Video Editing

Complete Breakdown of How to Add Subtitles in iMovie

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

  • hello text text
  • hello two

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

There is a lot that is great about iMovie. However, the ability to add captions and subtitles is not one of them.

To be clear - you can add subtitles in iMovie. It just involves a complicated and tedious process, unlike other editing applications. The software cannot read .sub or .srt files, so you have to enter each block of subtitles manually.

For inexperienced users, this can be daunting and confusing. 

This blog will try to make this complicated process easier to follow (step-by-step guide) and in addition, introduce you to another option.

How to Add Captions in iMovie

If you are not familiar with iMovie, it’s Apple’s native video editing software for iOS, iPad, and macOS users. It is an excellent tool for anyone who creates video content for fun or professionally.

Its features include the ability to cut and customize clips, add graphics and background music to heighten a video’s emotional punch. The software’s array of features are robust, and in many ways, a match for renowned editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut.

It is free if you own an Apple device, making it a helpful alternative.

When it comes to captioning and subtitling a video, though, iMovie is not hassle-free. Still, the software’s subtitling process allows you to create professional-style open captions (hardcoded subtitles that are always on).

It means accessibility is baked into your video content for the deaf and those who struggle with hearing. Furthermore, it ensures your video is watchable by everyone, wherever they are.

Now that you are familiar with the software and its benefits, here is how to add subtitles to video content with it.

How to Add Subtitles in iMovie with Title Overlay Feature

As mentioned earlier, you cannot import an .SRT, .SUB or any subtitle file format in iMovie. You have to manually enter the subtitle for each frame and set the corresponding timestamp.

To do this, follow these steps.

STEP 1 - Create a New Project and Import the Video

Launch the app and click on the Projects tab. Then select Create New to open a blank workspace.

Then click on Import Media and select the video file you want to add subtitles to from your computer.

Next, drag and drop the imported video clip(s) into the video timeline at the bottom of the interface.

STEP 2 - Add Titles

The timeline will give you an expanded view of each frame to see where you want to add titles. Once you have identified where you want the title to appear, click the Titles menu at the top of the editor.

It will open a large collection of Title styles and formats to pick from.

Choose the one that closely matches how you want the subtitle or caption to appear in the frame by double-clicking it. An ideal option is the Lower style.

You can also drag and drop it on the desired frame in the timeline.

TIP: Move your mouse over the thumbnail of each title to get a preview of their style.

Ensure the title’s placing is closely aligned with the speech or moment you want to describe.

Also, remove excess text boxes if you pick a title style with more than one text box.

STEP 3 - Edit the Text

Edit the content of the remaining text to match the speech by the speaker(s). 

TIP: Replay the frame a few times to ensure you get every word right.

Additionally, edit the font style, size, color, and alignment of the text. You can also stretch out or shrink the text overlay box by dragging its edges.

Do not forget to set the title’s duration by dragging the right edge of the textbox on the timeline.

You can also set the duration by double-clicking the text layer in the timeline. It will bring up the Inspector window.

Here, you can set the duration and the Fade time. 

Once the edit is complete, repeat this process for every frame.

To make this process easier, download the .SRT file of the video (if there is one). Open it with a text editor (TextEdit, MS Word), then copy and paste the relevant text for each frame and timestamp.

Additionally, when you create a title for the next frame, copy and paste the former text layer to maintain the formatting across the board.

STEP 4 - Export the Finished Video

When you have created titles for all the relevant frames, replay the entire video to double-check that the captioning is accurate.

Once satisfied with work, export the video with the subtitle by clicking the Share button at the top right corner of the editor and select File.

Alternatively, you can go to File at the top of the editor and select Share.

Then set the export settings. In this case, there are no specific settings for captioning because the titles are rendered with the video. 

Also, remember to pick the optimal resolution, quality, and compression for best results.

Once the export is complete, play the file on any media player of your choice, the subtitles will show during playback.

How to put Subtitles in iMovie on iPhone and iPad

You can also add subtitles in iMovie with iPhone and iPad. Since it is the same application and no significant difference between its Mac and mobile versions, the process remains essentially the same.

To use it, make sure you have it installed on your device. The application is downloadable from the Apple Store.

STEP 1 - Open the app and Import your file

Launch iMovie on your iPhone or iPad. 

Then click the + button under Projects and select Movie to upload the video clip.

STEP 2 - Add the Titles

Place the video you want to edit on the timeline. Then select it. You are in editing mode when a yellow outline appears around the entire clip.

Now, tap the ‘T’ icon at the bottom of the interface to open Text controls. A selection of Titles with different styles and animation will appear. Choose the closest one to a traditional subtitle format. 

Then choose Center or Lower at the bottom of the interface to determine where the captions will appear on the video.

After selecting the style, edit the content according to the speech in the video.

Repeat this process for every part of the frame.

Once you are satisfied with the final look, click Done after reviewing the entire clip. That’s it.

How to Add Text in iMovie

What if you just want to add contextual text to your video? You can equally do this in iMovie using text overlay. 

The only difference is the placement of the text in each frame. While subtitles generally go at the bottom of the frame to minimize distraction, you can place your contextual text anywhere, depending on the purpose. 

You can put it in the middle, lower right, left, or let it scroll through the screen.

Here is how to add text in iMovie.

STEP 1 - Import and Place the Video in the Timeline

Add the video by starting a new project in iMovie. Then Click on Import Media to select the video you want to edit.

Once the import is complete, drag and drop the video in the timeline to enable it for editing.

STEP 2 - Add the Text Layer

Now, click the Titles tab at the top of the editor to access different Title styles and formats.

Don’t forget to preview the styles by moving your mouse over the thumbnails.

When you find the text overlay style you like, double-click it to add it to the video. The text layer will appear in the timeline. 

STEP 3 - Customize the Text

First, drag the text layer to the exact position you want it to appear in the video. You can place it at the beginning as an opening title or end as part of the end credits.

Once it is in position, customize the text with settings like font style, size, alignment, and background color.

You will find the Text Controls in the upper-right corner of the editor.

When you finish, click the blue checkmark at the end of the Text Controls to save your edit.

Using this process, you can add different types of contextual text to your video including:

  • Adding Titles
  • Adding Intertitles (overlay text during the clip)
  • Scrolling Credits, and
  • Creating Lower Third Callouts

All of these can be added by changing the placement and size of the text layer.

What to consider when you add text over video in iMovie

Whether you are adding text or creating subtitles with iMovie, here are a few things to consider to provide a pleasurable viewing experience for your audience.

  1. Choose the correct subtitle format for the content and publishing platform

The best subtitle format for an Instagram video is not necessarily the same for a video that can be downloaded and watched anytime.

When you format the subtitle text, consider the intended publishing platform in mind. A video meant for social media will benefit more from bigger subtitle texts to enable viewers to understand the content without playing it out loud.

Also, consider the output file format. Export in a format compatible with the destination platform. A standard option is MP4, compatible with most social media websites and media players.

  1. Edit Subtitle Placement

As valuable as captions are for accessibility, the text should not overshadow the video content. It could ruin your audience’s experience and defeat the purpose of the video.

Use iMovie’s editing tools like position placement and size adjustment to ensure the subtitle placement does not affect the actual content.

Also, use subtitles only in relevant parts. Don’t use subtitles in self-evident frames to avoid subtitle overuse.

  1. Customize to ensure perfect background-subtitle

There is no point in doing all the hard work to create subtitles manually if your audience can’t see it. Go through every frame to ensure there is significant contrast between the subtitles and the background.

For instance, do not use white-colored text on a white background. Use a color like black or yellow that will remain visible without necessarily distracting from the video content.

Limitations to adding subtitles in iMovie

For all its advantages as a video editing tool, adding subtitles can be tedious in iMovie. If the subtitle file is not online, you have to create it manually for every text layer.

If the file is available, it requires copying and pasting the text for each frame.

While this might not be much of a hassle for a short video, it can be stressful for a long video.

If you want something faster, there are plenty of solutions on the internet. Here is ours, Keevi Video Editor, and how to use it.

Adding Captions to a Video with Keevi: iMovie’s Best Alternative

Keevi Video Editor is a web-based video editor that automatically generates subtitles for video content in over 119 languages. The generated subtitles can be downloaded in different formats, including SRT and WebVTT.

It is a versatile tool that also supports manual subtitle creation and upload. Beyond adding subtitles, it also has a robust subtitle editing feature to create a look that matches your online brand or personal preference.

Here is how it works.

STEP 1 - Import the Video

First, click this link to launch the website. Then launch the editor by clicking the ‘Get Started’ button.

Import the file by dragging and dropping it on the ‘Add Video’ window. You can also use the Browse button to select it through your computer.

STEP 2 - Auto Generate or Manually Add Subtitles

Once the video is fully uploaded, click the Subtitles tab at the top of the editor.

You will see a list of options -

  • Auto Subtitles
  • Manual Subtitles
  • Upload Subtitles file

To automatically generate subtitles, click the Auto Subtitles option.

Then select your preferred language. Click ‘Generate Auto Subtitles’ to begin the process. The process will take a few minutes, depending on the length of the video.

If you have an SRT, WebVTT, or ASS file you want to add manually, click Upload Subtitles File.

It will open a pop-up window. Select the subtitle format, and that’s it.

STEP 3 - Edit Subtitles

You can edit the auto-generated or manually uploaded subtitles by clicking Options under the Subtitles tab. 

It will open a menu list of -

  • Subtitle Style
  • Translations
  • Download Subtitle
  • Delete All

Click Subtitle Style.

You can change the font style, size, alignment, and color. You can also emphasize essential words in your content with Bold, Underline, and Italics options.

Save the edited subtitles file to your device by selecting the Download Subtitles in the Subtitles’ menu list.

STEP 4 - Export the Video

When you finish editing the subtitles, personalize the video with Keevi features like stickers, GIFs, and animated text.

Next, click the Export button at the top right corner of the video to save the video with the subtitle file.

It will open the rendering page. When rendering is complete, save the video to your device or share it directly on any social media platform.

Why Add Subtitles in iMovie?

Here are a few reasons you should seriously consider: 

  • To make content universally accessible

English may be the most spoken language in the world, but it is not the only language. Creating content exclusively for English speakers means you lose out on a large audience of non-speakers.

Translating your content into the native language of your target audience makes it accessible and expands your reach.

  • To improve social media engagement

According to Facebook, captions boost view time by 12 percent. Users also watch more than 100 million hours of video per day, and 85% of FB videos are watched without sound. The trend is the same with other major social media platforms.

Without a doubt, adding subtitles can help your content stand out from the crowd. Make your captions bold and recognizable, and it will boost your content engagement.

  • To accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing users

About 6.1 percent of the world’s population have hearing loss. There are 48 million in the US alone with a degree of hearing loss in one or both ears and they are likely to simply not watch your video if it doesn’t have captions.  Needless to say, adding subtitles and captions is a simple and efficient way to boost your content’s accessibility. 

  • Improve SEO rankings

Subtitles or Captions are readable files that search engines can crawl. Thus, when your captions align with your keyword strategy, your content ranks higher on search engine result pages.

Research has also shown that videos with subtitles or captions have higher SERP ranks because they keep the audience engaged even without audio.

Final Word

Hopefully, you will now find it easier to add subtitles in iMovie. Admittedly, not the most straightforward process, iMovie’s benefits make it worth it, especially if you use the software to create social media content.

Alternatively, you can use Keevi to add subtitles to your videos if you want something simpler.

Hammad Akbar
Hammad Akbar
September 10, 2021