How to Add Subtitles & Captions in Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro 28/01/2020 5 min read

Subtitles and captions are becoming more and more important, especially for digital content creators. Not only does the on-screen text help your hard of hearing audience members, but when it comes to social media content, large portions of your viewers also don’t listen to videos with the sound. If you’ve never used them in your projects before, don’t panic as we’re going to show you how to use Final Cut Pro X subtitles and captions—making your videos accessible to the broadest possible audience.

Part 1: What’s the Difference Between Subtitles & Captions?

Subtitles and captions at first glance, look like a very similar thing: text appearing at the bottom of the screen. However, they both have different purposes. 

In short, subtitles are used to translate spoken dialogue into on-screen text and are frequently seen in foreign movies and TV shows. Subtitles assume that the viewer can understand the other audio cues, but need the dialogue in a different language to the speaker.

Captions display both the translated dialogue as well as referencing other audio cues in the video, such as music, sound effects (phone rings), and background noises. Captions assume that the viewer has no audio cues from the video, and instead display all-important sound information in text form.

Part 2: How to Add Final Cut Pro Subtitles & Captions

The process for adding subtitles and captions is quite straightforward, as Final Cut Pro offers a simple way to edit and format them. 

Step 1: Create or Import

Final Cut Pro offers you two ways of creating subtitles and captions for your video. You can create them from scratch, or you can import a .srt file. A .srt is a time-coded transcription of the video, which will import all of the captions into the project, and lay them out in the right order. There are loads of apps and websites that offer transcription services, which can save you huge amounts of time typing out long scenes.

To import captions: 

  1. With your project open, go to File > Import > Caption.
  2. Choose your .srt file, and select import. 
  3. Final Cut will lay out all the captions according to the time-code in the .srt.

To create captions from scratch:

  1. With your timeline open, go to Edit > Captions > Add Caption. You can also use the shortcut Alt + C.
  2. A small purple box will be added to the timeline. If you double-click the box, a window will appear for you to type the text. You can also add text into the Inspector Window when the caption is selected.
  3. Repeat for all of your titles.

Step 2: Adjust and Arrange

Once all of your titles are in the project, you will likely need to adjust the timings and possibly rearrange titles. When creating subtitles from scratch, you can adjust the timings as you go. Unlike video editing in Final Cut Pro, the captions are not magnetic, meaning you can move them freely around the timeline.

  1. To Trim your captions, simply grab the end of the caption block and drag it to increase or decrease its length.
  2. You can move the titles around by selecting and dragging them. Be careful, however, as they will overwrite other titles when placed on top of them!
  3. If you want to duplicate a caption, you can do so by holding Alt or Option as you select and drag the title.
  4. To delete a caption, select it and hit backspace.

Step 3: Customize Your Text Formatting

Once all your captions are typed, and in the right place, you can do some basic formatting to stylize them a little more. Remember, captions are intended to be a simple solution for on-screen text. Other subtitling apps or editing software may offer far more formatting options.

  1. You can make changes to individual captions or multiple captions depending on your needs. Select the captions you want to format.
  2. In the Inspector, you can change the placement of the subtitles from the bottom to the top and back again. This can be helpful if your subtitles risk obscuring important information on-screen like lower thirds.
  3. You can also change the color of the text in your captions. Most subtitles will be white, but the color formatting can be helpful when creating captions, offering different colors for dialogue, sound effects, and music audio cues. Color can also be used to indicate multiple speakers in a scene. 
  4. Finally, you have three basic text options: Bold, Italic, and Underline, which can help to emphasize specific parts of your text.

Step 4: Adjust for Multiple Languages (Optional)

If you want to produce subtitles and captions in a variety of languages, you can do so using the Adjust Language options. Final Cut Pro will add additional captions for each language you choose, maintaining all of the time-codes. Although, Final Cut Pro won’t do the translation for you, and you will still need to edit the text.

  1. Select all of the Captions in the project.
  2. Right-click and go to Duplicate Captions to New Language.
  3. From the menu, choose the language you would like to add.
  4. Go through the new Captions and change the text for the appropriate language.

Step 5: Exporting a Caption Role

Once you are satisfied, you will need to export the video. If you do a regular export, the captions won’t be included in the final video. You’ll need to do a couple of extra steps.

  1. Go to File > Export, or press Command + E to open the export window.
  2. Complete your standard export options: choose where to save and name your video.
  3. Select the Roles tab at the top of the export window.
  4. Next to Video Track is a small Captions Icon, click on it to reveal the captions menu.
  5. Click the drop-down menu next to Burn in Captions, and choose the subtitles you want to include in this export.
  6. Click OK. The window will close, and you will notice that your chosen captions have been listed under Video Track. 
  7. Continue to export as normal.

Part 3: Pro Tips for Working with Subtitles & Captions

1. Exporting

Through Final Cut Pro X, each set of captions will need to be exported separately. You can, however, send each version of your video with subtitles to Compressor, where you can set them off exporting all at once. This means you can get straight back to editing while your videos are created in the background.

  1. When finished, go to File > Send to Compressor.
  2. A window will pop up, select the subtitles you wish to burn to the video from the drop-down menu. Hit Send.
  3. Compressor will open, and your video will appear in the queue
  4. Continue sending to Compressor with each variant.

2. Transcriptions

Transcription applications can save a vast amount of time typing out your text, but they can be a bit inaccurate. Depending on the language and accent, the voice to text function may not get it right all the time. 

When you upload a video to YouTube, they will create captions for you, which can be downloaded as a .srt. An excellent shortcut for long videos is to upload them to YouTube as a private video, download the .srt and use that as a base to start adjusting and correcting your captions.

Final Cut Pro captions are a very simple and easy to use solution for your subtitling needs. The application is limited in terms of how much you can change the look of the captions, but Final Cut Pro is one of the easiest to use solutions out there. Now that you know how to use this feature, you can maximize your potential audience, and know that your video is accessible for people who may be able to see, but not hear your work.