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The Difference Between Subtitling and Time Coded Video Transcription

Subtitling is often looked upon as a form of time coded transcription. You have a video transcript and ready; all you need to do is insert some timings, right? Wrong. Whilst time coded video transcription does require skill and experience, professional subtitling is a whole new ballgame. For anyone considering using either time coded transcription or subtitling services, we’re here to clarify some of the considerable differences in what’s actually involved in the difference between subtitling and time coded video transcription…

Transcription and Subtitling Writing Styles

When it comes to video transcription, clients often specify the style of writing they would prefer for their video projects. For instance, Verbatim transcripts, Intelligent Verbatim Transcripts or Discourse Analysis. Transcriptionists vary both the way they write and what they include within the transcription in order to suit their individual client’s needs. For instance, they may choose to include ums, ers, and repetitions. Similarly, they may work to highly edit punctuation and grammar to fit a specific literary style.

Subtitling services require one standard writing style. Typically, subtitlers write captions to include all speech but often exclude unnecessary repetitions, ‘ahs’ and ‘erms’. The consensus is to avoid altering sentence structure, as the aim and focus of subtitles is always to accurately reflect speech style and content.

Time Coding Precision for Subtitles and Transcripts

For time coded video transcriptions, the standards vary widely between how frequently time codes are inserted. Audio typists input time stamps anywhere between every 10 seconds to every five minutes. The purpose of time coded transcription is typically to provide a general point of reference to sections of audio or video. For this reason, it’s typically used for video editing, research, logging of rushes and legal meetings or witness statements. Accuracy is usually kept to within one or two seconds.

In contrast, the time stamps used for subtitling typically occur at least every sentence. Minimum subtitle durations tend to be as little as one second, with the maximums typically between five and eight seconds. Subtitles require time codes which are accurate to within one thousandth of a second in order to sync perfectly with audio. In addition, within subtitling services, it’s standard practice where possible, to avoid subtitles overlapping shot changes.

Formatting Options for Subtitles and Transcripts

Subtitling and time coded video transcription services can be provided in a variety of different formats. Transcription companies usually deliver transcripts within easy-to-read Word documents, PDFs, Excel files or simple text editors. Layouts can include the use of tabs, indents, tables and a speaker key. Hyperlinks are sometimes used within transcripts, as required, for reference but typically, the layouts and formats are very basic.

Subtitles come in a variety of formats and need to be formatted correctly in order to display correctly on their associated viewing platforms. For example, Television, Video on Demand, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Blu-Ray, etc). There is an absolutely enormous range of subtitling formats out there.

Some of the more basic and universally compatible formats such as .WebVTT or .SRT subtitles can be viewed and edited in simple text editor programmes such as NotePad. In fact, it’s actually even possible (with a heck of a lot of patience and knowledge) to write .SRT subtitles manually using NotePad or TextEditor for Mac. These basic formats are often used for web videos, including YouTube subtitles and Vimeo subtitles.

More specialised formats for broadcast subtitling tend to offer many more options in terms of styling, placement, display options, colours, etc. Formats such as .EBU-TT, .DFXP, .EBU-STL, .CAP and others require specialist professional subtitling software to write, view and format. The text and data are encoded and need to be exported correctly in order to function with their corresponding videos.

Time Coded Transcription and Subtitling Specifications / Guidelines

Both subtitling and time coded video transcription require audio typists to work to specific guidelines. Transcriptionists work to comply with a limited number of specifications in terms of video transcriptions. Design and layout specifications usually consist of creating a table with up to four columns of information: time, speaker, dialogue and visual description. Verbatim, intelligent verbatim or edited transcriptions form the standard guidelines in terms of the writing process.

Transcriptionists quite simply need to insert time codes into the document within a given time frame. In contrast, when it comes to specifications and guidelines for subtitling services, things are far more complicated.

Subtitling specifications consist of first working within the given formatting style, e.g. SRT, STL, etc. Subtitlers need to adhere to guidelines around reading speeds, grammar, punctuation, line breaks, use of italics, placements, forced narratives and more. Especially where closed captioning is required for broadcast services, conforming to guidelines is an absolute must as closed captioning provision is regulated by Ofcom and is a legal requirement for television services.

For our low cost subtitling and time coded video transcription services,call us now on (0) 1634 867 131 to get a quote or email us at

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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.

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