What is Subtitling?

Updated May 2015


Subtitling is a way to convey dialogue (and occasionally text) from one language into another within the context of visual media (TV, films, etc.). It involves translation and localization, skills that require time and experience to develop. The presence or absence of words can convey very different meanings across languages and cultures.

Take this example from English: “How are you?”

That's simple enough, right? Well, ask a German subtitler how to translate that into her language, and she'll ask you for more information. Who's talking to whom? What is their relationship?

“Wie geht es dir?” or “Wie geht es inhen?” They both mean “How are you?” translated back into English. In German, however, the first is casual and the second is formal. It's a cultural nuance that's lost in English.

How to Choose a Subtitling Company

There are many subtitling companies around the world. They all offer different prices and different services. That's why we started Subsandcaps. Finding the right company to work with can be easy. You can find subtitling companies on our site and pick the one that's the right fight for you.

Price is always a consideration. And while it's easy to say that "you get what you pay for," that's not always the case. It's very easy to pay twice the price for the same quality.

It's important to go with a subtitling company that has experienced and knowledgable editors working with them. Get it done right the first time and you'll have the file forever.

Subtitling vs. Captioning

Think of this kind of like the old rectangle and square. A square is always a rectangle but a rectangle might not be a square.

Captioning is a very special kind of subtitling. It must meet certain technical specs. For example, no single caption can exceed 32 characters in length. And for FCC requirements, captioning must adhere to certain quality guidelines. Subtitling files aren't necessarily held to those restrictions.

File Formats

Here are a few of the formats you might expect to see with subtitling: