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Alternate subtitle formats?

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I asked about this in one of the Q&A threads, but is there any chance of allowing subtitles with stylization? I'll repeat what was said there:

Subtitles on YouTube can utilize advanced features such as color and positioning, though not in .srt format (YouTube only allows plaintext in this format). Are you going to enable more subtitle file types to be submitted to the forums, such as .vtt, .smi and .ytt files?

Their correct usage would allow for more intuitive reading experiences.


  • .vtt allows for positioning and simple markups
  • .smi has full color and markup support
  • .ytt allows for maximum customization of subtitles, including color, positioning, and everything else with YouTube CC's


I can share examples of this in action if so desired.


Edited by Erasmus Roterodamnsus (see edit history)

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Here is an example of a colorized .smi subtitle in action. Each actor has a specific color, while maintaining optimum legibility. With the right knowhow, they're fairly simple to create, and have been supported for a while.


The key to utilizing stylized subtitles is to not modify anything within the subtitle editor. Doing so will overwrite all markup data ("This transcript may contain additional formatting that can get lost if overwritten."), so just hit publish once it's on the screen. Also, the editor cannot display colors, so you'll have to check the video itself for confirmation.


No colorized .srts allowed. If you've got a colorized .srt, simply convert it to .smi, and you'll be good.


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Sure thing. Here's a list of steps for uploading stylized subtitles.


Step 1: Make sure the subtitle is in .smi format. If it's in .srt format, it must be converted. (I recommend using Subtitle Edit. Do not use Subtitle Workshop. It doesn't create .smi files correctly) 


Step 2: Upload the subtitle as is: Edit Video > Subtitles > ADD/EDIT > Upload file > WITH timing


Step 3:  Hit publish straight away. Do NOT change anything within the subtitle editor. Doing so deletes the colorization. ("This transcript may contain additional formatting that can get lost if overwritten.")


Step 4: Check the actual video for confirmation. The editor will not display color. The first colorized line isn't always at the start.


And that's all:

.smi file, upload, change nothing, publish, check.


Again, different file formats have different rules. .smi is a really solid middle ground, but doesn't account for everything. Every subtitle format has pros and cons, so I use them all, each for different circumstances.

  • .smi is great because it's relatively simple, and allows for full color and simple markups (but nothing more)
  • .vtt is lightweight, easily human readable, positional, and offers simple markups (but no color or other customizations)
  • .ytt is YouTube's native subtitle format, so it accounts for everything, from full color, text positioning, font size, font name, background opacity/color, and so much more. Its customization is on par editing text in Premiere (but is not easily human readable, so you'd need to know exactly what you're doing)
Edited by Erasmus Roterodamnsus (see edit history)

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