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Oliver Bennett
Oliver Bennett

Subtitle Split

Over the past year, many of our users have requested the ability to split a long subtitle in two. This is especially important when translating, since one language may use many more characters to express the same phrase as in another language.Now Amara editor users can split a subtitle in two with a keyboard shortcut. Just place the cursor at the spot in the subtitle where you want to split the text, and click ctrl+enter. Thank you to the users who responded to our Facebook post and shared keyboard shortcut ideas with us for this feature!

subtitle split

One subtitle can be composed of one or two lines. In languages based on the Latin script, the subtitle must be broken into two lines if it's longer than 42 characters (because a longer line is more difficult to read than a subtitle composed of two lines, and some offline players may not display longer lines correctly). "Line-breaking" refers to choosing the place where the line is broken, and also, where to end the whole subtitle. To make a line break in Amara, hit Shift+Enter. Note: The maximum number of lines per subtitle is 2.

Generally, each line should be broken only after a linguistic "whole" or "unit," no matter if it's the only line in the subtitle, or the first or second line in a longer subtitle. This means that sometimes it's necessary to rephrase the subtitle in order to make it possible to break lines without breaking apart any linguistic units, e.g. splitting apart an adjective and the noun that it refers to. Other times, you may need to split a subtitle into two separate subtitles, if rephrasing doesn't help with fitting within 42 characters maximum per line.

Hint: When breaking a subtitle into two lines, don't leave a space at the end of the first line. It will be added to the number of characters and can bring the reading speed to over 21 characters/second, where the only edit necessary to bring it back down would be deleting that invisible space at the end of the first line.

The possible maximum length of a subtitle depends on whether the reading speed is not over 21 characters per second. As long as the reading speed allows it, you can have up to two lines of up to 42 characters in your subtitle. If your maximum length is over 42 characters, you need to break the subtitle into two lines. Ideally, the lines in the two-line subtitle should be more or less balanced in length. So, you should break the line like this:

This type of rephrasing can be referred to as "compressing" or reducing text. Depending on the context, it may be possible to omit some information, if previous subtitles or other sources (a slide, the viewer's general knowledge) are certain to fill the blanks anyway. This way, you can avoid breaking apart any linguistic units. You can learn more about compressing subtitles from this guide.

Of course, rephrasing is not only about making the subtitle so short that it can fit in one line (no longer than 42 characters). Sometimes, it's difficult or impossible to compress so much, but you can change the structure of the subtitle to make it easier to break cleanly. For example:

This is not necessarily good English, but the target language that you are translating into may allow this sort of phrasing. If possible, try to rephrase the subtitle to make it break cleanly without the need to sever any linguistic units.

Sometimes, there is just no way to break the line without splitting a proper name or a grammatical unit, like separating an article from the noun it refers to. In these cases, you can often split the subtitle itself into two separate subtitles, which will allow you to break the line longer than 42 characters. To split a subtitle, shorten the subtitle's duration using the sliders on the timeline, and then insert a new subtitle in the resulting gap by clicking the "plus" button on the subtitle below it.

Important: after you've added a new subtitle while translating, the number of subtitles in your translation will increase, so there will no longer be a 1:1 correspondence between the position of the original subtitle and the translation box. To ensure that you don't start translating subtitles in the wrong boxes and thus de-synchronize the translation, unlock the subtitle scrolling using the "padlock" button at the bottom of the interface, and scroll your translation so that the the position of first untranslated subtitle corresponds to its equivalent in the original subtitles, and then re-lock the scrolling by clicking the "padlock" button again.

The examples below show places in a sentence where lines can be broken. The ideal places to break are marked by the green slashes, while the orange slashes indicate places where it would be OK to break the line if breaking at the green slashes were not possible. Note that you don't normally break lines that do not exceed 42 characters; the examples below are simply used to show various grammatical contexts where a sentence can be broken, not to suggest that you should break subtitles into very short lines. Every language has different line-breaking rules, but the English examples below can inspire you to search for these rules in your language.

Notes: The green slashes are again placed at clause boundaries. The first orange slash is there to make sure that the word "to" is not separated from the infinitive, and the second is placed so as not to separate "to" from the noun phrase that the preposition refers to ("the store"). Remember that the orange slashes are various imperfect line-breaking options, and would never be used at the same time to create short lines; the point is, if you have to, you can break the clause after "wants" or after "to go." The third orange slash separates a subject from the predicate, but avoids separating the auxiliary verb ("are") from the participle ("closed"). In other words, line breaks should be placed in ways that don't split up complex grammatical constructions. The last orange slash splits off an adverbial, an expression that tells us something about a sentence or a verb, and thus, can often be put into the next line, as something "extra" that describes the sentence.

Notes: The example below contains some commas that are arguably redundant, but sometimes, you can "cheat" a little and add commas in places where part of the sentence can be considered a parenthesis, meaning a word or phrase that is interjected into a sentence to add some context or description, but could be left out without changing the "core" meaning of the sentence. For example, the word "jet-lagged" can be seen as an additional comment about the way the speaker awoke. You can easily break lines at the boundaries of such parentheses or interjections (usually set apart by commas), which is where the green slashes are placed. The orange slash after "called" indicates a line break that splits a verb from its complement or object, which should be used only if other breaks are not available. The second orange slash also separates a verb from its complement, but keeps intact the whole phrase that begins with the preposition "about."

Generally, deciding what to put at the end of a subtitle is similar to selecting where to break a line. Below, you can learn about the most important differences between ending a subtitle and breaking a line.

Note that this type of "line-breaking" does not always follow the pauses in the talk. Make sure that the way you end the subtitle doesn't reveal something that the viewer is not meant to know about yet. For example, imagine the speaker says "I tried the experiment one more time, not sure if it would work, and it did!," and you could make it one subtitle. However, if the speaker throws up their hands in joy when saying "and it did!," you should end the subtitle after "work," not to reveal the "success" too soon, even though the line length would allow you to keep the whole sentence in one subtitle. If you want to learn more about how to synchronize the subtitles with the talk, see the guide to transcribing talks.

After that, splitting works fine and includes correct subtitles. I just tried it, and splitted by size and by duration. I'm not sure, but maybe the subtitle timing was preserved more exactly when splitting by duration (--split 1800s or similar instead of --split 500M).

The hex 0x50 0x47 are headers for sections in the .sup file, however there are multiple sections per subtitle line. There is always (in my experience) a 0x16, 0x17, 0x14, 0x15, and 0x80 flagged section for displayed subtitles. There can be multiple 0x15 sections if the bitmap data is large. There are also "empty" subtitles which are used to end a subtitle which only have 0x16, 0x17, and 0x80 flags. Subtitles only have a start time and no end time or duration, so a subtitle is ended by the next subtitle starting. So if two subtitle lines are separated by a time period, a blank subtitle section is used to end the first subtitle.

Subtitle Workshop, a nice and free subtitles editor and synchronizer, can also help you split easily your subtitles, for instance, if you have a movie in two video files and you did not manage to find subtitles in two parts but only in a single file.

First load your subtitles to Subtitle Workshop (Menu > File > Load). Then in Menu > Tools select the Split Subtitle command, which will open a dialogue box that will let you choose a mode to split your subtitles.

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