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Capital Captions Standard Subtitling Guidelines

Subtitling Guidelines

If you have a project where the client has a non-specified subtitling format, we use use our own tried and tested standard subtitling guidelines. In order for us to ensure consistency across all our films and videos, Capital Captions follows strict subtitle guidelines to maintain a high standard of subtitling.

Our guidelines ensure that every word, line break and speaker is consistently and accurately captured for perfect subtitles every time.

Technical Specifications:

  • The standard font used is Arial with a point size 47 to fit with high resolution content and point size 32 to fit with standard definition videos.
  • Maximum line length of 47 characters per line.
  • Subtitles must have a minimum subtitle display time of 1 seconds (2 seconds where possible).
  • Subtitles should have a maximum subtitle display time of 7 seconds.

Line and Transcription:

  • All subtitles must stay within a text safe area, as defined.
  • Maximum of two lines of text per subtitle. Line splits should be made on a linguistic basis taking into account grammar. Visual similarities in terms of equal line lengths should be a secondary consideration, though one word lines should be avoided.
  • Subtitlers should write subtitle lines to match the dialogue as much as possible.
  • Avoid overlapping of subtitles across shot changes (within 2 frames).
  • Maximum of 47 characters per line.
  • UTF-8 encoding should be used to ensure correct display of foreign characters. 

Timing and line Breaks:

  • Subtitles should ideally start in sync with the start of dialogue and never before. Where reading speed is not an issue, subtitles should be removed from the screen immediately as speech finishes.
  • Subtitles should be kept within shot changes parameters by 2 frames either side.
  • Spoken dialogue and subtitle or line breaks should follow the rhythm of speech for readability reasons.
  • Reading speeds should be maximum 250 words per minute for adult content and maximum of 180 words per minute for youth content.

Use of Brackets and Characters:

  • Where foreign speech occurs, indicate language within square brackets. E.g. [spanish]
  • Speaker identifications should be in capitals with a colon before speech. E.g. HARRY: Men and women can never be friends
  • Double quote marks should be used when dialogue refers to speech
  • Musical notes at the beginning and end of a line, and italics should be used for song lyrics or to indicate music

Content Accuracy and Inclusions:

  • Speech should not be simplified
  • Where sentence shortening is absolutely necessary, truncations should be prioritised and limited to ‘filler’ words.


Italics will be used for the following:

  • Dialogue from devices including radios, televisions, computers or telephones.
  • When dialogue originates offscreen, such as out-of-scene speakers or narrators.
  • Where emphasis is required to convey intonation or meaning

Foreign Speech in Subtitles:

 Where translations will be applied to subtitle files, forced narratives or translations must be included.

  • Where translations are not being applied to subtitles a simple indication of foreign speech will suffice, E.g. [French]
  • For commonly known foreign words, transcribe with correct spelling and punctuation, in italics. E.g. Bonjour!

Use of Numbers:

  • Numerals 1-10 should be written out in full. All other numbers should be portrayed as digits.

The subtitling industry is always changing and evolving. As new regulations are introduced for video makers and broadcasters, and new formats are introduced to work for video across different platforms, viewer’s needs have changed too. Our subtitling guidelines are always being updated, so be sure to check back with us for improvements. Please also take a look at our closed captioning guidelines if you are unsure of what would be best required for your project.

Subtitle Services

  • Broadcast Subtitles
  • Subtitles for Films
  • Online Video Subtitles
  • Television Subtitles
  • Subtitle Placement
  • Subtitle Formatting

Closed Captions

  • Broadcast Closed Captions
  • VoD Closed Captions
  • Closed Caption Formatting
  • Captions for the Deaf
  • Caption Regulations
  • Amazon Closed Captions

Translation Services

  • Foreign Subtitles
  • YouTube Translation
  • Video Translation
  • French Translation
  • Captions and Formatting
  • VoD Translation

Contact us today for your free 5 minute sample!

About us

At Capital Captions, we take pride in our flexible, tailor-made approach to subtitling, closed captioning, video translation and video transcription services. We offer professional, reliable, cost effective services to clients across the globe.

  • Walsham Road, Kent, United Kingdom ME5 9HX
  • +44 (0) 1634 867 131
  • infocaptions

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