How To Add Subtitles To A Movie Or TV Series

One of the first things I do before watching a movie is add subtitles. Not just with films in languages I don’t speak well, like Japanese, but even with English films or television series, like House MD.

Especially with a television series like House MD, if I want to keep up when they start throwing around names like pneumothorax or retinoblastoma.

Today we’re going to look at a few different ways of how to add subtitles to a movie or any other video file. We’ll be discussing both the soft and the hard way - overlaying subtitles by means of software, or burning them directly into the videos.

Add Subtitles To A Movie File Using via Overlay Method

We’ll start out with the overlays, as this will be the fastest and most easiest way of using subtitles with your movies. We’ll show you a few alternatives, because contrary to popular belief, I do think people want things to choose from.


Available for Windows 

This is an external, minimalistic application that runs from the taskbar and uses a DirectShow filter to overlay subtitles. This means that you can use it with nearly all video players, ranging from Media Player Classic to Real Player.

The wonderful thing about DirectVobSub is how little you need to do, and how little you notice it. By default, no additional set-up is needed.

DirectVobSub automatically looks for subtitles that show the same name, both in the videos as in a \subtitles folder. Of course these settings can be tweaked further in the program settings, if thought necessary.

Nowadays DirectVobSub is a standard addition in most decent Codec Packs, like K-Lite. Otherwise, it can always be found here.

VLC media player

Available for Windows VLC media player 1 Linux VLC media player 2 Mac 

VLC media player is thought to be one of the best media players available.

One of the great things about the VLC media player is its standard ability to overlay subtitles. Besides, the application can be used on Windows, Linux and Mac systems.

There are a few ways to get our subtitles. The first, and probably easiest way, is to put them in the same folder under the same name - VLC media player will then automatically load them when the video is opened.

Additionally, you can always add subtitle files through the ‘Advanced File Opening’ or the ‘Browse for Subtitles…’ options - located respectively in the File and Video dropdown menu’s.

The application can be freely downloaded from the site. There are also portable versions of VLC media player available. You can find the Windows version here, and the Mac version here.

Subtitle Burning (AVI)

Tutorial for Windows add subtitles to avi

Burning in subtitles means that we’ll put them directly into the video source. This has the advantage of being playable on every platform (even PSPs and iPhones), but the process takes a lot longer and you won’t be able to remove the subtitles afterwards.

Usually, subtitles are burned into AVI files. We’ll show you how to add subtitles to avi movie file in the tutorial below.

Files you’ll need:

Step One: Installing Software

Let’s start out by installing the software.

VirtualDub doesn’t have an installer, so it can be unzipped right on your desktop or in another folder of your choice. No special options are required during the Xvid installation either.

During the VobSub installation, please make sure that you’ve selected both “VobSub for VirtualDub” and “TextSub for VirtualDub and AviSynth” under plugins.

You’ll also need to specify the directory where you’ve unzipped VirtualDub.

Step Two: Preparation

Start by opening the VirtualDub application - open the VirtualDub.exe file in the unzipped folder - and open your AVI file.

Next, we’re going to be enabling the TextSub filter. Navigate to Video -> Filters -> Add… and locate it in the list.

Select the TextSub filter, and press OK.

In the pop-up window, press “Open” and browse to your subtitle file. This file must be in one of the supported subtitle formats (srt, sub, smi, psb, ssa, ass).

When You’re ready, press OK.

Back in the video dropdown menu, make sure you’ve got Full processing mode selected, and go to Compression.

Here you need to select one of the available codecs. Xvid does a great job for a free codec, and that’s the one I used. You can alter some settings, and tweak the quality of the video if you press Customize - however, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’d best leave it be.

Accept everything when you’re done.

Also make sure that the program’s set up to do a Direct stream copy of the audio; this doesn’t need any processing.

Finally, save the video somewhere on your computer, and wait for the process to finish.

This can take quite a while and is quite memory extensive, so you might want to leave your computer alone for an hour or two, and do something else for the time being. If you’ve got big files to process, you can run the application at night.

I hope you found this guide helpful and were able to learn something from it. If you’ve got any hints and tips, or unanswered questions, you can find the comments section below.

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