Subtitles in Final Cut Express

Having recently had to make subtitles for a project in Final Cut Express, I didn’t find much useful guidance online, so thought I’d write up some ‘top tips’:

1. Using FCE to do the subtitles isn’t the headache you might imagine.It’s pretty easy to add an extra visual track of text clips that contain the text in one or two lines at the bottom of the screen.

2. The trick is picking the best settings for legibility. First in Effects, pick the Video Generators>Text>Outline Text. Outline text allows you to have a bright colour as the main part of the text, outlined with a dark colour, so that it will show up well, whatever video background it’s laid over. The settings I used, when that Text Generator is pulled into the viewer, look like this:


On using these settings and making a DVD, they do make for pretty nice legible subtitles – yellow seems to be a pretty good standard colour that pops off the page, doesn’t bleed, and isn’t too intrusive to the image.

3. Remember, what you see on screen isn’t what you’ll see on a DVD made from this file, so turn on View>Show Title Safe to show the borders were you shouldn’t let your text spill into. The following image shows text which will appear okay in my Pal (720 px by 576 px) project:


So, in short, keep inside the blue frame. And I suppose that goes for all your content and titles.

4. In FCE you can easily drag and move your clips around to cover the same space as the audio you’re subtitling. I used the Roll tool, but also the move tool works pretty well – it’s easiest to do all that directly in the Timeline.

5. Try to keep whole phrases on one page i.e. don’t split up the text in the middle of a sentence or a point that is being made, as much as possible anyway.

Hopefully that’s been of some help to someone – feel free to email me for more advice if necessary.

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One Response to Subtitles in Final Cut Express

  1. Hiroko Muranishi says:

    Thanks. That was a great help. I just needed to adjust the numbers to position the text at the bottom of the screen. Thanks again.

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