Adding subtitles to your promotional videos can help you expand your reach and increase engagement with your content across various channels, improve SEO, and do many more things (depending on the goal of your videos).
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However, it can be a frustrating process. Switching between the video player and the editor, pausing and rewinding to get the right sentence, constantly losing context — all of this can feel like an uphill battle.
In this article, we’ll review several conventional subtitle translation tools, as well as Smartcat’s newest features that let you translate subtitles right alongside the video, and preview the translated subtitles to make sure they're in sync with the speaker on screen.
Preparing your subtitles for translation
Subtitles are saved in plain text files separate from their original video.
To keep things simple, we’ll cover SRT files here, which is the most common file type for YouTube and Facebook, although subtitles can be encoded as SUB/SBV or VTT files and other formats too.
Here's how to create .srt files using YouTube:
- Upload your video to YouTube.
- Go to your creator studio and click on the ‘Subtitles’ tab in the left toolbar.
- Select the video.
- Hover over the three dots of the automatically transcribed subtitles and click on ‘Edit’.
- Then click on ‘Actions’ and download your SRT file.
The file is now ready for use in your translation tool of choice.
Choosing the right subtitle translation app
To help you choose the best app for subtitle translation we need to, first of all, understand the challenges you might face. These could be different from the difficulties involved with general subtitling so it’s worth taking into account the features and software we consider here.
Here are the main characteristics of most subtitle translation tools in the market today:
- Google Translate is the only integrated machine translation engine.
Why is this relevant? Different translation engines produce different quality depending on the subject or language pair used.
- Limited editing functionalities including not being able to reuse previous translations you may have done, or not clearly highlighting frequently used terms.
Why is this relevant? Being able to retrieve, reinsert, and easily edit previous translations is convenient and can save you hours of work. You can easily store translations for further review and reuse in future.
- No way to hire professional translators from within the tool. When it is possible, splitting the work between several vendors is either not possible or too complex.
Why is this relevant? It’s very convenient to be able to send your translation to the editor without leaving the translation tool, and be able to hire more than one professional when necessary.
- No live, synced preview during the translation and editing.
Why is this relevant? When it comes to subtitling, it’s not just the speed and the quality of the translations that matter but also the functionality that lets you see if the text in the foreign language is displayed correctly as the speaker moves their lips.
Bearing all these points in mind, we’ve put together a short list of tools and apps to help you compare and make an informed decision.
Subtitle Translation Tools for YouTube and Other Platforms
Smartcat is a cloud-based translation platform that offers both machine and human translation, translation memories, glossaries, and a wide variety of other technologies.
When it comes to subtitles, it offers 8 top industry machine translation engines and AI that selects the best fit for your language pair.
There are also several free machine translation options available, as well as the largest industry marketplace where you can find specialized language professionals if you want your translation done by a trained human.
You can also upload your source video file and see the subtitles rendered on top of the videos. Just take a look at how it works!
- Create a project, upload your SRT/VTT file, and choose automated translation.
- Add your video as a reference file (if you want to use live synced preview).
- Open the translation in the Editor and click the ‘Target preview’ button.
- Watch the translation laid on your source video and edit it sentence by sentence.
- Many translation engines under the hood,
- Live synced preview,
- A powerful Editor for you to work on texts alongside teammates, store translations, and save them as translation memories for future use,
- Ability to hire and assign one or several people or companies to one project,
- Project management automation options.
Best fit for: Smartcat is a great choice for anyone who wants to work with subtitles at a professional level without having to use complicated tools. Aside from individual users, it can also be used by
- Companies that do a lot of video marketing and want to reach new markets.
- TV and movie localization studios.
- Video creators looking for new global audiences.
- Translation agencies that have clients who need to translate subtitles for their videos.
Flixier is a tool that claims to be the most powerful and quickest video editor online featuring subtitle translation among other options.
It’s a paid product, but it's definitely worth paying attention to.
It has a fairly complicated interface but the subtitles can be translated right in the product (which is definitely interesting if you use other Flixier functionalities to create and edit videos professionally).
Flixier only offers automated translation and you can’t make any changes to the target text (however, you can change the source text). We found no information about integrated translation engines, but judging by the speed of the translation, it looks like it might be Google Translate only.
- Generates subtitles automatically,
- Translates into multiple languages (one after another),
- Live synced preview,
- You can translate subtitles and edit the source video in parallel.
Best fit for:
Using Flixier comes with a steep learning curve, so it might only be worth getting to grips with if you’re an operator, designer, or someone specializing in video creation and editing.
Online Subtitle Translator & Editor by Syed Akbar
This web app has quite limited functionality but it’s fully focused on subtitle translation. You can upload files, edit, and download the translations, but that’s it.
- Super easy-to-use interface,
- Dragging and dropping files to translate right from the main page,
- Multi-file translation.
Best fit for:
Translating and editing subtitles for videos you just want to watch.
A web app with only Google Translate as the machine translation engine, but has a basic editor and a subtitle converter. The UI seems (unnecessarily) bulkier than the previous tool, but that depends on what the user wants to see, of course.
- Translates into several languages at the same time,
- Exports translated subtitles in different formats,
- You can edit subtitles that have been translated with other tools.
Best fit for:
Translating and editing subtitles for personal needs, e.g. blogging.
This app combines simplicity with multiple supported formats.
However, it only uses Google Translate as the machine translation engine, which isn’t the most powerful MT engine out there.
- Lean, powerful app,
- Translates several files at once,
- Stores files in the Editor.
Best fit for: Occasionally translating and editing subtitles for short videos to share with your friends.
The choice is yours
So, we’ve looked at the top subtitle translators you can find online. We think Smartcat is the best choice for those who want to move beyond hobbyist video translation, but you should always pick what fits your needs. And if you’re focusing more on video creation than subtitle translation, you may want to consider Flixier or other software tools that provide all the video features you need plus basic subtitling options.