How to sync subtitles

I recently noticed this question asked and started to wonder myself. Having had to make subtitles for one of my foreign language movies, I was surprised to learn that there is a vibrant community of people making subtitles out of scratch for movies they trade online.

There are 3 ways that subtitle syncing can be achieved, using 3 different programs: SubSync, VobSub and SubtitleWorkshop.

SubSync or TimeAdjuster

The first method involves downloading and installing a dedicated program:

SubSyncHere’s the procedure for SubSync, courtesy of iHowto, from an article dated November 2006:

In this window, you’ll simply select the first line and press CTRL + F5. This will mark the first line of the subtitles. Then scroll down to the bottom and select the bottom line, and press CTRL + F6. Now we’re done with this window, so switch to the main window (leaving the subtitle window open). What you now need to do is start the movie and wait for the first line of speech. When that happens, you press the button labeled “Blue” in the bottom right of the window. You then fast forward to the ending of the movie and press the “Green” button when the last line of speech comes on.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it just right at first, you can simply rewind and press the buttons again to get it perfect. When you’ve pressed these two buttons, the program will now how to scale the time in the subtitle file accordingly. What you then do is press the “Adjust” button all the way down in the right corner. You’ll be asked where to save the new, and correct subtitle file.

How to use TimeAdjuster guide can be found in one of the videos below. I would rather not use this procedure, as it requires installing a new program which might not even work with my version of Windows.


This procedure requires the use of VobSub, which is a collection of tools for playing with subtitles. However, as the name implies, this was made mostly for DVD movies. I am not terribly excited by this method either, as VobSub works with images rather than text.

There are 3 situations / steps that this tool / afterdawn guide would cover:

The first will be conversion from NTSC to PAL or PAL to NTSC. The second will be removing the first few seconds (or more) and the final one will be delaying the beginning of the subtitles. If you need to do more than one of these operations on your subtitles it's best to stick to this order.

The subtitles need to be in VobSub native format, i.e., IDX + SUB. If they are in either SRT (SubRip) or SSA (Substation Alpha), they need to be converted, using Txt2VobSub. Afterdawn makes it all simple, using VobSub Cutter:

VobSub: Sub File Cutter

Once your subtitle file is loaded you need to set both the original and framerate and the one you're converting to. First check the Modify FPS box, then select your framerates. For NTSC the framerate can be either 23.976 or 29.97. For PAL it will always be 25.

To crop the beginning and end,

Once your subtitles are loaded you'll see the beginning and ending timecodes displayed. This will normally be all 0's for the start timecode, but may occasionally be higher. To remove subtitles from the beginning add the amount of time you want to remove to what's already displayed. For example, to remove the first 2 seconds you would change it from 0 : 0 : 0 : 0 to 0 : 0 : 2 : 0. In most cases you'll also want to make sure the box next to Modify timestamps to count from "Start" is checked. If you want to trim from the end, subtract the time you want to remove from the end timecode.

Finally, to add delay to subtitles, use the main interface and choose VobSub Configure:

The number listed for Time offset (ms) is normally set to 0 by default. If you need to delay the subtitles simply change this number. Increasing it will cause the subtitles to display later. Decreasing it will make the subtitles display sooner. When you click the OK button the delay will be saved.

Subtitle Workshop

This is my favourite method, primarily because this is what I used to create subtitles from scratch. It is also the tool I recommend to you as well if you plan on creating your own subtitles – for instance, for a video you made and uploaded on YouTube.

1. As the SubScene guide linked below suggests, after downloading and installing the program, run it and drag / drop the video and its subtitle in the main window:

Run the program and load your subtitle and video by dragging/dropping both to SubtitleWorkshop’s main window 2. Open the subtitle sync windows, by clicking Add Subtitle/Video Synchronization Point" or pressing Ctrl+Alt+P.

To sync the subtitle, click on "Add Subtitle/Video Synchronization Point" or press Ctrl+Alt+P:

3. Select the ‘Simple’ tab 4. Find out the timings of the first and the last spoken lines. They’re displayed on the right side of the sliding bar: 5. Now go back to the ‘Simple’ tab and change the values accordingly:
image image image

Whichever method you choose, make sure you save your subtitles with a new filename or even a different format, so that you can start over if something does not work. The video playlist below should provide more clues if needed.

Sources / More info: ihowto-subsync, afterdawn-vobsub, subsync, subscene-subtitleW, vobsub, urusoft-subtitle-workshop, time-adjuster, yt-subtitles


Move Your Sub said…
You can go on to online sync your subtitles!

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