Skip to content

Using Universal Subtitles

Streetfilms is very excited to announce the launch of a beta version Universal Subtitles, an open source, web based subtitling tool.  Universal Subtitles uses crowd sourcing to allow viewers to translate and subtitle videos in any language, as well as improve upon existing translations.  Read more about it in a post by Streetfilms’ technical lead, Chris Abraham.

It’s super easy to use, fits nicely into our website and will improve access to the issues Streetfilms covers worldwide.  We’re using our series, Moving Beyond the Automobile, as a beta case for this new feature, and thanks to a handful of very dedicated Streetfilms fans, MBA: Highway Removal has already been translated into nine languages!

Here’s how to get started:

The subtitle feature is available on a video’s individual page, which you can access by clicking on the video’s title.  Once there, locate the green Universal Subtitles tab in the lower right hand corner of the video.  This tab lets you choose the language you want to display and is also your gateway into adding a new translation or revision an existing one.

If you're using the feature for the first time, select “Log in or create an account.”  Once you’ve created a free account, you’re ready to subtitle.  The process is well guided, so just follow the directions Universal Subtitles provides.

Please read the following important tips and common questions about the process before getting started:

  • It is essential that when adding a new translation, you select the correct language you are translating into so that you do not accidentally replace an existing set of subtitles with yours.
  • When applying subtitles, be sure that you use no more than two lines of text on the screen at once.  In some cases, three lines is OK, but please try your best to stick to two.
  • If you see a grammatical error, want to add to an incomplete translation, or notice that a subtitle is out of sync, you can use the “Improve This Translation” feature and correct it.
  • Every video on the Streetfilms website supports Universal Subtitles.  However, most videos that are not part of the Moving Beyond the Automobile series do not have English subtitles applied to them yet.  Applying English subtitles to a video is the first step in the translating process because it acts as a guide for timing and translating into other languages.  The best way to add the English subtitles is to copy and past the text from the video’s transcript.  You can locate a video's transcript by clicking on the “Show transcript” button below each video in its individual page view.  Applying the English subtitles to a video that does not already have them is an excellent way to contribute to the project.

If you have technical questions or need clarification about terminology in a video, please contact