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 if you are starting out.
Sync Features Available for Amara Teams
Waveform: Our waveform feature allows you to sync your subtitles more precisely and identify and skip sequences of silence. You can hide the waveform and bring it back at any time depending on your needs.
Hide or show the waveform depending on your needs
Note: The waveform feature is available only to Amara Teams; it is not available for videos on the Amara Public Workspace. You can explore Team options through our Amara Plus, Amara Pro, or Amara Enterprise plans.
How to Sync Subtitles
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 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 the ARROW DOWN key. The video will keep playing unless you pause it with the Tab key.
3. When the next subtitle appears, press ARROW DOWN again. This key ends the current subtitle and places the next one in the timeline. Keep tapping on the ARROW DOWN key to start new subtitles.
4. As you keep tapping, the current subtitle will show in the video player. The next unsynced subtitle will appear in a shade of gray on the far right side 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. If you feel you have totally messed it up, do not panic! Just clear all the timing and start from the beginning. Learning the keyboard shortcuts takes a little practice, but it has great benefits!
7. When you are done or have to stop and take a break from work, make sure you save subtitles.
Editing timed subtitles (pass 2)
Now that you have all of the subtitles synced, it is time to make a second pass and adjust the timestamps for the accuracy of each subtitle. 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.
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!
Timing Tools menu
The Timing tools menu is located above the subtitles you are editing in the middle panel of the Amara Editor. Click the Timing tools menu to view the available actions in a drop-down list.
Copy All Timing
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 the translated subtitles manually. You can easily copy existing timing from one subtitle set to another or from one revision to another.
The Copy all timing command does exactly what its name says. It copies the 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 (whichever 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 the Timing tools menu above the editing (middle) panel and then click the Copy all timing item from the menu. In the confirmation pop-up, click the Continue button.
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 then try to Copy all 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 that you save your work!
What happens if the source set and target set have different numbers 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 Timing tools menu above the editing panel and then click the Clear timing item:
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 menu. Once you hide the timeline, you will have to open the Timing Tools menu and click Show Timeline to show it again.
Switch Between Typing and Syncing Modes
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 learn how to speed up your subtitling and avoid clicking around the editor, click the See more shortcuts link in the Keyboard shortcuts panel.
The editor starts a new transcript in the typing mode and prompts you to switch to the syncing mode by clicking Start syncing button in the progression panel:
The Subtitling steps panel is clickable, so you can switch between modes by clicking the step you want to work in as long as there are no blank subtitles or other error messages.
Unable to Start Syncing or Complete Subtitles
While you are typing the text of the transcript in the subtitle editor, the Start syncing button in the Subtitle steps panel might not be available.
Or, you might see messages such as Status: Needs work or Subtitles can't be blank in the progression panel in the left part of the subtitle editor.
That means that at least one subtitle lacks text or timing.
Subtitles that have empty or untimed cells cannot be marked as completed.
Our Warning messages in the editor article covers 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.
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