What Is an SRT File and How to Create One?

What Is an SRT File and How to Create One?

In this article, we will explore the main features that contribute to forming an SRT file. Here’s the program: we will start by giving a definition of it. Then we will see how they look like and how we can make our own. Finally, we will figure out how to upload them by using the YouTube example. 

What Is an SRT File?

Do you happen to use any tools related to subtitling and/or captioning processes? If so, there is a good chance that you have already heard of SRT files in such contexts. An SRT file or SubRip Subtitle file is a plain-text file used for complementing audiovisual material. The origin of the term is directly associated with the software SubRip known as a “subtitle ripper.” SRT files are one of the elements of post-production. They typically serve as an informational resource for the subtitles and captions that we see, for example, on videos. They provide the necessary indications about the timing, placement, and sequencing of those subtitles. You may either create one on your own or download and modify already available ones. 

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Subtitles or Captions?

Fair enough question because the interchangeable use of the two words can often create confusion. For instance, suppose that you are typing something like ‘how to make subtitles with X program’ on your search bar. You can end up with a result page displaying more information about captions rather than subtitles. Actually, the concepts are not so different from each other at their core. Still, there’s surely a distinction to be made. 

The most important purpose of subtitles is to translate audio content into written content. Translation from one language to another is the most typical (but not the only) example. 

As for captions, those are for making the audio content more understandable for the spectators even when they can’t hear anything. Captions can transmit not only spoken language but also other environmental noises, general information about the audiovisual content, etc.

So let’s say that within this article, we will be mostly referring to captions that serve subtitling purposes.     

srt files

What Does an SRT File Look Like?

Some of you may already have noticed that this kind of file usually (but not always) comes with a .srt file extension. Indeed, this is what makes it recognizable by video players. Furthermore, it is organized in accordance with a specific encoding system. Nothing to worry about though: those files are usually quite easy to read and understand. After all, they are nothing but text documents. So you may use any word processor (Microsoft Word, Notepad, Wordpad, etc.) to open them. You may also use specific software such as VideoProc or Subtitle Workshop. 

Now that we know how to visualize them let’s get back to the matter at hand. The SRT file format is essentially composed of 4 parts:

1. The Number of the Sequence

What does that mean? Simply put, it’s the number indicating the order of the subtitle lines. So logically, it will generally start with the number 1, then you will have the number 2, and so on. 

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2. The Timecodes

There are two of them: the start time and the end time of each subtitle. Those codes are written in terms of hours:minutes: seconds, milliseconds, and there’s a double dash arrow placed between them. More concretely speaking, it would look like this:

00:01:23,220 –> 00:01.30,150

Everyone wants an Argentina, a place where the slate is wiped clean. 

Note that the milliseconds are rounded to 3 decimal places. So in the example above, we have the duration of the subtitle line starting with ‘everyone’ and ending with ‘clean.’ And we are precisely coming to part 3 now. 

3. The Text of the Subtitle or Caption

We have already seen it in the previous example. “Everyone wants an Argentina, a place where the slate is wiped clean” is thereby what we call the subtitle line or text. 

srt file lines

4. A Blank Line

This space is used right before the next sequence.

Let’s resume what we’ve got so far: 

1 (subtitle number)

00:01:23,220 –> 00:01.30,150 (timecodes)

Everyone wants an Argentina, a place where the slate is wiped clean. (subtitle text)

                                                             (blank line)

2

etc. 

(the above example is courtesy of the series Dexter via Showtime). 

Now let’s see how we can create our own subtitle files. 

how to make an srt file

How to Make an SRT File

The making of SRT subtitles will be slightly different from one operating system to another. Depending on the one you are using, you will have to choose between the following:

Guidelines for Windows

  • Start by opening a new file in Notepad. 
  • Type the number 1. Remember, this means that you are initiating a new caption sequence.
  • Press ‘Enter’.
  • Write your timecodes as discussed previously. That is:

hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds –> hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds

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  • Press ‘Enter’.
  • You can type your captions in the next line. The rules regarding the ideal length may vary from one source to another. In our aforementioned Dexter quote example, there are 68 characters. It would probably be better to divide it into two parts so that it becomes easier to read for the spectators. So an average of 30-35 characters per line and 2 lines per caption should be fine. As subtitle creators, you (and your collaborators, if any) can “test” the final product on yourselves as well. This would allow you to evaluate how comfortable you feel with the length and speed of the captions. 
  • After the final line of the sequence, you should press ‘Enter’ twice. Remember, you will need a separating blank before the next sequence.
  • Type the number 2 and repeat the above process.
  • Once you are done with the whole transcript, select the following: ‘File’ -> ‘Save’. 
  • In the ‘File Name’ section, write the name of your file by adding .srt at the end.
  • In the ‘Save as type’ drop-down box, select ‘All Files.’ 
  • Click ‘Save’ to finish.

Guidelines for Mac

  • Start by opening a new file in TextEdit.
  • Type the number 1 to initiate a new caption sequence.
  • Press ‘Enter’.
  • Write your timecodes as discussed previously. That is:

hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds –> hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds

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  • Press ‘Enter’.
  • You can type your captions in the next line. Just as in Windows, the rules regarding the ideal length may vary from one source to another. In our aforementioned Dexter quote example, there are 68 characters. It would probably be better to divide it into two parts so that it becomes easier to read for the spectators. So an average of 30-35 characters per line and 2 lines per caption should be fine. As subtitle creators, you (and your collaborators, if any) can “test” the final product on yourselves as well. This would allow you to evaluate how comfortable you feel with the length and speed of the captions. 
  • After the final line of the sequence, you should press ‘Enter’ twice. Remember, you will need a separating blank before the next sequence.
  • Type the number 2 and repeat the above process.
  • Once you are done with the whole transcript, you will have to save it as a .srt file. You can select ”Format’ -> ‘Make Plain Text’. Alternatively, you can also go for the ‘Shift’ + ‘Command’ + ‘T’ keyboard shortcut. 
  • Select the following: ‘File’ -> ‘Save’. 
  • In the ‘Save As’ section, write the name of your file. Make sure to replace the .txt extension by .srt. 
  • Make the necessary adjustments on the menu. For instance, you must uncheck ‘Hide Extension’ and ‘If no extension is provided, use .txt’ (both are located on the bottom-left side). 
  • Click ‘Save’ to finish.

Additional note for both Windows and Mac users

Don’t forget that there are legal rules set for captions and subtitles usage. Those can be as ‘simple’ as copyright aspects. Remember for example the quote picked from the series Dexter in the previous paragraphs. We have cited the source of that quote, right? There are also more complex rules that we suggest you examine before creating any SRT file. The guidelines of the Federal Communications Commission is one of them.

Now that your bunch of .srt subtitles is ready, it’s time to switch to the uploading step. 

How to Upload an SRT File

You have the possibility to upload and use your SRT file on a variety of platforms. Here we will focus on YouTube. The video-sharing owned by Google is indeed fond of content that uses subtitles intelligently. If yours manage to fit its criteria, you can even get the chance to become promoted by the platform. In other words, YouTube can select timestamps and tags from your video depending on your level of pertinence. 

Time needed: 5 minutes.

Here is how to upload an SRT file to YouTube:

  1. Start by opening your YouTube Creator Studio.

    Select ‘Subtitles’ (on the left).
    youtube subtitles

  2. Choose the video to which you intend to add your captions.

    At this point, you should select your subtitle language via the ‘Add Language’ button. Then use the ‘Subtitles’ section by clicking on ‘Add’.
    channel subtitles

  3. Once the previous language step is completed, YouTube will redirect you to its subtitle editor.

    Select ‘Upload a file’ and choose the SRT file that you would like to add. 
    upload srt file to youtube

That’s it. Trust us; it’s worth the effort. Also, adding subtitles to your YouTube videos will definitely affect your Google Accessibility positively.

FAQs about SRT Files

Can I turn my SRT file into an mp3 and listen to it?

Not really. SRT files are not multimedia files. This means that they have nothing to do with an audio or video file, apart from complementing it. So such a conversion (SRT to mp3) is not possible. 

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But I can still convert them to other formats, right?

There are also specialized tools like Aegisub or Adobe Premiere Pro that can take care of this. 

I can’t open my file; why is that?

There may be a bug or an extension error. Check your file extension again. Make sure that it hasn’t been saved in a format other than SRT.

Can I use my captions on my other social media pages?

Yes, of course. For instance, you can try on Facebook by selecting ‘Edit’ on the video of your choice. Then go to ‘Captions.’ You should see an option for uploading your SRT file. 

What are closed captions?

Closed captions or CC refer to texts that are hidden. They are placed on a separate track, which means that they are not burnt directly into the video. To view them, you have to turn them on. 

Last Lines on SRT Files

SRT files are among the major attributes of the audiovisual sector. They are capable of spicing up any video content, so to speak. More importantly, they provide some mandatory informational data that a video can’t on its own. We have provided a simple start-up in this article, hoping that it would encourage you to create your own files. So don’t wait anymore to create your personal SRT files. 

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Diego Manson

Posts: 222

My name is Diego Manson, or as people call me, Seodiego. I'm an SEO enthusiast and blogger. Because of my interest in the internet, I wanted to make it a better place for myself. That's why I'm into SEO. I try to share all I know and learn with everyone to help people improve their online skills.

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