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Understanding Forced Narrative Subtitles


A Forced Narrative (FN) subtitle is a text overlay that clarifies communications or alternate languages meant to be understood by the viewer. They can also be used to clarify dialogue, texted graphics or location/person IDs that are not otherwise covered in the dubbed/localized audio. To enable the same viewing experience across multiple countries and devices, FN subtitles are localized and delivered as separate timed ­text files. The picture in your primary video (A/V MUX) that would otherwise have subtitles is required to be delivered as a non-subtitled file, or textless. Subtitles, both full and FN, are not​ burned-in over picture.

On our service, Forced Narrative subtitles are only displayed if Subtitles and CC are set to "off" in the user's playback settings. When the user activates a full Subtitle or SDH/CC file, the FN subtitle does not display and for this reason, we require that all Forced Narrative events are also included in each full Subtitle and SDH/CC file.

Use Cases

FN subtitles are used in the following cases:

1. Short segments of foreign language, intended to be understood by the audience, that differ from the original language of the show.


Example: Subtitles set to “Off”,  but FN subtitle still displays when this Warrior Nun character speaks Italian.

2. Translation of original language location/person IDs, dates or other labels (e.g. “White House, December 10”). As a creative element, these text graphics are usually burned into image and are therefore represented as FN’s in foreign languages only. The screenshot below illustrates a graphic location ID (Manitowoc County, Wisconsin) in English with the Spanish FN subtitle translation (Condado De Manitowoc, Wisconsin). 

3. Communication that would not otherwise be commonly understood (e.g. sign language, a subtitled dog, Klingons).

Example: English and Spanish FN subtitles are used clarify sign language. (Note: In contrast to the FN text overlay, the middle third is a creative graphic element and is therefore burned into picture).

Example: English FN subtitle coverage of Klingon dialogue

4. Transcribed dialogue in the same language, often done for audience clarification (if audio is inaudible or distorted, commonly in documentaries).

Customized Forced Narrative Display Support

Due to this separate timed-text delivery approach and the number of devices from which Netflix can be accessed, there is no way to guarantee the appearance of FN subtitles. Font may vary in look depending on the viewing device and font availability for the device itself. As an example, on the Web User Interface, FN subtitles delivered to the Netflix time-text spec will have the following display options available to the user:

General User Interface Behaviors

With timed-text file support, FN subtitles can be dynamically repositioned in order to maintain the clearest presentation to the viewer. The following examples illustrate how the behavior of FN subtitles will change within the Netflix UI:

1. When the play bar is up (e.g. when pausing, fast-forwarding or rewinding), subtitles and FN subtitles are moved up to remain readable. 

2. FN text are moved to the top/bottom of the screen to avoid obstructing picture and/or locator IDs. The examples below illustrate areas of top-positioned subtitles. Bottom-center is the default FN location. 

Example: Top-Positioned subtitles

Example: Default FN position

Please review our Full 

• Localization, Accessibility, and Dubbing Branded Delivery Specifications.

• Licensed Full Technical Spec & Operator's Manual - Page 15 for Forced Narratives 

• Timed Text Style Guides

Download PDF Version of this article:

• English 

• Korean




Change Log:


Revised Summary to include details on how Forced Narrative behavior is displayed on service.

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