SRT Translation Best Practices

Video is a powerful and effective medium in today’s tech-savvy world. And when you add translated subtitles to your videos – whether it be in an eLearning course, on your website, or even for a marketing campaign – you have the opportunity to maximize engagement for a global audience. Subtitle translation, more speficially SRT Translation best practices is what I’ll cover in this blog.

Of course there is the option of recording a voiceover or dubbing the video with the desired language, but that will usually increase the timeline and cost of a project. So, when clients aren’t interested in going that route, we recommend using subtitles. Adding translated subtitles is also an effective way to help localize your content, which is key for global success.SRT translation is a way to make this happen efficiently.

SRT translation

What is SRT translation? One of the most popular and easy-to-use programs for creating subtitles is called SubRip.

Put simply, SubRip extracts content from live video, video files, and DVDs and then records the content as SubRip text files (also called “SRT files”) which can be opened and edited by most text processors.

SRT files contain the following elements:

  • A numeric counter identifying each sequential subtitle
  • The time that the subtitle should appear on the screen, followed by “–>” and the time it should disappear
  • Subtitled text itself on one or more lines
  • A blank line containing no text, indicating the end of this subtitle

An example of a SubRip text file looks like this:


00:02:17,440 –> 00:02:20,375

Senator, we’re making our final approach into Coruscant.


00:02:20,476 –> 00:02:22,501

Very good, Lieutenant.[1]

Using this format, Interpro can create SRT files in any language. This service is called SRT translation. SRT files are then used to produce subtitles that can be turned off or on for videos (as opposed to being burnt into the actual video file).

German SRT translation example

German SRT Translation Example from ACP Decisions.

You may come across websites or programs that can quickly translate SRT files to other languages, but using a qualified translator that is familiar with the language and experienced in SRT translation will always produce a higher quality result.

Today, it’s also common for organizations to host videos on YouTube or Vimeo and add subtitles by uploading a translated SRT file. This is another cost effective way to communicate with a global audience, but it does have some limitations such as font placement and color, to name a few.

That said, with SRT translation, there are a handful of best practices we’ve discovered that will maximize the overall value of translated subtitles.

Revisions may happen

We always suggest taking some time to localize content so that you get the biggest return on your investment in translation.

First, take into consideration that translated text may take up more or less room than the English version.

For example, a Spanish translation may be between 15 to 30 percent longer than the original English version.[2] In situations like this, the text may need speed up or even rewritten so that you can make more room.

Our professionals at Interpro can help determine what absolutely needs to stay in and what can be omitted. It’s most important that the meaning of the content is translated well, and not just the words. So be prepared for some revisions to occur along the way.

Take space seriously

Along those same lines, one thing that is extremely important in subtitle translation is identifying a limit for the number of characters per row. Different languages apply different rules.

For example, with Chinese subtitles, characters should not take up more than one line per screen and that line is ideally not long. Also, keep in mind that with Chinese SRT translation, all punctuation marks (like commas) will be replaced by a space within the sentence and no periods are needed, so some reformatting will need to occur post-translation.

Additionally, a widely-accepted rule is to place subtitles low and centered on the screen. This way, the viewers can read along easily, but others who may not need the subtitles won’t be distracted. Also, avoid placing text too close to the edge or bottom of the screen to keep it from getting cut off.[3]

Contrast and legibility

This may appear trivial or even obvious, but it’s always ideal when a subtitle font color can be white and placed on a solid dark background. Often this means placing text in a dark box rather than directly over the visual content. The box shouldn’t be so large that it keeps eyes away from the video itself.

While it can be tempting to get creative when it comes to formatting subtitles, keeping the fonts and font colors as simple and as legible as possible is essential for the viewers to benefit from the content. For example, we prefer to use large fonts from the sans-serif family.

The importance of timing and testing

With translated subtitles, it’s important to strike a balance with timing of the on-screen content. The goal is to present the subtitles slowly enough so that viewers can actually read them, but also moving at a constant flow so that people won’t lose interest.

world globe partnershipFinally, set aside some time to run a series of tests to help confirm that everything is working and flowing well. Proofread the subtitles to ensure that they are correct and that they match up with the visuals of the video.

SRT translation is one of the most affordable and effective options for localizing videos. Your non-native English speaking clients and employees will thank you for including subtitles that help – not hinder – their video experience.