Video Subtitling

Scope of this Manual

This manual on Video Subtitling is for those who find themselves with the desire but not the practical knowledge to produce, translate or watch subtitles for digital video using free, libre and open source software (FLOSS) tools. Not intended as a professional training guide, the Video Subtitling manual seeks to provide a basic overview of the available FLOSS tools to work effectively with translated video in different target languages.

The broad field of video translation includes audio dubbing, but this is not discussed within the manual as yet.  For us video translation takes the form of text subtitles overlaying the video in a target language.  There are many ways in which this can be accomplished - for the purposes of this manual the discussion is on using FLOSS desktop and web tools. The intended goal is to build up the community of open translation, creating an open knowledge base for making video content accessible to a global audience.

The peer produced manual process

OTBooksprintDeWaagThis manual was designed and written by a community of Open Translation innovators using the FLOSSManuals platform to collaboratively author the content. It is the outcome of the first-ever Open Translation Tools Book Sprint, and builds on work done at two Open Translation Tools convergences, a pair of live events designed by Aspiration ( and realized in collaboration with a wonderful set of partner organizations and the support of generous and forward-looking funders.

The Open Translation Tools Book Sprint was held in De Waag, a very beautiful historic building in the middle of Amsterdam. The venue for the Book Sprint was kindly sponsored by De Waag Society for Old and New Media (  Many thanks to Lucas Evers and Christine van den Horn for organising the venue and being fantastic hosts.

The first Open Translation Tools Convergence (OTT07) took place in late 2007 in Zagreb, Croatia, co-organized by Aspiration and Multimedia Institute (, and was supported by the generosity of the Open Society Institute (, with additional support provided by TechSoup Global ( That event produced the initial framing paper on Open Translation, .

The second Open Translation Tools event was held in Amsterdam in June 2009, and was co-organised by Aspiration, FLOSS Manuals (, and OTT09 was again supported by Open Society Institute, with generous additional travel support from the Ford Foundation ( OTT09 was held at Theater de Cameleon (, who provided a stunning facility and top-notch hospitality.

OTT09 Group Photo 

Both OTT events ran for three days, and were attended by a total of more than 140 people from over 40 different countries, speaking over 50 different languages.

The OTT agendas were collaboratively developed by participants and event organizers in the time leading up to and during the gatherings, and the proceedings were directed using Aspiration's collaborative approach to event facilitation ( Each session was run as a discussion lead by one of the participants. All sessions were documented with notes that can be found on the OTT wiki (

Throughout the OTT09 conference, participants were invited to contribute to the proposed index for the Open Translation Tools book and to learn the FLOSS Manuals tool set so they could contribute remotely.

OTT Book Sprint Design Session 

The Open Translation Tools Book Sprint immediately followed OTT09 at De Waag. Directed by Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals, over a dozen participants worked from 10.00 to 22.00 each day on the book, iteratively developing content and grouping chapters while chatting about terminology, technology, licensing and a wealth of other Open Translation topics.

The manual was written in 5 days but the maintenance of the manual is an ongoing process to which you may wish to contribute.

How to contribute to this manual

If you would like to contribute then follow these steps:

1. Register

Register at FLOSS Manuals:

2. Contribute!

Select the manual and a chapter to work on.

If you need to ask us questions about how to contribute then join the chat room listed below and ask us! We look forward to your contribution!

For more information on using FLOSS Manuals you may also wish to read our manual:

3. Chat

It's a good idea to talk with us so we can help co-ordinate all contributions. We have a chat room embedded in the FLOSS Manuals website so you can use it in the browser.

If you know how to use IRC you can connect to the following:
channel: #flossmanuals

4. Mailing List

For discussing all things about FLOSS Manuals join our mailing list:

About the Authors

This manual exists as a dynamic document on, and over time will have an ever-increasing pool of authors and contributors.

The following individuals were part of the 2009 Open Translation Tools Book Sprint. We thank them for their tireless efforts to create this first-of-its-kind volume.

Adam Hyde, FLOSS Manuals

Ahrash Bissell, Creative Commons

Allen Gunn, Aspiration

Anders Pedersen

Andrew Nicholson, Engage Media

Ariel Glenn, Wikimedia

Ben Akoh, Open Society Initiative for West Africa

Brian McConnell, Worldwide Lexicon

David Sasaki, Global Voices Online

Dwayne Bailey,

Ed Bice, Meedan

Ed Zad, dotSUB

Edward Cherlin, Earth Treasury

Ethan Zuckerman, Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Eva-Maria Leitner, University of Vienna

Francis Tyers, Universitat d'Alacant

Georgia Popplewell, Global Voices Online

Gerard Meijssen, Stichting Open Progress

Javier Sola, WordForge Foundation

Jeremy Clarke, Global Voices Online

Laura Welcher, dotSub and Global Lives

Lena Zuniga, Sula Batsu

Matt Garcia, Aspiration

Mick Fuzz, Clearer Channel

Patrice Riemens

Philippe Lacour, Zanchin

Sabine Cretella, Anaphraseus

Silvia Florez, Universitat Jaume I

Thom Hastings, City Year

Thomas Middleton

Wynand Winterbach,

Yves Savourel


This manual is a culmination of almost three years research, planning, convening and collaboration.

Aspiration first proposed a program in Open Translation to the Open Society Institute (OSI) in 2006. OSI subsequently funded two Open Translation Tools convergences, in Zagreb in 2007 (OTT07) and in Amsterdam in 2009 (OTT09), as well as the Open Translation Tools Book Sprint after OTT09. Ford Foundation and TechSoup Global also provided generous travel support for event participants.  We are deeply grateful to all our funders for their generous and forward-looking support.

Aspiration would like to formally thank the following individuals and organizations:

Contributors to the Open Translation Tools Book Sprint, who worked tirelessly over five days to create a first-of-its-kind volume on Open Translation.

All the participants and facilitators at OTT07 and OTT09, whose shared wisdom and knowledge are aggregated in these pages. In particular, thanks to those who took notes during sessions for the wiki, as that material forms the basis for substantial parts of this document, and to those who contributed ideas towards the design of the book.

FLOSS Manuals ( and Adam Hyde, who co-organized OTT09 and directed the Book Sprint which generated this volume. We salute FLOSS Manuals' vision and leadership in the field of free and open documentation, and the innovative platform they have developed. ( and Dwayne Bailey, who co-organized OTT09 and whose leadership in the fields of FLOSS translation and localization is unparalled.

Tomas Krag, who pioneered the Book Sprint concept with the creation of Wireless Networking in the Developing World (

De Waag Society for Old and New Media ( and Lucas Evers and Christine van den Horn, who provided an amazing venue for the Book Sprint and fantastic hospitality, and also organized the book publication reception.

Theater de Cameleon (, who provided a stunning facility and top-notch hospitality for OTT09. 

Hotel Van Onna (, who provided wonderful accommodations and hospitality for the OTT09 Book Sprint participants in Amsterdam's Jordaan neighborhood.

Multimedia Institute of Zagreb (, who co-organized the OTT07 event that started all the fun, serving as passionate participants and collaborative partners without equal. OTT07 simply would not have been possible without their leadership and support, and the high quality of participant experiences there was a direct result of their exhaustive attention to detail and hospitality.

Open Society Institute (, who provided the funding to make OTT07, OTT09 and the Open Translation Tools Book Sprint possible, and Janet Haven, whose guidance and support in the development of Aspiration's program in Open Translation have been ongoing.

Ford Foundation (, who provided support for travel to OTT09 that allowed key participants to join in the proceedings.

TechSoup Global (, who provided support for travel to OTT07 that allowed key participants to join in the proceedings.

In short, we thank everyone who has been involved in the Open Translation program to date, and we hope to find many opportunities to meet together again and further strengthen this nascent network of practice.