Subtitle and Subtitling Notes

The next three notes describe the full process for finding, downloading, then uploading subtitles to your Plex Media server via a browser. It's assumed that you're in the browser at a media title and have just discovered that clicking Subtitles: Search on that page doesn't find or fails to get you an installable subtitle.

This is what you found out when, in the browser application managing your Plex Media, on a media title page, you click on Subtitles, chose Search and either found nothing or you found what looked to be promising subtitles and chose a set, but Plex errored out and said it could not download/install/or otherwise get them.

So, you're resorting to these instructions for a solution.

Finding suitable subtitles for a given title

Sometimes, when you're getting subtitles for media that didn't come with them, you have to go looking. The best place is Here's what I do. We're going to use a television series from my childhood, Perry Mason, as our example. What I say here should help you get the best subtitles for other television series episodes or movies.

  1. Go to
  2. Enter "case of " plus the significant title into the search edit field. For example, "case of the garrulous gambler".
  3. Press Enter or click Search.
  4. Of the (usually) two possibilities, choose the one with the full name, e.g.:
    "Perry Mason" The Case of the Garrulous Gambler (1959) [S03E03]
  5. In the bottom pane, there are usually several versions available. Look for one in English (usually a British flag icon) and with the most complete title name details, i.e:
    [S03E03] Perry Mason S03E03 The Case of the Garrulous Ga...

    rather than

    [S03E03] Perry Mason 3x03
  6. Click on the (bold-faced) title.

Downloading subtitles

Picking up where the note just above left off...

  1. Click the Download button (on the page). (I don't know what the Download (beta) button leads to. I can guess, but it's not what you or I want.)
  2. Navigate to where you'd like to drop the zip file. (I put mine on the path ~/Downloads/subtitles.)
  3. Explode the zip file thus:
    russ@tirion ~/Downloads/subtitles $ unzip ''
  4. This results in two files (in addition to the original zip file):
    'Perry Mason S03E03 The Case of the Garrulous'
  5. Remove the files ending in .nfo and .zip—you will not need them.
  6. Keep the one with the long name ending in .srt; in the case of the Perry Mason series, it's got "DVDRip" in the name and it's what you'll upload to your Plex browser. The name I give here isn't significant, but, especially if you're dowloading subtitles for episodes of a series, you'll recognize naming patterns and learn which subtitles offered are the best. (In reality, it's a subtitle author that gives these names and not all authors are created equal.)

Uploading subtitles to Plex Media (browser application)

Though it doesn't seem to make them available to remote users of my Plex Media server, this procedure does make them available to me within my house. Perhaps it's because they are associated somehow with me being signed in as my user.

  1. Return to the media title page in the browser application open on your Plex Media server.
  2. Next to Subtitles, you'll see Off or something. Click on this and...
  3. ...choose Upload....
  4. Then, Choose a file and...
  5. Navigate to where you keep the .srt file associated with this media title. (In the example above, we put it on the path ~/Downloads/subtitles/'Perry Mason S03E03 The Case of the Garrulous'.)
  6. Select the subtitle file you want and click Open.
  7. This makes the file available to Plex (for this title) though they will usually be indicated with a disconcerting title, "Unknown (SRT External)". When you play your media, you should see them appear and, if you chose them well when looking in, they'll align well with the action.



SRT stands for "subrip subtitle."

SRT file captions format

Sample one-line subtitle file

00:00:01,123 --> 00:00:03,156
Welcome to the beginning of the show!


sequence number
timecode in hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds  (starting time)
-->                                             (exactly these three characters)
timecode in hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds  (ending time)
text to be displayed                            (can wrap over multiple lines; do not indent)
blank line

Using a captions file (.srt)
  1. Locate the subtitles file you've already created.
  2. Make its extension .srt.
  3. The file is now ready for use by HandBrake or reference by streaming software like Plex Media. VLC is also a good choice.

There are services that can extract dialog from a movie then, later, help you interactively edit it.

More notes...

Notes I started years ago and never finished
# apt-get install subsync