How to Add Subtitles in Adobe Premiere Pro (Tutorial)

Premiere Pro February 2, 2019 6 min read

No matter why you’re adding subtitles in Adobe Premiere Pro CC, the process might be easier than you think. In this tutorial, you’re going to learn how to add subtitles in Adobe Premiere Pro. Here are three key reasons you probably want to add subtitles to your next video:

  • Use subtitles to make your video accessible to those with hearing impairments who can’t listen to audio while watching your video (thanks, considerate office co-workers!)
  • Localize video to a wider audience by translating their audio into captions in other languages.
  • Search engines can index and rank your video content better if it includes searchable subtitles that the crawler can see.

Adding subtitles and captions adds time to your video production. But it does open up your content to new audiences and helps ensure that your video is seen. Let’s dive into learning how to add subtitles in Adobe Premiere

Part 1: How to Add Captions in Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Premiere Pro has an intuitive interface to add captions to your next video production. To start working with it, go to the File > New > Captions option. On the pop-up window, you’ll first  see four options for adding subtitles to your finished video project:

  • CEA-608: This is a slightly outdated version of subtitles. It works on the most devices but doesn’t include all of the features of the latest standards, CEA-708.
  • CEA-708: This is our recommended choice for adding subtitles. It combines enough device compatibility with the most recent features.
  • Teletext: Teletext is typically the European standard for adding subtitles.
  • Open Captions: Open captions are “burned into” the video file, meaning that they can’t be toggled off in a video player. They’re actually hard encoded into the finished video file.

1 new captions window

Typically, we recommend selecting the CEA-708 setting as the sweet spot between compatibility and features.

As you start working with subtitles, it’s important that you can see at least these three panels in addition to your video project:

  • Project: The project panel shows all of the files that are available to work within your Premiere project.
  • Captions: The captions panel is the focus of this tutorial, as it includes all of the tools you need to add captions and subtitles to your video project.
  • Timeline: The timeline is a sequential view of the clips and effects in your Premiere project, and it controls where you’ll drop your captions in. Keep this panel in view to control where you add your captions.

Pro Tip: Build the captions from the Assembly view, with the panels mentioned above all showing simultaneously.

2 default view premiere

Using the Captions Panel

Once you’ve started to add a new subtitle to your Premiere project, then focus will turn to the Captions panel, where you can build and add the text overlays.

In the Captions panel, you’ll see text boxes where you can add your captions. This interface is pretty intuitive: you’ll use the text box to type in the captions that you want to add your video production. Use the box on the right side that you see in the screenshot below to add a caption to your video. Just type in this text box with the text you want to overlay on your video.

The most important part of proper subtitles is setting up the timing. In the captions panel, you’ll see an “In” and “Out” timestamp. Play the preview in Premiere to note the timings of when your text should be on screen, then type over these timestamps to match up the subtitles.

3 add captions

There are a few options that you may want to tweak when you’re working with captions.

Also, it’s worth noting that other types of captions will add additional customization option. For example, choosing Open Captions will allow you to choose from a wide variety of fonts to add to your captions. (Remember: the Open Captions format “burns in” the captions on top of the video, basically adding it to the finished video file). You’ll see these options in the same panel based on your selection.

Once you’ve typed out and set up your first caption, you’ll want to add it to your Premiere project timeline. In the Project panel, you’ll see a captions thumbnail that corresponds to your newly created text overlay. Just drag and drop this thumbnail onto the timeline to add the newly created captions to your video project.

4 add captions zoomed out

If you want to modify the captions, just return to the panel and apply the tweaks to either the text or the relevant timestamp.

From here, the process is mostly iterative. Simply press the plus button on the Captions panel to add additional captions. Repeat the process of typing your text, setting the timestamp, and then add it to your timeline in Adobe Premiere. In no time, you’ll have helpful text overlays that provide the appropriate subtitles for your video project.

Import & Export Settings for Captions

If you’re collaborating with others (like a translator) on your subtitle project, it helps to know a bit about importing and exporting the caption files. Instead of working within the same Premiere project (.prproj file format), you can take exported caption files and import them to your project.

Exporting Captions

To export your captions, select your captions file on the Project panel. Then, browse to the File > Export > Captions menu option.

5 file export captions

You can save the finished captions in a variety of formats, such as XML, SRT, and MCC. We recommend typically choosing XML if I’m handing them off for further editing to another editor, or SRT if this is a finished project.

Importing Captions

To work with third-party captions, it helps to learn how to import from other sources. To add them to your project, browse to the File > Import menu, then navigate to a caption file. This file could be an XML, SRT, or MCC format just as we saw when exporting. Once imported, you’ll see the file ready to work within the Project panel.

Part 2: Pro Tips & Troubleshooting

Why Aren’t My Captions Showing?

The most common issue that you’ll run into while working with Adobe Premiere subtitles is that they aren’t showing when playing a preview. If this is your first time working with subtitles in Adobe Premiere, you’ll likely need to toggle them on and make them visible.

6 last add subtitle view

In Premiere Pro, click the plus button below your video preview. Then, toggle on the Closed Captions Display option. Make sure that you turn this on, and then your previews should play when previewing your video in Premiere.

Caption Plugins to Try

While Adobe Premiere features a built-in tool, it’s not the only way to add text overlays to your latest video production.

One plugin that’s worth checking out is Trint, which automates the work of transcribing your audio. Thanks to its AI technology, Trint will automate much of the work of taking your audio and converting it to the appropriate text subtitles. This automation can save you a lot of time when you’re adding subtitles in Adobe Premiere.

Another option is the SUGARfx Subtitles plugin. This plugin will help you work with subtitles in the common SRT format. This is a common subtitle format that allows you to add subtitles and work with files created by others.

Finally, check out SubBits, an app that’s specifically built for subtitling. While this is a standalone app, it integrates nicely with a Premiere workflow. It’s tailormade for creating subtitles and makes it easy to jump to Premiere.

Remember, adding subtitles and captions in your Premiere Pro project will help improve the accessibility of your video production. Whether you’re adding them for a search engine or a listener with no sound access, it’s worth the time to consider adding captions. As you saw in this tutorial, it doesn’t take a lot of work to add them to your video — thanks to the captions panel. And hey, if you want to use a subtitle template instead, check this one out!