Cinelerra for Grandma
Basic HOWTOs for very beginners
Cinelerra in 30'
Preparing media
Adjusting settings
Loading media
First editing
Second editing
Colour correction
Making animations
Making a DVD
Anamorphic video
Proxy editing
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Table of Contents


Videos are often accompanied by subtitles to convert dialogs into text. They are particularly useful for deaf people or for other langages speakers.

Subtitles can be:


they are inserted during editing and become part of the video. Easy to make and easy to read. They cannot be removed or changed once rendering is done.
To create hard subtutles you can use the Cinelerra titler.


they are added (muxed) to the video stream as images with minimal information but can be separated (demuxed) when needed. They are used in DVDs and they can be turned on and off.
Most DVD authoring applications are capable of transcoding external subtitles to pre-rendered subtitles and of muxing them to the video stream.


they are a text file containing the dialogs and the timing. They are shipped as a separate file independent from the video. A common format is SubRip with .srt as filename extensions. Most videplayers (e.g. VLC) are capable of recognizing automatically a subtitle file named after a video file and playing it back together with the video.
Subtitle files can be written by hand or with the help of dedicated applications like Subtitleeditor, Gaupol, Gnome Subtitles.

A SubRip file looks like this:

00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:03,500

00:00:03,500 --> 00:00:05,500
Woof woof!

How to add hard subtitles in Cinelerra

When your project is finished (and not a moment earlier) you can add subtitles to your video before rendering it.

First language

Just add a video track for subtitles and apply a video effect to the entire track.

Play a little with the titler using some casual text to find the exact font, font size, and position you want for your subtitles. Pay attention to colours on dark and light backgrounds. It is recommended to drop a thin shadow on the text.

Once you are happy with text settings, you are ready to type your subtitles. If you plan to copy-and-paste your subtitles or if you have many many lines of subtitles, don’t forget to read about the titler bugs and workarounds.

  • Enable automatic keyframe generation by clicking on the key symbol in the control bar (Generate keyframes while tweeking tooltip).

  • Go to the View menu and select Plugin autos. This arcane option allow you to see the generated keyframe on the timeline. Don’t blame me for the weird Cinelerra language.

  • Set the insertion point where the first dialog begins. Waveforms can help here.

  • Write the appropriate subtitle in the titler window. A yellow key will appear on the timeline, marking the just created keyframe.

  • Move the insertion point where you want the subtitle end.

  • Delete the text from the titler window. Another key will appear, marking the beginning of a silent subtitle.

Keyframes define the beginnign of every subtitle, with or without text. You can adjust the position of keyframes by dragging the yellow key symbol. The tip of the key marks the exact position in time.
You can continue this way till the end of your project.

Once finished disable the automatic keyframe generation to avoid unvoluntary operations.
Render your project as usual.

Second language

To add a second language is a much easier task.

  • Copy the first language track onto a new track. Make sure the new track is expanded so that the effect brown bar is visible.

  • Make sure the automatic keyframe generation is disabled.

  • Turn off the Title effect brown bar for the first language.

  • Drag the mouse pointer over the timebar (the time ruler) to find the first subtitle that needs translation.

  • Open the titler windows and translate the text. No keyframes will be generated. Old subtitle timing is being recycled.

Repeat the operation as needed. Make sure the first language Title effect is off and render your project as usual.

Since multilanguage hard subtitling requires a videofile for every language it is very disk space consuming.
If you are a disk space niggard, you are better off with soft subtitles.

How to create Soft Subtitles

Soft subtitles are needed for slim multilingual video files and for creating multilingual DVDs.

When creating a subtitle file you have to combine text with timing. Later you might want to created translated versions of your subtitles file.
Even if it is possible to write subtitles by hand, I recommend using a dedicated application.

First language

My favourite application for creating subtitles is Subtitleeditor because it is capable of visualizing the audio waveforms. You can install it with Synaptic.

  • Open SubtitleEditor.

  • Go to File → New to create a new subtitle file.

  • Go to Video → Open to load your videofile (I recommend MP4 and OGG formats, MPG won’t work).

  • Go to Waveform → Generate waveform from video to create sound waveform as reference for timing.

Note If you are curious to know why MPG won’t work, see this bug report.


You are now ready to edit your subtitles. You can:

  • Press INS to insert a blank line.

  • Click in the field in the Text column and type your subtitle.

  • Press ENTER. Add new blank lines before or after the selected line from the Edit menu.


Go to File → Import Plain Text and select a .txt file. It will be automatically loaded as subtitle file, with a new line of subtitle every new line of text.
You can add or delete lines, join or split lines, duplicate lines as needed from the Edit menu.


Go to File → Open and select a subtitle file. Supported formats are listed in the SubtitleEditor website.

Note that you can have several subtitle files open at the same time.


You can set start time and end time of a selected subtitle line working on the waveform window.

  • Start playback with middle mouse button.

  • Pause playback with the button under the video player.

  • Click to set start time

  • Right-click to set end time.

Note To make your work faster, I recommended you set a keyboard shortcut for the Pause operation. To know more see the SubtutleEditor Wiki.
Note Most subtitle lines have already a strarting point set at 0:00:00.000. This will make the start-time setting a little weird. You might have a yellow band covering your waveform window. Don’t panic. Set starting point again or set end point first.
Note You can set a minimum lenght for your subtitles in Options → Preferences → Timing.


So far you have worked in a project with at least three kind of material: Subtitles, videos and waveforms (and possibly plain text). Not all of them can be saved in SubtitleEditor.


You can save you subtitles in all the supported subtitle fileformats with the File → Save menu entry.


You can’t save the subtitled video. What you see in SubtitleEditor is just a preview. Videofile and subtitlefile can’t be merged (muxed) in SubtitleEditor.


You can save waveforms to a .wf file with the Waveform → Save waveform menu entry.


You can save your subtitles as plain text (with no time references) with the File → Export plain text menu entry.


If you are in the middle of a long subtitling session, you can save your work in SubtitleEditor as is. SubtitleEditor projects are XML files that store all the information about your work and can be opened from the File → Open menu entry.
To save a project go to File → Save as and select Subtitle Editor Project as Format. Note that filename extension won’t be changed automatically. You must type .xml after the projectname.

Second language

To translate your main subtitle file you don’t need to care about timing anymore. I recommend using Gnome Subtitles. It can be installed with Synaptic.

Open your main subtitle file in GnomeSubtitles.

Go to File → Translation - > New. A Translation column will be added. Use the fields at the bottom of the window to enter text. You can type or copy and paste from another file.

To save your translation go to File → Translation → Save.
To save your main subtitle file go to File → Save.

How to playback Soft Subtitles

Store your video file and the subtitle files in the same folder.

Open your videofile with VLC. The first subtitle track will be played back automatically.

To change the subtitle track during playback go to the menu Video → Subtitles track and select a different track.

How to add multilingual subtitles to your DVD - basic

Using the Graphical user interface (GUI) - DeVeDe

When you build your DVD in DeVeDe, with or without a menu, you can add subtitles as well. In the File properties window you open when adding files, you can find an Add button for adding several subtitle files. For each file you have to select the stream number, the language and the font size. Subtitle files will be muxed in the video stream with basic preset formatting. They are pre-rendered subtitles.

To playback subtitles in VLC go to the menu Video → Subtitles track and select a subtitle track.
To playback subtitles in standalone players use the subtitle button of the remote control.

It is not possible to activate the subtitles through the menu graphical interface.

How to add multilingual subtitles to your DVD - advanced

Using the Graphical user interface (GUI) - Qdvdauthor

This section assumes you have Qdvdauthor installed, you have a source video loaded and you have more than one SubRip .srt subtitle file ready.

Loading subtitles

When you load a video dragging it in the Source File tab, all the related streams get automatically loaded too. That is all the files with the same filename of the video but an audio extension (.wav, .ac3, …) or a subtitle extensions (.srt) and that are stored in the same folder of the video will follow the video.

You can take control over this automatic operation in two ways:



Right click on the source video in the left panel and select Properties … from the popup menu. Move to the Audio/Subtitle tab.

Use the Delete subtitle, the Add or the Edit buttons to adjust the streams as needed. Note that every subtitle file is described with:

  • subtitle stream number

  • language code

  • language name

  • number of subtitles (lines)


Move to the SubPictures (Subtitles) tab of the main panel. Drag the video source to the canvas.


Subtitle streams will get automatically listed on the right panel. You can Add, Delete and Change the subtitle streams as needed.

Fixing subtitles

You can even fix the text lines.

In the Gen (General) tab select the stream you want to edit.

Move to the Subtitles sub-tab and double click in the cell you want to correct to make it editable.
Click on the number of the raw on the far left to select the whole line. You can delete it with the Delete line button.


If you want to add new subtitle lines:

  • write the text line in the field below the video preview.

  • using the transport controls preview the video, using the buttons to mark the Start point and the End point for your subtitle.

  • Click on the Add new button. The new line will be visible in the Subtitles sub-tab.

Formatting subtitles

In the Gen tab select the stream you want to edit.

To get just a basic formatting, enable Text Based Subtitles. You’ll have access only to the Text tab to set font and size.

To have fun playing with more advanced formatting, move to the Font tab where you can set text attributes in a word processor fashion. Most of the settings can be previewed in real time in the subtitle field below the video.

Saving edited subtitles

Everytime you switch to a different subtitle stream your formatting gets saved.
If you click on the crossed red square on the top left, you save and exit your work on subtitles.

Warning BEWARE!!! Work in progress

Using the Command Line (CLI) - spumux

Refer to the nice workflow documented by August Black during the production of Kaos.

Ho to make Soft Subtitles Hard

Avidemux is our friend here. Install it with Synaptic.

  • Go to File - > Open to load a videofile.

  • Check video codec, audio codec and container format in the left column. You can keep the same audio codec with the Copy option but you have to select a Video codec, even if you want too keep the same codec.

  • Click on Filters under the Video section.

  • Select Subtitles among the available filters in the Video Filter Manager window.

  • Select Subtitler to add .srt subtitles to the picture.

  • Click on the + button at the bottom of the panel to opena a dialog.

  • Browse your files to select the .srt file to add.

  • Browse your files to select the True Type Font (TTF) to use. TTF fonts are in /usr/share/fonts/truetype

  • Select the desired colour for your subtitles using the colour wheel, the colour picker or the colour numeric parameters.

  • Set Size and position for your subtitles. Enter Font Size as a number or modify it clickling on the arrows. Check the Position using the vertical slider on your right. Use the horizontal slider at the top to scroll a video preview.

  • Click on OK to confirm the settings.

  • Close the Video Filter Manager window.

Save the file.

The quality of your subtitles will be very nice, but the quality of your video will suffer a transcoding.