Syncing subtitles with the use of Amara editor is easy, but includes a few fine points that may make it a bit challenging for novice users. We strongly recommend you to take a few minutes and get familiar with the sections below and watch these short video guides if you are starting out: Watch How to Caption and Translate Video on Amara.
The recommended way to sync subtitles is to do it in two passes. During the first pass, you need just to roughly set start and end times for each subtitle without caring too much about positioning them precisely. After all the subtitles in the set have become timed, you can make a second pass through the video and adjust the timing where necessary.
Important: the editor behaves differently depending on whether you are going through untimed text (pass 1) or reviewing and editing timed subtitles (pass 2)! We'll consider these differences below.
Sync Untimed Subtitles (pass 1)
You can sync untimed subtitles as follows:
1. Press TAB to play the video. The video will play and the black timeline under the video player will scroll to the left. Your current time position will be indicated on the timeline with a vertical red line:
2. When the first subtitle should appear on the screen, press ARROW DOWN keyboard key. Keep playing the video.
3. When the next subtitle should appear, press ARROW DOWN again -- this key ends the current subtitle and starts a new one. Keep tapping on ARROW DOWN key to start new subtitles.
4. As you keep tapping, the current subtitle will be displayed in the video player. The next ("on-deck") unsynced subtitle will appear in a darker shade of gray in the far right area of the timeline. This will help you to get prepared for the text that comes next.
5. If you need to end the current subtitle before the next one starts, press ARROW UP. This will end the current subtitle without starting a new one. When the next subtitle must start, press ARROW DOWN again:
6. Please do not pause unless you absolutely need to! If you pause, this will also set the end time for the current subtitle. When you are ready to resume, press TAB to play the video and then press ARROW DOWN when the next subtitle should start. Keep playing the video and tapping arrow keys with as few stops as possible.
7. If you feel you have totally messed it up, do not panic! Just clear all the timing and start from square one - on your next attempt, it will get better.
8. When you are done or have to stop and take a break from work, make sure you save subtitles.
Important: While do not recommend to pause and skip back the video to attempt to correct any syncing errors at this step (particularly if you have little experience working with the subtitle editor), you may want to skip back partially at this point to take a look at the subtitles. Note that if you pause and skip back, you may find that the editor starts to behave by the rules of editing timed text and the change may be confusing, so it might be best to just leave any errors as they are until pass 2, when they will be quick and easy to correct.
Editing timed subtitles (pass 2)
Now, that you have all the subtitles synced, it is time to make a second pass and adjust all the timestamps. Make sure you have saved the subtitles then skip back to the beginning of the video by clicking on the time bar in the video player.
1. Press TAB to start playing the video.
2. Any time you need to pause, press TAB key again. Now you can do it as often as you need -- during your second pass, pausing does not end the current subtitle.
3. If you need to skip back a few seconds, do it!
SHIFT+TAB keys skip 2 seconds back.
CONTROL (or COMMAND)+SHIFT+, takes you 4 seconds back.
Press the shortcut keys multiple times to skip back further.
4. Unlike pass 1, ARROW DOWN key changes the start time of the current subtitle:
If you press ARROW DOWN while inside of a subtitle, its start time will move to your current position - vertical red line on the timeline bar, making the subtitle duration shorter.
If you press ARROW DOWN while in a gap between subtitles, the start time of the next subtitle will move to the current time, extending the duration of that subtitle.
5. ARROW UP key adjusts the end time.
If you press ARROW UP while inside of a subtitle, it ends the current subtitle at the time when it is pressed.
If you press ARROW UP while in a gap between subtitles, it extends the previous subtitle to the current time.
6. You can also drag the vertical edges of subtitles on the timeline to change the start time. The adjacent subtitles will give way as you drag. However, you cannot make a subtitle shorter than .07 sec.
7. When you are done or need to stop and take a break, make sure you save your hard work!
Tip: If you are unsure what ARROW DOWN and ARROW UP will do if you press them now, please note the position of the help fly-outs to the left and right from the editing panel - they will point to the subtitle they apply to.
The Timing Tools icon is located above the subtitles you are editing in the middle panel of the Amara Editor. Click the clock icon to view the available actions in a drop-down menu.
Copies start and end times from the reference subtitles (left panel) and applies them to the subtitles you are editing (middle panel). For example, if you have a subtitle set that is synced correctly for a video, you may want to use the same timing for translations into other languages or for a later revision of the same language to spare the pain of syncing it manually. You can easily copy existing timing from one subtitle set to another or from one revision to another.
"Copy Timing" command does exactly what its name says - it copies start and end times from line 1 of the source (reference) subtitle set to line 1 of the target set, line 2 of source set to line 2 of target set, and so on, until the last line of the source set or the last line in the target set (whatever comes first).
You can find this feature particularly useful if you have uploaded an untimed translation from a TXT file, or if you need to correct a translation after the transcript for the video was changed.
To copy timing from one subtitle set to another:
If you have made any changes to the subtitle text, save them now.
In the reference (left) panel, select the language and version number you want to copy timing from.
Click Timing Tools (clock) icon above the editing (middle) panel and select Copy Timing item from the menu. In the confirmation pop-up, click Continue.
Scroll down to the end of subtitles and check that all the subtitles in the target lines are synced and match the corresponding subtitles in the source set. If something is not right, do not worry - your changes will not take effect until you save them, so don't worry about breaking anything.
If something is not right, you can make corrections - insert, delete, split, or merge subtitles where necessary - and execute Copy Timing again. You may repeat these actions as many times as needed. Also, you have the option to revert all the changes and reload the last saved version for the language you are editing.
When you are happy with the results, make sure you save your work!
What happens if source set and target set have different number of subtitles?
If the source set has more subtitles than the target set (the one you are editing), all the subtitles in the target set will become synced. The start time of the last subtitle in the target set will be earlier than the last subtitle in the source set. Example: if you copy timing from 100 lines of English subtitles to 80 lines of Spanish subtitles, the 80th line of Spanish will be timed as the 80th line of English.
If the source set has fewer subtitles than the target set, some subtitles at the end of the target set will remain unsynced. Example: if you copy timing from 100 lines of English subtitles to 120 lines of Polish subtitles, only 100 lines of Polish language will be synced. The last 20 subtitles in Polish will not be timed.
For optimal results, please make sure that the numbers of subtitles in the source and the target subtitles match. If you find they are different, you can:
Select another reference language and try again
Change the target subtitle set by inserting, deleting, splitting or merging lines so that it matches the source subtitles.
Sync subtitles manually.
Hide or Show Timeline
Hides or shows the timeline below the video player. You can use the timeline to add or modify timing for your subtitles. If you do not want to view or use the timeline, you can hide it at any time. In syncing mode, hiding the timeline switches you to typing mode.
Erases all the start and end times of the subtitles you are editing in the middle panel. You can only erase timing for the unsaved version in the Amara Editor. Earlier versions of the subtitles are not affected. You can quickly and easily erase the existing timing in just a few clicks.
Click the Wrench icon above the editing panel and select Clear timing item from the Tools menu:
When prompted for a confirmation, click Continue.
This will remove all the timing, but preserve the existing subtitle boxes with the text. Next, you can display the timeline (by selecting Show Timeline item from Tools menu), play the video, and add start and end times for each subtitle by pressing Arrow Down and Arrow Up keys, respectively.
Shift subs forward
Shifts subtitles forward in time. Clicking this option opens a dialog box that asks you to input the start time and shift time. You can shift all of your subtitles or choose a time to start the shift. Enter the amount of time you want to shift your subtitles and click the “Shift” button.
Note: Subtitles can only be shifted within the duration time of the video. Shift amounts must be positive.
Shift subs backward
Deletes subtitles in a time range and shifts all subtitles that come afterwards. Clicking this option opens a dialog box that asks you to input the start time and shift time. Subtitles are shifted backward by the duration between the start and end of the time range.
Special feature: Timeline Right-Click
You can hide the timeline or shift your subtitles by right-clicking on your timeline and choosing from the menu.
Clicking either shift option will open the same dialog boxes you can access from the Timing Tools (clock icon) menu. Once you hide the timeline, you will have to open Timing Tools and click "Show Timeline" to show it again.
The subtitle editor has two different modes: typing and syncing. In each mode, the layout of the editor is optimized for the task that is currently in progress.
In typing mode, the editor has features that allow you to subtitle without interruption. The timeline is hidden from the screen to create a cleaner area for you to create and edit subtitles. To create a new subtitle, press the ENTER key and enter the text into the new subtitle box.
In syncing mode, the central part of the screen is occupied by the timeline, leaving less space for subtitles. It is still possible to insert new subtitles in syncing mode, but this requires clicking a link and does not support continuous, effortless typing.
To speed up your subtitling and avoid clicking around the editor, click the more commands >> link in the Keyboard Controls panel to display more keyboard shortcuts.
The editor starts a new transcript in the typing mode and prompts you to switch to the syncing mode by clicking Yes, start syncing button in the progression panel:
Once you start syncing your subtitles, you can hide or show the timeline in the Timing Tools menu by clicking the clock icon:
To show the timeline, select Show Timeline item from the same menu:
You can hide and show the timeline as many times as needed.
The Yes, Start syncing button is inaccessible
The message Not all lines are complete or Subtitles can't be blank appears under Sync Timing
While you are typing the text of the transcript in the subtitle editor, the button in the progression panel that enables you to switch over to syncing step may be grayed out and cannot be clicked:
Or, you might see messages such as Not all lines are completed or Subtitles can't be blank in the progression panel in the right-hand part of the subtitle editor, as shown in the screenshots below:
That means that at least one subtitle lacks text or timing.
Subtitles that have empty or untimed cells cannot be marked as completed.
This article - Unable to Sync, Approve, or Complete Subtitles: warning messages in the editor - details the types of warning messages you might see in the editor and how to correct them, including options for how to delete empty subtitle cells.