On this page, you will find practical tips for subtitling as well as information on how to order subtitling services under the framework agreement for language services.
- If you do your own subtitles
Length and time, format, language, silence/background noise, how long does subtitling take
- Autogenerated subtitles
- Ordering subtitling and transcription
Framework suppliers, formats, transcription types
Subtitling moving images can be a challenge: when the text flows, no one notices it – but if something stands out, reading can become halted. On this page, you will find a short guide on what to think about when you create subtitles.
- 2 lines max
- 37–42 characters (including spaces)
Time on screen
- 1 short line: 1.5–2 seconds
- 1 full line: 3 seconds
- 2 full lines: 5–6 seconds
Subtitles are presented in text blocks of 1-2 lines of text. A line should not exceed 42 characters (including spaces). That way, the text will fit on the screen and the viewer will be able to read it all.
A block of 2 lines needs to remain on screen for up to 6 seconds. If it is only one, shorter line, 2 seconds may be enough.
Text that does not fit into one block needs to continue in a second block.
Do not use ellipses (…) to show that a sentence will continue in the next block. Avoid letting a subtitle hang over a shot change. Line breaks should be at logical points and ideally at a piece of punctuation like a full stop or comma.
Justification. Subtitles in English are normally centred, subtitles in Swedish are left-aligned.
Do not hyphenate words that do not fit in one line; instead, move the word to the following line.
Line arrangement. In order not to put too much strain on the eyes, the upper line should be shorter than the lower one:
This sentence is too long to
fit on a single line.
This sentence is too
long to fit on a single line.
Please note that the above sentence is only intended as an illustration of line arrangement. Line breaks should always be inserted where natural breaks would occur, i.e. not in the middle of a phrase.
Compress the text if needed, for example by opting for shorter words if possible (using suitable register) and deleting any non-essential content such as filler words.
If you are subtitling video that largely consists of close-ups of the person talking, you need to stay closer to the actual speech and you should keep words that can be easily lip-read.
It can be tempting to use abbreviations to compress the text, but they often have a negative effect on legibility. Write them in full if possible.
The SLU abbreviation EMA should be written in full: environmental assessment.
Symbols and numbers
- Do not use symbols, write the words in full: 70 euro, 10 per cent.
- Use digits to write numbers up to nine.
- Write dates in the format 1 May 2020.
- Do not abbreviate the names of months (Oct, Nov, etc.).
- Use a full stop for times: 08.07, 22.35.
- If you are only stating full hours, no colon is needed: 8–17.
Silence and background noise
It is important to mark longer silences and background noises if they are relevant to understanding the video. Sometimes, music covers dialogue, for example between groups of people. In those cases, it is important to state that the dialogue in question is inaudible.
Silence and background noises should be marked with parentheses. Example: (inaudible dialogue).
How long does subtitling take?
How long it takes to subtitle a video clip depends on the content, but expect it to take 5-10 times the duration of the clip.
According to the Swedish Language Act, public authorities like SLU are required to use language that is ’cultivated, simple and comprehensible’. High quality is also a central part of SLU’s language policy.
The quality of autogenerated text is not sufficient to meet these objectives. Poor-quality subtitles are not helpful for viewers and will not give a good impression of SLU.
This means that if you use autogenerated text, you will need to review it to ensure sufficient quality. The originator of recorded material (person/unit) is responsible for the quality of subtitles.
Subtitling and transcription can be ordered from the national framework agreement for language services. Ordering is done through re-opened competition, which means you must contact all four framework suppliers and ask them for a quote.
You can use the form provided by Kammarkollegiet (the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency), see under Links below. Or email the suppliers, making sure you include the following information:
- When you need the subtitles to be delivered and when the supplier can have access to the material that needs subtitling.
- When you need their quote (allow at least 24 hours).
- Description of the recorded material – scope, subject field, number of speakers etc.
- The criteria you will base your selection on; e.g. is the delivery date more important than price?
When you have received the quotes and selected a supplier, remember to inform the unsuccessful bidders. Confirm the order by sending a purchase order from Proceedo.
For subtitles in English, and translation of subtitles between Swedish and English, contact:
- CBG Konsult och Information AB, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Semantix Språkcentrum AB, email: email@example.com
- AAR Translator Aktiebolag, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Språkservice Sverige AB, email: email@example.com
For Swedish subtitles, contact:
- Expressiva AB, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Space 360 AB, email: email@example.com
- Språkservice Sverige AB, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Språkkonsulterna Prodicta AB, email: email@example.com
Subtitles can be delivered as an .srt or a .vtt file. It is also possible to order voiceover services.
There are three types of transcription:
- edited (the script is edited for clarity and correctness, suitable e.g. for recorded lectures)
- intelligent (edited to remove e.g. filler words and repetitions)
- verbatim (everything is included; fillers, murmuring, jumbled sentences)