English Template Timed Text Style Guide
An English template serves as the basis for subtitling in other languages. Any timed text created specifically for Netflix – Originals or Licensed Content – should follow the Netflix Timed Text Style Guide, unless otherwise advised.
A note about timing in the English template: the English template timing guidelines follow the Netflix Timed-text Style Guide when it comes to timing to audio. This is a suggestion for downstream localization. Each language should accommodate timing for better reading speed as they see fit, also following the Netflix timing guidelines.
I. General Requirements
- Minimum duration: ⅚ (five-sixths) second per subtitle event (e.g. 20 frames for 24fps; 25 frames for 29.97fps)
- Maximum duration: 7 seconds per subtitle event
English template files must be delivered in TTML (.dfxp, .xml, .ttml) format.
2 frames minimum (regardless of frame rate)
Only text/characters included in the NETFLIX Glyph List (version 2) can be used.
2 lines maximum
Always keep the text on one line, unless it exceeds the character limitation. Follow these basic principles when the text has to be broken into 2 lines:
- The line should be broken
- after punctuation marks
- before conjunctions
- before prepositions
- The line break should not separate
- a noun from an article
- a noun from an adjective
- a first name from a last name
- a verb from a subject pronoun
- a prepositional verb from its preposition
- a verb from an auxiliary, reflexive pronoun or negation
- Subtitles should be center justified and placed at either the top or bottom of the screen.
- Please ensure subtitles are positioned accordingly to avoid overlap with onscreen text. In cases where overlap is impossible to avoid (text at the top and bottom of screen), the subtitle should be placed where easier to read.
- Timing to Audio: Subtitles should be timed to the audio or, if necessary, within 3 frames of the audio. If more time is required for better reading speed, the out-time can be extended up to 12 frames past the timecode at which the audio ends.
- Timing to Shot Changes: It is good practice to avoid subtitles that cross the shot changes whenever possible, as this is disruptive to the viewing experience.
- Dialogue that crosses shot changes: when dialogue crosses the shot change the timecodes should be adjusted to either be at the shot change or at least 12 frames from it.
If dialogue starts between 8-11 frames (green zone) before the shot change, the in-time should be moved up to 12 frames before the shot change.
If dialogue starts 7 frames or less (red zone) before the shot change, the in-time should be moved to the shot change.
If dialogue ends between 8-11 frames (green zone) after the shot change, the out-time should be moved out to 12 frames after the shot change.
If dialogue ends 7 frames or less (red zone) after the shot change, time code out should be moved to the shot change, respecting the two-frame gap.
If there is one subtitle before and one after the shot change, the second one should start on the shot change, and the first should end two frames before.
KNPs must be created and used for translation to ensure consistency across episodes and seasons. Please discuss with your Netflix contact the most suitable KNP workflow for your project.
Translations for Netflix Originals title cards must be included in full and forced subtitle streams. For this reason, the English template must contain these instances. It is preferable if these are timed to match the exact duration and appearance onscreen.
Subtitle all plot pertinent and otherwise relevant on-screen text that is not covered in dialogue even if redundant in English, such as: “Based on True Events”, “In Loving Memory of Jane”, etc.
Currency should not be converted in the subtitle files. Any mention of money amounts in dialogue should remain in the original currency.
- When translating from non-English source language, treatment of brand names can be handled in one of the following ways:
- Use the same brand name if it is widely known and used in English;
- Use the name by which that brand is known in English speaking countries;
- Use a generic term for the product.
- Do not swap one brand for another company's trademarked item.
- Please include the placeholder for the translator credit as the last event of the English template:
“Subtitle translation by”
- The translator credit should occur after the end of the main program.
- The credit should be appropriately timed for reading speed, with duration between 1 and 5 seconds.
- The translator credit should not be on-screen at the same time as the Netflix Ident.
All TTML files created as English Templates must adhere to the following technical specifications:
- Only use percentage values. Do not use pixel values.
- Use tts:textAlign and tts:displayAlign for positioning along with static values for tts:extent and tts:origin.
- tts:fontSize shall be defined as 100%. Do not use pixel values.
An example can be found here.
I. English Language Requirements
Please note these are stylistic guidelines for template creation only - when translating from the English template each language should follow their own Timed Text Style Guide.
- A.D. - Anno Domini
- B.C. - Before Christ
- a.m. - ante meridian
- p.m.- post meridian
- Mr. - Mister
- Mrs. - Missus
- Dr. - Doctor
- Prof. - Professor
- Lt.- Lieutenant
- Capt. - Captain
- Maj. - Major
- Col. - Colonel
- Gen. - General
- e.g. - exampli gratia
- i.e. - id est
- etc. - et cetera
- ft. - feet
- in. - inches
- Acronyms should be written without periods between letters: BBC, CIA, UNICEF
During the creation of the English template annotations should be made in order to provide additional context to translators. This should include notes for cultural references, idioms, jokes, etc. Please ensure that these annotations are included when delivering the English template to Netflix.
- Annotations should be added to the end of each applicable event within HTML comments.
- HTML comments use the following syntax:
<!-- Annotation 1 -->
- Please avoid putting two or more adjacent hyphens inside comments.
- 42 characters per line
When creating English templates for non-English source language programs:
- Do not translate proper names unless Netflix provides approved translations.
- Nicknames should only be translated if they convey a specific meaning.
- Use language-specific translations for historical/mythical characters (e.g., Santa Claus).
- Do not use ellipsis or dashes when an ongoing sentence is split between two or more continuous subtitles.
Subtitle 1 I always knew
Subtitle 2 that you would eventually agree with me.
- Use ellipsis to indicate a pause or dialogue trailing off. In the case of a pause, if the sentence continues in the next subtitle, do not use ellipsis at the beginning of the second subtitle.
Subtitle 1 Had I known...
Subtitle 2 I wouldn't have called you.
- Use two hyphens to indicate abrupt interruptions.
-What are you--
- Use ellipsis followed by a space when there is a significant pause within a subtitle.
She hesitated… about accepting the job.
- Use ellipsis without a space to indicate that a subtitle is starting mid-sentence.
...have signed an agreement.
- Please include the speaker’s name, company name and/or character name in addition to their title to the template, as these are not redundant for character-based languages. Languages using the Latin alphabet will remove redundancies as needed.
- Only include the speaker’s title, name, etc. once - the first time the speaker appears in the documentary.
- When ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, use ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence in the subtitle that follows it.
Subtitle 1 I worked on this movie…
Subtitle 2 (FN) DIRECTOR
Subtitle 3 …for a total of six months.
- Dialogue in TV/Movie clips should only be subtitled if plot-pertinent and if the rights have been granted.
- News tickers/banners from archive clips do not require subtitles unless plot-pertinent.
- Avoid going back and forth between italicized and non-italicized subtitles when the speaker is on and off screen in a documentary. If the speaker is on-camera for at least part of the scene, do not italicize. Leave italics for off-screen narrators.
- Use a hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.
-Are you coming?
-In a minute.
- Font style: Arial as a generic placeholder for proportionalSansSerif
- Font size: relative to video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across the screen
- Font color: White
- Forced narrative titles for on-screen text should only be included if plot-pertinent.
- When on-screen text and dialogue overlap, precedence should be given to the most plot-pertinent message. Avoid over truncating or severely reducing reading speed in order to include both dialogue and on-screen text.
- The duration of the FN subtitle should as much as possible mimic the duration of the on-screen text, except for cases where reading speed and/or surrounding dialogue takes precedence.
- All plot-pertinent forced narratives - even if redundant in English - should be included.
- Forced narratives for on-screen text should be in ALL CAPS, except for long passages of on screen text (e.g. prologue or epilogue), which should use sentence case to improve readability.
- Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle.
- When a forced narrative interrupts dialogue, use ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence in the subtitle that follows it.
Subtitle 1 I don’t think we should…
Subtitle 2 (FN) NO TRESPASSING
Subtitle 3 …go any further.
- Foreign dialogue should only be translated if the viewer was meant to understand it (i.e., if it was subtitled in the original version).
- When using foreign words, always verify spelling, accents and punctuation, if applicable.
- Unfamiliar foreign words and phrases should be italicized.
- Familiar foreign words and phrases which are listed in Webster’s dictionary should not be italicized and should be spelled as in Webster’s dictionary (e.g., bon appétit, rendezvous, doppelgänger, zeitgeist, etc.).
- Proper names, such as foreign locations or company names, should not be italicized.
- Italicize the following:
- Voice-overs such as not-in-scene narrators or the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts
- Song lyrics when sung, not quoted (if rights have been granted)
- Unfamiliar foreign words and phrases
- Dialogue that is heard through electronic media, such as a phone, television, or computer
- Only use italics when the speaker is not in the scene(s), not merely off screen or off camera
- Titles of books, periodicals, works of art, albums, movies, TV shows, radio shows. (For an episode title in a series, use quotation marks)
- Italics may be used when a word is obviously emphasized in speech and when proper punctuation cannot convey that emphasis (e.g., It was)
- From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: one, two, three, etc.
- Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc.
- When a number begins a sentence, it should always be spelled out.
- Times of day:
- Use numerals when exact times are emphasized: 9:30 a.m.
- Use lowercase a.m. (ante meridiem) and p.m. (post meridiem) when mentioned in dialogue
- Spell out words/phrases that do not include actual numbers: half past, quarter to, midnight, noon
- When o’clock is mentioned in dialogue, always spell out the number: eleven o’clock in the morning
- Note that the above rules may be broken due to space limitations or reading speed concerns, as well as for consistency when listing multiple quantities, for example.
- Quoted words, phrases and sentences are enclosed in double quotation marks; single quotation marks enclose quotations within quotations.
He told me: "Come back tomorrow."
He said: "'Singing in the Rain' is my favorite song."
- If the quote extends beyond more than one subtitle, use an open quote at the beginning of the first subtitle and an end quote at the end of the last subtitle.
Subtitle 1 "Good night, good night!
Subtitle 2 Parting is such sweet sorrow
Subtitle 3 that I shall say good night till it be morrow."
- Use U.S. English rules:
- Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single.
- Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks.
- Question marks and exclamation points follow quotation marks unless they belong within the quoted text:
Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, "Good night, good night"?
Juliet said, "Good night, good night!"
- Song titles should be enclosed in quotes.
- Adult programs: 20 characters per second
- Children’s programs: 17 characters per second
- Do not subtitle words or phrases repeated more than once by the same speaker.
- If the repeated word or phrase is said twice in a row, time subtitle to the audio but translate only once.
- Only subtitle plot-pertinent songs if the rights have been granted.
- Opening and ending theme songs should only be subtitled if clearly plot-pertinent (e.g. for children’s content when the lyrics tell a story) or if instructed by Netflix. Normally, adult programs should not have the opening songs subtitled, except for SDH.
- Italicize lyrics.
- Use an uppercase letter at the beginning of each line.
- Use ellipsis when a song continues in the background but is no longer subtitled to give precedence to dialogue.
- Punctuation: only question marks and exclamation marks should be used at the end of a line – no commas or periods. Commas can be used within the lyric line, if necessary.
- Album titles should be in italics.
- Song titles should be in quotes.
- Main titles: do not subtitle the on-screen main title card.
- Episode titles: do not subtitle episode titles if they do not appear on screen/are not voiced-over.
- If on-screen (either as part of the principal photography or burned into video), please add an “EPISODE TITLE” placeholder.
- If voiced-over, please subtitle as regular dialogue when creating the template to English source audio.
- If translating from a non-English source language, please reference the KNP tool for approved translations.
- Titles of published works, existing movies and TV shows: use official or well-known translations when translating from non-English source language. If none are available, leave titles in the original language.
- Dialogue must never be censored.
- Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue.
- Deliberate misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the translation unless plot-pertinent.
- When creating the English template to English source audio, please note the n-word should only be spelled with the -er ending in historical contexts or as a racist slur; its use in slang, non-racist conversation, or song lyrics should be handled with the -a ending.
For all language-related issues not covered in this document, please refer to:
- The Merriam-Webster dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
- Chicago Manual of Style: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html
Revised Section II.19 Special Instructions
Section II.10 renamed to On-screen Text
Section 2 Reading Speed - moved to Section II, limits increased
Section 5 Character Limitation - moved to Section II
Revised section I.6 Positioning - positional data removed, 2nd bullet point added
Section 8 Italics - moved to Section II, last bullet point added
Added section I.8 Consistency
Added section I.10 Title Cards/Dedications
Section 11 Annotations - moved to Section II
Added section I.11 Currency
Added section I.12 Brand Names Treatment
Added section I.13 Translator Credits
Revised section I.14 Technical Aspects - renamed and snippet removed
Added Section II English Template Requirements
Added section 8 Italics