Text to Subtitles - Python

A Python script that creates subtitles of a given length from text paragraphs that can be easily imported into any Video Editing software such as FinalCut Pro for further adjustments.

2. Description

2.1 Problem

In a fast-paced TV, Film, and Video production environment Video Editors are often faced with the task to create subtitles quickly and efficiently. They will often have a script that they manually into Video Editing software, one subtitle at a time, then adjust the timing.

In the case of Documentary films or long interviews, the number of subtitles can be overwhelming. In addition, there can be multiple subtitles in different languages.

2.2 Solution

Instead of manually typing the text in Video Editing Software or copy-pasting it from a text file one subtitle at a time this python script automatically converts text paragraphs, located in a text file into a standard .srt subtitle file. It can be then imported into any Video Editing Software.

The script creates subtitles of the same length, such as 3 seconds. Therefore, manual adjustments are still needed after importing the subtitles. Nevertheless, this workflow has proven to be much faster than the full manual process described above.


Call me Ishmael.

Some years ago,
never mind how long precisely,

having little or no money in my purse,
and nothing particular


00:00:00,000 --> 0:00:03,000
Call me Ishmael.

00:00:03,000 --> 0:00:06,000
Some years ago,
never mind how long precisely,

00:00:06,000 --> 0:00:09,000
having little or no money in my purse,
and nothing particular

2.3 Motivation behind the project

I first created this workflow when I was Directing and Video Editing TV mini-series. Since deadlines were extremely tight I was looking at every opportunity to speed up the delivery times while maintaining high quality. I later used it for commercial Videography projects. This solution fits my workflow very well and has proven to be very useful.

2.4 Development history

It was originally built simply by using a stack of regular expressions executed in the TextSoap.app along with some operations in Excel and manula copy-pasting. Later most of the steps were combined in a single Python script that is presented here.

3. Technologies Used

  • Python 3.9.4, compatible with Python 2.7 and above
  • datetime integrated module to work with date and time
  • re integrated regular expression operations module
  • os a portable way of using operating system dependent functionality

4. Installation

Download text_to_video_subtitles.py file from this GitHub repository.

5. Usage

5.1 Prepare .txt file

Take existing script or type it from scratch. Then manually split it into paragraphs in the following format:

Call me Ishmael.

Some years ago,
never mind how long precisely,

having little or no money in my purse,
and nothing particular
  • A single line represents a single line in a subtitle.
  • Empty line defines where one subtitle ends and a new one begins.
  • Normally one subtitle has one or two lines, but it can have more.

5.2 Rename and move .txt file

Paste the text into a text editor, then save it as subtitles.txt, and move the file into the same folder with text_to_subtitles.py.

5.3 Launch Python script

Open Terminal.app. Type python, add space, then drag and drop text_to_video_markers.py and press Return.


Alternatively, you can install the latest version of Python. Then right-click on text_to_video_markers.py file and choose Open with -> Python Launcher.app.


Either method will run the script and create subtitles.srt file in the same folder.

5.4 Open subtitles.srt with FinalCut Pro

In FinalCut Pro choose File -> Import -> Captions..., then navigate to newly created subtitles.srt and select Import. This will import subtitles into an existing project. They will be visible in Timeline, Index (Captions), and Viewer. You can now easily adjust individual subtitles in Timeline and edit the text in Timeline and Inspector.

That's it! We have just automatically converted text with paragraphs into a universal .srt subtitle file for further adjustments and manipulations in Video editing software such as FinalCut Pro..


6. Project Status

The project is: complete
I am no longer working on it since I am not working for TV any longer. But if you have some ideas or want me to modify something contact me and we should be able to collaborate.

7. Known Limitations

  • An input text file must be named subtitles.txt
  • Text in subtitles.txt** file must be split into paragraphs.
  • Both text_to_subtitles.py and subtitles.txt must be located in the same folder.
  • The default subtitle length is 3 seconds and can only be changed inside text_to_subtitles.py code by changing the number in dursec = 3 statement.

8. Room for Improvement

  • Testing and logging the issues.
  • Making python script an executable file.
  • Developing GUI to be able to specify .txt and .fcpxml input files with any name and location.
  • Building a web app.