5 Tips to making ridiculously good captions


Timing: Captions should be timed to the audio, or if necessary within 3 frames of the audio. Understanding how to time dialogue before/after a shot change is key to creating perfectly timed captions.

Appearance: Line breaks are super important, so don’ forget to apply all the line break rules. It is better to segment a long single-line caption into a two-line caption, distributing the words on each line. This is because the eye and the brain of the viewers render a two-line caption as more bulky and, as a result, accelerate the reading process.

Spelling and grammar: Be sure to know the spelling and punctuation conventions of the language that you are captioning. Always run a spell and grammar check. This 5 minute task can be the difference between a good and bad file.

SFX: The aim of captioning is to give the information that a hearing person receives by listening. Not only is information provided through dialogue but many other sounds, or even a lack of sound, may also be vital to the understanding of content, context or plot. All of these must therefore be conveyed through captions.

Formatting:  Captions should be positioned at the lower part of the screen, so that they cover an area usually occupied by image action which is of lesser importance to the target film. That being said, raise captions that cover on-screen text.


7 Tips: What to remember when captioning…



  • Whatever project you are working on, know your target language.
  • If you are working with a target language that isn’t your native language, get hold of language guidelines.
  • Remember to read all target languages specs, and apply all the requirements regarding format and style.
  • Know what the purpose of your work is. Is it going to be used for translation into multiple languages (i.e: it is a template) or will it be delivered to the client directly.
  • Pay special attention to: Character limitation, Continuity, Dual Speakers, Forced Narratives, Italics, Punctuation, Quotes, and Reading Speed.
  • Find out if there are trailers, synopsis or forced narrative files for reference or do they need to be created?
  • If a separate forced narrative file is needed, can it just be extracted from the general subtitling file or does your client want all on-screens (including the ones that coincide with dialogue)?

I hope that you find these tips useful and that they will help you maximize efficiency.

Best wishes

Kelly O’Donovan

GOSUB – An education in the art of subtitling