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Activity Forums Adobe Premiere Pro Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing

  • Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing

    Posted by Andrew Petrov on March 3, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Hi all,

    Currently working on a film that was shot in a foreign language. The dialogue needs to be translated into English and all lines imported into Premiere and timed with the footage, so we can begin editing.

    What’s the best way to approach in Premiere to achieve this? Creating titles for each phrase/sentence looks very overwhelming and cumbersome.


    Santanu Bhattacharjee replied 2 weeks ago 9 Members · 9 Replies
  • 9 Replies
  • David Roth weiss

    March 3, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Your logic is understandable, but subtitling every line of dialog would be totally inefficient. If you don’t understand the language you need to get a full time assistant who does.

    David Roth Weiss
    Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
    David Weiss Productions
    Los Angeles

    David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.

  • Trevor Asquerthian

    March 4, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    When we had to do this for hours of sourcefootage in multiple languages, we had timecoded translations and used an app that generated subtitles from the translations that were timed based on a word count from each timecode reference.

    More timecodes in the translations increased accuracy of the subs

    The app generated PNG files for us but could also export other formats to import as PPro or Avid subtitles.

    Apps used: video toolsheds ‘make transcriber files’ (for BITC audio for transcription/translation and ‘Subbits’ for the subtitle generation.

  • Mickey Power

    March 8, 2019 at 6:36 am

    You can work off the translated text in a document with timecode marking off two line segments. I usually have the translation done in a table with the foreign text in one column, then timecode in the next, and the English translation in the third column. So you do a paper edit and then grab only those clips you want and keep the subtitling to a minimum.

    Also Youtube has a neat captioning option. If you upload the video files (low res to speed things up) with tc window, your translator can work directly in YT and then output an .srt file for importing into PPro. In Premiere I often throw all my separate clips into a sequence, insert the captions then use that as the source.


  • Bouke Vahl

    March 8, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Hi David,
    ‘Your’ logic is understandable, but it’s an opinion.
    In my opinion (and not mine alone, since I have a lot of customers who do exactly this) it does not pay off to have someone fly in to sit next to you for a week or so.
    In a small country like mine, not all languages are represented.
    Papua-New Guinea alone has an estimated 832 different languages…
    It is very common to go to a country, find a local interpreter and shoot interviews.
    Editing then is done back home, with totally incomprehensible footage.

    I myself edited Kazakh without any help other than a word doc that had to be edited in the same way as the timeline. It was horrible. (That was some 20 years ago, I had a M100 that had only two video tracks and one title track.)
    (And no, I did not work on Borat.)

    On the bright side, no-one was able to check if the final subs (that was done after the piece was finished) were accurate. But over here we have a policy to be as correct as possible.

    Besides Trevor (Hi Trevor!), there are at least a couple of companies and broadcasters who do exactly this because it is cost efficient.
    Having said that, I recently had a conversation with a director on the subject. He does research journalism, and touches sensitive points. His broadcaster has had several lawsuits. To avoid as much mess as possible, they have to be utterly correct, no matter what it takes.
    Getting a decent transcript is way easier / cheaper than finding someone who speaks the language.

    My 2 cents…


  • Charlie Kosheff

    March 20, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Try Transcriptive from Digital Anarchy. It isn’t perfect but its speech recognition technology in multiple languages might get you though the edit. Then have the accuracy checked by a native speaker after the edit? The speech recognition is cheap to use for long interviews especially….

  • Joe Bender

    March 22, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    As Charlie suggests, Transcriptive is a good option if you’re willing to pay the price of entry, but bear in mind that the machine translations are just a starting point and you’ll still need a native speaker to edit the transcription and break it into logical subtitle-length units.

    My workflow for this situation on several feature docs in other languages has been:

    1. Make a stringout of my synced dailies, e.g. for multicam and/or external sound
    2. Bounce that for the translator with sequence timecode
    3. Have the translator subtitle the synced stringout in a subtitling program like Belle Nuit Subtitler OS or Aegisub (both a bit archaic but free) and export them as an STL or SRT file. STL has the advantage of being basically a CSV file, so more easily human-readable and editable — you can easily open it in a text editor, strip out the header info, and then open it as a spreadsheet for a searchable timecoded transcript.
    4. Use a utility called premiereTitles (or the older psTitles) by Andreas Kiel to generate/import the subtitles in Premiere (either as layered TIFF files or as Premiere titles) using a style template of your choice and lay them back over the synced sequence, then pull selects/cut from the subtitled sequence.

    This is definitely labor-intensive, but it lets you edit with individual subtitles which I find much easier than using the closed captions tool in Premiere — the captions tool gives you one item in your timeline containing all the subs, which is very cumbersome. The downside is that if you want to change the style of your subs after the fact, you have to either change every title individually or export an EDL/XML and strip the text data from that or the individual files if you’re using TIFFs. Kiel’s premiereTitles has a function to export Premiere titles from Legacy titler or Essential Graphics to STL/SRT, but I haven’t gotten it to work myself — I use a custom Python script to strip the text data from the layered TIFF files.

    Resolve also has a vastly improved tool for subtitling that lets you manage the subs in a dedicated track, change the style of all titles at once, etc. Since Resolve is free, it might also be possible to have your translator create the subs in Resolve, although I’m not sure off the top of my head whether you can export them as an SRT/STL to generate and import in Premiere.

    Hope this is useful, and good luck!


    Joe Bender
    Director of Photography · Producer
    Third Party Films

  • Bouke Vahl

    March 23, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    Hi Joe,
    Quick question:
    Have you ever been yourself in this situation?
    I guess not, otherwise you would not give this ill advise.
    If so, please proof me wrong.


  • Ashley Rabot

    August 28, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    What I found helpful in Premiere is using the ‘Closed Captions’ feature. You can import the translated dialogue as a caption file (SRT or VTT) and sync it with the footage easily. It saves time and keeps things organized.

  • Santanu Bhattacharjee

    September 17, 2023 at 10:32 am

    Ppro can transcript footages in many languages. Pull all the footage on a sequence. You need not do a close caption yet. Directly do a text based video editing on the transcript tab. It is is a good practice for editing long format raw footage. This eliminates the donkey work of repeated listening to the bad takes. Text Search for repeated text and straight away delete them. If Ppro can transcript to your language go ahead and do that. It saves a lot of time.

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