GeneralWhat Are Forced Subtitles? - Limegreen Media

March 6, 2024by admin

Are you one of those who confuse forced subtitles with traditional subtitles? If YES, this guide is for YOU!

Forced narrative (FN) subtitles, often called forced subtitles, make important material more understandable for the audience. FN subtitles are text overlays that explain a conversation, burnt-in text images, and other information that the spectator would not understand otherwise.

In video translation and localization workflows, forced narrative subtitles are usually employed to guarantee that all viewers can comprehend important textual pieces displayed on the screen.

These subtitles help enhance the viewing experience throughout various devices, languages, and nations. FN subtitles are not integrated with the video because they work as independently timed text files.

Difference Between Forced Subtitles and Full Subtitles

Without a doubt, full subtitles, sometimes referred to as traditional subtitles, are utilized extensively. FN subtitles are also used frequently in videos. Therefore, a novice may find it challenging to distinguish between them.

To clear the ambiguity, you can refer to the following table, giving you a glimpse into the differences between forced narrative and full subtitles.

Differentiating Factors

FN Subtitles

Full Subtitles


Used to clarify something that is not in the video’s native language.

Utilized to display every dialogue in the video.


Displayed for a specific time.

Displayed throughout the length of the video file.

The viewer can turn it on/off



Editing Method

Require a proper editing tool/ software.

Anyone can edit the SRT to make changes to the subtitle file.


Forced subtitles help an audience decipher essential information they might not understand otherwise. They are called ‘forced’ because it is not under a viewer’s control to turn them ON or OFF. They appear by default on the screen.

In contrast, traditional subtitles must be switched ON by the viewers, and they translate the entire content of a program. Whether or not forced narrative subtitles are present depends on the platform and other factors like timing. If a dialogue is spoken simultaneously with other on-screen text, then the translation of dialogue takes precedence over forced narrative components.

What Do Forced Subtitles Look Like?

Many over-the-top (OTT) video providers won’t display forced narrative subtitles until the subtitles/CC options are turned “off.” However, some services, like Netflix, include closed caption and complete subtitling files with FN subtitles.

When forced narrative subtitles are shown independently, they may appear similar to regular closed captioning or subtitling files. Additionally, the way FN subtitles appear on a platform, player, television, or other viewing device differs, much like how subtitles and captions do.

When Are Forced Narrative Subtitles Used?

Discussed below are some of the applications of FN subtitles.

Sporadic Foreign Language

A movie, television show, or web series may have speech in a foreign language. The character answering the host’s question could be a local or one of the characters speaking their native language. You can employ forced subtitles here to ensure the viewer doesn’t miss any crucial information or lose the plot.

Translation of Labels

Sometimes, video producers may include text labels in their work, such as names of places, dates, or other essential details. If the video is intended for foreign audiences and will be translated, it’s a good idea to translate these labels into the target language.

Transcribed Dialogue

Even if you speak the language, it’s hard to understand the on-screen conversation. It could be a loud action movie scene or muffled audio in a documentary. In both situations, forced subtitles can resolve the issue by transcribing the difficult-to-hear conversation.

Provision of Contexts

When a film or television show is set in a foreign nation or era, the viewers may lack the necessary cultural or historical context to comprehend everything that is happening on screen. In this situation, FN subtitles can help.

Forced subtitles can provide background information, elucidate certain practices, or explain traditions that aid in comprehending the narrative.

Hints/Clues in Genre Films

Some genres, including thrillers and mysteries, profit from forced narrative subtitles. The subtitles give another level of detail to the narrative. It facilitates users’ interaction with the action on screen and nudges them to pay closer attention to subtle details or indications about the movie’s plot or some characters.

Additional Scientific/Technical Information

Some viewers may not be conversant with complicated scientific and/or technical details that are essential to comprehend the plot of a television program or movie. Forced narrative subtitles offer viewers a basic explanation or definition of these concepts.

Other Forms of Communication

Often, a video showcases alternative modes of communication. It could be the fictitious sign language from TV shows like Star Trek, or real sign language. It might also be a text message that needs to be displayed rather than read. Forced subtitles can give the audience a transcription or translation of these subtle details.

Bottom Line

Whether you are entering a new market or trying to make complex information easier for the viewers, forced subtitles are a valuable tool. They make the content understandable and help you engage with and effectively reach your target audience.

Limegreen Media, a media localization firm, offers tailored services to meet industry-specific needs. Be it the subtitling of videos or adapting marketing materials for diverse audiences,  we ensure your message resonates globally.



Q. What does a forced subtitle look like?

A. The simplest example of a forced subtitle is when you see a text line explaining the words on a whiteboard in a Korean movie.

Q. What are forced subtitles on Netflix?

A. During your Netflix movie nights, you may have noticed English words on the screen when characters speak a different language. These subtitles are called forced subtitles or forced narrative subtitles. They ensure a consistent and informative viewing experience for everyone, regardless of their subtitle preferences.

Q. What distinguishes forced subtitles from SDH?

A. Forced narrative subtitles appear by default and clarify essential elements like a foreign language or on-screen text. SDH subtitles, meant for deaf/hard-of-hearing viewers, include sound effects, and speaker identification, and can be turned on/off.
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Our multi-cultural teams do not simply “understand” customer needs; they are experts at fulfilling them. With our multi-channel solutions in place, we increase brand recognition and deliver key intelligence to our clients for core decision making.

Lime Green Media

Our multi-cultural teams do not simply “understand” customer needs; they are experts at fulfilling them. With our multi-channel solutions in place, we increase brand recognition and deliver key intelligence to our clients for core decision making.

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