Putting subtitles on Youtube

Last year I coached a project called Historias de Terromoto about the recovery situation 6 months after Chile’s massive Feb. 2010 earthquake. It was conducted by the Universidad del Desarrollo, bringing from Santiago location of the university to it’s Concepción location to produce the documentary project.

This year’s project is bringing the Concepción communications students to work with their peers here in Santiago, looking at innovative initiatives related to the environment, energy and sustainable development. I am back in charge of the audiovisual (video) group this year.

We had our first meeting on Thursday. Having participated in Powering a Nation, as a fellow in 2009, and as a coach in 2010, I know a number of stories in this vein. However, they are in English. Despite the fact that the majority of these students have respectable to admirable English skills, I thought it important to have subtitles on the videos, so they could focus on the work, not the language.

Thus, I learned how to put subtitles on videos in Youtube. Now, Power play: story of a start-up (above) and Roping the Wind have subtitles in Youtube. As I found the Youtube instructions confusing, I thought it would be useful to simplify them in this blog.

The basic structure of the document is this.

0:00:11.400,0:00:14.100
Power play: la cuenta de un start-up

0:00:19.000,0:00:22.000
He pasado por este tipo de proyectos y no funcionó

That’s it. There in no necessary code on the top or bottom. No other explanations to the computer what kind of file this is.

The time code goes hours:minutes:seconds:milliseconds. There are a number of programs that show the video at the same time as you enter captions, thereby making it more accurate and allowing you to be ignorant of the bolts of the subtitle document. (You can find them in the help area of Youtube concerning subtitles and captions) but, as I had already set up a document with times anticipating putting it in Youtube, I found creating my own document more efficient.

You should create this in textedit (on a mac) or blocnotes (on pc). All of these instructions are for textedit, so, pc users, you’ll have to extrapolate.

There are a few tricky bits in this.

You should not have spaces between the two time codes. Only a comma.

You also must have a double space between each subtitle block.

You cannot have any formatting on the test. Originally, I was trying to make the b-roll translations italic. After writing the text in text edit, I changed the text to plain text. It’s in the Format Menu – Make Plain Text.

I then saved the file as a rough text file (.rtf) as a plain text file (.txt) is not available.

I duplicated the file using the right click menu, and then changed the extension of the duplicate to .txt. (I also shortened the file name back to powerplay from powerplay copy).


Yes, you are sure you want to change the extension to .txt.

I then duplicated the .txt file to change the file extension to .sbv which is the subtitle file type youtube uses. Again, yes, use .sbv


Then, you go into Youtube. When you are logged into your account, and on your chosen video you are given a series of menu items above your videos. You cannot see these on other people’s videos, and you cannot add subtitles without a login for the account that uploaded it.

Click on Edit captions/subtitles.

Click on Add a new caption track.

Browse to your file.


Select the language. Give the track a name, if you like.

And hit Upload File.

If you are successful, a new caption file will be added. If not, you will receive a bunch of warnings in red, as I did before I took out my spaces between time codes, added a double space and made my text plain.

You will be able to access your captions by clicking on the CC button on the bottom of your video which will be red when captions are selected as an option.