The Different Formats for Foreign Language Subtitles

RevBlogResourcesCaptions & SubtitlesCaption & Subtitle File FormatsThe Different Formats for Foreign Language Subtitles

Between the VTTs and the STLs and the SCCs, subtitle file formats are enough to give anyone a headache. You’d be forgiven for thinking it would be much easier to have a single file format that everyone used. But the variations available exist because of the different ways in which we view videos in the digital age.

From television to YouTube and Netflix there are many ways to absorb video content, and many platforms that host it.

When you’re uploading your content it’s easy to fall into the trap of choosing a format for your subtitles that is familiar to you — like TXT — or simply going with the first option on the dropdown menu. But, in the long run, understanding the different formats available for your subtitles will save you time, and ensure you have the best functionality for your needs.

Why Subtitles Are So Important

Before we dig into the main formats for captions and foreign language subtitles, it’s worth considering why they’re so important, and why getting them right is essential.

Accessibility is the main benefit of including subtitles. With billions of people around the world who are not native English speakers, including foreign language subtitles on your video content instantly makes it accessible to a much wider audience.

Plus, creators must factor in that around 360 million people are also born deaf. On top of that, there is a growing trend to leave the sound off when watching videos online. When you add it all up, you can easily see why captions and subtitles are essential, even for English-speaking viewers.

In addition, having subtitles on your videos gives you a big SEO boost, and it can also save you a lot of time when it comes to content creation — you won’t have to transcribe your video content because you’ll have already created it for your subtitles.

But which caption/subtitle file format do you need? Here’s our guide to the main forms and everything you need to know about them…

SRT Subtitle Files

The SRT or SubRip Subtitle format is the most commonly used for foreign subtitles and captions. The name is borrowed from the DVD ripping software that originally created the .srt format.

They’re a text format, caption frame, which consists of: the subtitle number (a sequential number beginning with 1); two time codes (start and end times) representing when the subtitle should appear and disappear; the text of the subtitle; and a blank line that indicates the start of the next subtitle.

SRT subtitle files can be used for videos on recording software, media players, and lecture capture software.

SCC Subtitle Files

Scenarist Closed Captions or SCC files are a common format for subtitle files used in web videos, broadcasts, and DVD videos.

Previously North America’s standard transmission format, the .ssc file is based on closed captioning data for CEA-608.

They’re compatible with the likes of Adobe Encore and Premiere Pro, as well as Apple compressor, iTunes, YouTube, DVD Studio Pro, Final Cut Pro, and more.

STL Subtitle Files

Developed by Spruce Technologies and eponymously named the Spruce Subtitle File, the STL format is used in DVD Studio Pro software, primarily. The .stl extension enables you to configure and manage your subtitle settings, and change them on an individual basis.

The STL files themselves consist of: commands, which are preceded by a dollar symbol ($), and allow you to easily configure subtitle aspects like position and font; comments, which are preceded by two slash symbols (//), allowing you to add comments as text throughout your subtitle’s file without affecting how it imports; and entries, which contain the start and end time codes for your caption, as well as graphic and text files.

VTT Subtitle Files

The Video Text Tracking or VTT file format is similar to SRT, but it includes subtitling effects like pop-ups. A modern update on the SRT, the .vtt file offers an extended range of options which make it the perfect choice if you want to be able to customize your text.

The downside is that it’s only compatible with video management systems and HTML5 media players.

The Formats Accepted By Different Hosting Platforms

File formats can be a little confusing, as the best choice often depends on the platform you’re using. Here’ a quick guide to which platforms use which formats:

YouTube, Vimeo And Brightcove

For YouTube you will need WebVTT files, and all your formatting will appear.


Facebook uses unformatted SRT files, which do not allow certain things including special characters, positioning, or text formatting.


Kaltura uses DFXP files, and you’ll need to ensure your captions are enabled if you’re using a custom video player.

Extra Options

If you don’t want to deal with a sidecar file, or you’re looking for files to be hard-coded into your video, Rev offers an Open Captions (or Burned-In Captions) and Subtitles service. This Burned-In option ensures you receive your video back with the subtitles added directly to the video file.

We’ve also just released a new setting that easily allows you to check the accuracy of your English captions before the files are sent to a translator for non-English subtitles. And if you need help with caption conversion, we have a FREE caption converter tool you can use.

Need Help With Your Foreign Subtitles Or Captions?

Here at Rev, we specialize in the production of non-English subtitles in a number of different formats, including:

We also offer Scenarist 23.98 fps (.23p.scc). If you’re interested in this file format, or something else that doesn’t appear on the list above, please drop us an email and we’ll be happy to help!