to create an SRT file

You could download subtitles, but what’s the fun in that when you can make your own SRT files.

And it doesn’t matter whether you use Windows or a Mac, the process is exactly the same.

You would just use TextEdit for Mac and Notepad for Windows:

So it should look something like this:

(my very own caption image)

How to Upload an SRT File

The ways to upload an SRT file kind of depends on the specific platform you intend to use.

And since I listed close to a million of them above (way above), we could be here all day.

So instead, I’ll show you how to upload SRT files on Facebook and YouTube, which are both quite popular for video content.

YouTube:

2. Click “edit” next to the video that you want to add subtitles to

3. Click on “Subtitles and CC” on the top right of your screen

4. Click on “Add new subtitles or CC” and select “English” (or any other foreign language that you can type in the search box

5. Click on “Upload a File”

6. Choose “Subtitles File”

7. Select your .srt file and than hit “Upload”

Facebook:

(image source)

2. Click on ‘Choose File”

3. Select your .srt file

4. Click on “Save”

Boom. Done.

Converting an SRT file

So you’ve spent all night grinding away at your very own subtitle captions.

You save it as a .srt file but wait!

You realize you made a mistake and you need to edit your srt file.

Maybe you forgot to add a time code, or you misspelled a name in the caption text.

Now what?

Well, you have one of two options to open and convert an SRT file:

If you’re going with option 1, here’s a list of external websites to use:

  • Rev.com
  • GoTranscript.com
  • Subtitlefix.com
  • Subtitletools.com

(Pssst…you could also just google “SRT converters,” that works too).

Here are also some SRT editors/video converters to use:

  • VLC
  • KMPlayer
  • MPC-HC
  • BS.Player
  • MPlayer
  • Windows Media Player
  • Jubler

Or, you can do it yourself if you have 30 seconds to kill:

2. Change the “.srt” part to “.txt

3. Make any changes in Notepad or Text Edit and save it back to a .srt format

Conclusion

So now you know something most people don’t, and that is the behind-the-scenes special effects of subtitles.

From converting and creating, to adding your very own subtitles to a video folder, SRT files are an essential component to deciphering dialogue of a video or movie.

(An added SEO boost doesn’t hurt either).

Because life’s too short to read subtitles without knowing how they work.

And let’s be honest: bad foreign films are so much more fun to watch when you can read about what the heck is going on.

All through the power of SRT files.

Actress, writer, photographer, gamer. IG: grumpy_tally