Adding subtitles to your animated video: Burnt-in or SRT’s?

Delivering animations with subtitles is becoming increasingly important as the internet connects visual communications throughout the world. Whether subtitles are used to anticipate viewers watching without sound, creating accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing audiences, or translating dialogue into different languages, subtitles are becoming an essential part of our project delivery. This is illustrated by the stat that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. So it's clear how important subtitles are to visual comminications but how do you choose between burnt-in or SRT's?

At Fred & Eric, we offer two main types of subtitles. Choosing between the two can have a drastic impact on how audiences understand and view your video projects. Here we explain different types of subtitles and expand on which could best suit your animation project.

SRT vs Burnt-in Subtitles

In short:

Open Subtitles, burnt-in or hardcoded subtitles display permanently on a video.
Closed Subtitles or SRT subtitles can be turned on or off and display in one or more languages.

But which style of subtitles are best for your creative project? Here's a bit more information about each of these options, and why you might choose one over the other.

"Hard coding” or “burning-in” open subtitles

Choosing this option means the subtitles can’t be turned on or off, they will be part of the video itself. If a video file has burnt-in subtitles, it ensures the animation (including the subtitles) will look the same no matter how it's played. Practically, this option ensures the viewer won’t miss the dialogue whether the sound is turned on or off.

Creatively, burnt-in subtitles can be designed and placed to integrate seamlessly into the visuals. The typeface, colour, design, how they animate and the placement are all bespoke and part of the video. Below is an explainer animation we created for Allocate Software. It's an example of subtitles that have been hard-coded (or burnt-in) as part of the animation's design.

Allocate Software explainer, designed with subtitles "burnt-in" to the animaton.

SRT or closed subtitles

SRT (.srt) stands for “SubRip Subtitle” file, and it's the most widely supported subtitle or caption file format. Subtitles created as SRT files, (AKA Closed Captions or closed subtitles) can be turned on and off by the viewer. Choosing this option means subtitling won’t get in the way of your animation's design but offers the viewer a choice to turn the captions on or off if needed.

Practically, when we create SRT subtitles they are delivered as a separate asset from your video file. They are added as a “sidecar” file before the video is published to whichever platform/s your animation will be shown on. Each platform will display the subtitles to their own specifications. Meaning their design is determined by the chosen platform, in contrast to burnt in subtitles where the design is in our hands. This useful article explains how to add your subtitles to social media channels.

SRT subtitles are useful not only when the sound is off, but you can also upload multiple languages to the same animation. Click on the "CC" icon in the below animation we produced for BlaBlaCar. This will reveal multi-language subtitling which was essential for this multi-lingual brand.

A brand animation created for BlaBlaCar where there are multiple language subtitles available for an international audience.

Creating SRT subtitles is also a much more cost-effective way of subtitling your project. They don’t require any additional design or rendering time, just an astute sense of timing and eagle-eyed attention to spelling and grammar!

The importance of adding subtitles to your animated project

Whether you choose subtitles to communicate in different languages, increase web accessibility or simply to ensure nobody is excluded from your brand, the type of subtitles you choose will ultimately be informed by the platform your final film will need to be shared on. SRT subtitles are perfect for online platforms. However, if your animation ends up on screen at an outdoor event for example, burnt-in subtitles will be essential as in this instance, the viewer won’t have any option to turn them on or off. 

Whatever you decide is best for your project, our team here at Fred & Eric will make sure your animation reaches out to your audience in the most creative and adept way. Ultimately making sure subtitles do their job of communicating the messaging, whilst always keeping the creative animation centre screen.