Beginner puzzled by price of subtitling software in relation to rates
Thread poster: Michael Beijer

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:55
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Apr 15, 2013

Hi everyone. Most of my present work consists of either translation or glossary creation, but I would like to start doing subtitling as well (because it looks fun). So I did a little research into the software that I would need to have and be able to use and was a little surprised to discover that it all seems rather expensive. This seems especially strange because I was under the impression that rates for subtitling are relatively low (or so people say in the forums).

Here is a list of programs I was told that are used:


Can anyone comment on exactly which software people generally use, and for what? Are there cheaper ways of getting into subtitling?



Robert Daraban  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:55
Member (2008)
English to Romanian
+ ...
Subtitle Workshop Apr 15, 2013

Dear Michael,

I also do subtitling and I use Subtitle Workshop, which was free, last time I checked, and it supports several file types. I have translated four movies with this software and there war no complaints and no problems.

Good luck.


[Edited at 2013-04-15 13:30 GMT]


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:55
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Which part of subtitling? Apr 15, 2013

I see subtitling as a three-step process, which I have described here. Please bear in mind that I entered subtitling after having spent 18 years in translation for dubbing, so this vision - actually my workflow - is adapted from translation for dubbing. Other subtitlers may have completely different workflows, possibly more efficient. Effectiveness is not the issue, since my clients have been delighted with my results since 2004.

For translation I use Express Scribe and Windows Notepad. Express Scribe has a free version too, I don't know which features lack there, probably the free one doesn't play the video on the screen. Notepad, if set to auto-wrap, by adjusting the window to the proper width, will prevent me from making subs longer than I should. (Btw, for dubbing I still use MS Word, the industry standard.)

I do proofreading/checking/timespotting with the free Subtitle Workshop. Use v2.51. You may find v4.0, which is a failed attempt to rewrite it from scratch; avoid it.

Yet some subtitlers will tell you that you MUST buy the $4-digit software packages. It's like those people who say you MUST have Trados - and no other - to translate anything.

Subtitle Workshop is a barebones tool that will help you do a great job if you really know the ropes in subtitling. The expensive packages will give you all the automation you'll need if you don't.

However there is a catch. There are many subtitle file formats, at least 60 that I am familiar with. A few of them (often used by TV networks, mostly in Europe) are proprietary to some of these expensive programs. If your clientele demands such formats, there is NO alternative to buying the corresponding $$$ programs that create them.

Now, do your clients require you to burn the subtitles on the video, or author DVDs with them overlaid?

Permanently burning the subtitles onto the (digital) video, like it was done on VHS and film, can be accomplished with freeware. The quality I get with VirtualDub and its Subtitler plugin may be seen here. (Brazilian standard subtitles are yellow letters with black outline.)

However there is no DVD authoring freeware that I know of that can offer good quality for overlaid subtitles.

If you want more information, tutorials, etc. knock yourself out searching at VideoHelp! If anything for digital video exists or once existed, they probably have it covered there.


Local time: 01:55
English to French
Same old song... Apr 16, 2013

Michael Beijer wrote:
I would like to start doing subtitling as well (because it looks fun).

Yeah, it's hardly work and we're all paid loads and loads. Come join us. ;o )


Local time: 01:55
German to French
+ ...
BelleNuit (Mac) Apr 16, 2013

Dear Michael

I work on Mac with BelleNuit and I am happy with it. I find its price quite reasonable too. Here is the link for download: , and here the one to the main page:

You can use the "offline" version to test it, if I remember well the main restriction is that you then only can export a low and limited numbers of subtitles (around 10 or 20 of them, can't remember exactly), but to get a first idea of the software, that should be enough.

Hope this helps! And good luck!

PS: There are versions for Windows as well, but I don't know how current they are.


Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:55
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Thanks everyone for all the information! Apr 17, 2013

I think I slightly underestimated the complexity of the situation. Looks like I might need a little training (either paid or self-study) before going any further.



Adinant Adulyasat  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:55
English to Thai
Aegisub Apr 22, 2013

It puzzles me that no one hasn't mentioned Aegisub - this is a sophisticated software for subtitling that you should check out too.


jbjb  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:55
Estonian to English
+ ...
Software Apr 25, 2013

Of course you require some training beforehand.
As for choosing the software, it depends on the clients you work for. You shouldn't decide anything before checking what file formats they use.
If you find work with major subtitling companies, many of them have their own proprietary software that they can give to translators free of charge - it's professional software but the translator versions only create one file type that cannot be opened by any other software in the world.
If you want to freelance and your clients require files in EBU .STL (not to be mixed up with at least two text-based .STL formats) or .pac or .890 (the three most common file extensions used in subtitling), then your only option is to get a professional software. There are no free software options for these file formats because all of these file formats are proprietary and software makers that support these formats have to pay the owners of file formats.
Instead of buying a software, the most sensible option at first might be getting a 1-year license - most of the professional software have this option and it costs around 1,000 EUR a year. Just check their web pages to get the cheapest option.


Monica Paolillo
Local time: 01:55
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
If you have a Mac... Apr 26, 2013

... I can really recommend Annotation Edit ( It is the best subtitling professional software package I've worked with so far, full of most useful features, exports to the widest range of formats and only costs Eur 250.00 or something like that. You do need training though because it really takes a long time to find out how to work with it in the most productive way, but the same is true for all other professional packages that cost a lot more money and are a long way from user-friendly. Cueing and timecoding is not something you'll learn out of the blue...


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