What are forced subtitles and all their uses: Full Guide

Forced subtitles are pretty standard, and you have seen them many times; they are texts that appear on screen without activation.

They have been created to make it easier to understand the content, whatever the genre, and they are as important as SDH subtitles and open and closed captions; that's why we dedicate this post to them.

Learn what they mean, what they are for and when they are used, so you will know if they can also be helpful for your videos.

Forced Subtitles (FN) meaning

Forced subtitles are fragments of text superimposed on the screen, added by producers to give you clues so that you can understand the content you are watching.

They are used when the audio is insufficient to inform viewers of scene segments; they are then presented as text that identifies places, time, dialogues, signs, signals, graphics, slang words or foreign language lexicons.

These types of subtitles never translate the entirety of a video or program, nor are they turned on or off; without them, you would miss essential pieces of information and find it difficult to understand the plot.

forced subtitles examples

You will see in the content examples of the series Breaking Bad, where the dialogues of Gus Fring and the clandestine laboratory staff in Mexico originally speak Spanish.

The series is created in English, and that is why forced subtitles are added to translate the conversation they had.

You will also see examples from the movie Den of Thieves, where forced subtitles are used to give a little context at the beginning of the film.

What are forced subtitles used for?

Forced subtitles, also called forced narrative subtitles (FN,) are used to clarify information to the audience that would otherwise be impossible or difficult to understand.

This type of subtitling is typically used in translation to ensure that every viewer can understand all elements of the scenes on screen.

forced subtitles example

They are created to extend the content viewing experience to other countries, languages and devices.

This type of subtitles are not recorded on the video; they are delivered as separate files with timed text.

When forced subtitles are used?

Producers use closed captioning as a tool to facilitate understanding and make content more accessible to all audiences.

They are not necessary for all types of content; in this section, we present situations in which it is necessary to include closed captions.

1. Foreign languages

This is the most common use, a movie is produced in its source language, but occasionally some characters communicate (in short segments) in different languages.

Forced subtitles translate those dialogues, for example, when a Spanish character speaks in his language, and you are watching the movie in English.

forced subtitles ex

In this case, if the scene is essential to the plot and the understanding of the content of a movie, TV series, or program, forced subtitles are incorporated to translate the conversation.

2. Labels

Sometimes labels specify names, dates or locations; they are presented as recorded text in the original production language.

In this case, as the forced subtitles are recorded on the video, they can be used to translate them into another language for the viewers.

what are forced subtitles

3. Other ways of languages

Forced subtitles are very useful when fictitious languages, created especially for the plot, are used in movies. This is the case of the Dothraki language in Game of Thrones, the Klingon language in Star Trek, and the elven dialects in Lord of the Rings.

Characters communicate in these languages, and forced subtitles are used to translate for you the content of the on-stage conversation.

Other forms of communication are also sometimes included, such as sign language or Morse code, and forced subtitles are used to convey their meaning to viewers unfamiliar with these languages.

forced subtitles

Additionally, forced subtitles can be used to transcribe dialogues in the same language if the audio is inaudible or distorted by sound effects.

Imagine a movie with a lot of action, where the background noise of the scenes is loud, or a documentary with low sound quality; with this type of subtitles, the text of the dialogue is shown to make it accessible to the viewers.


This kind of subtitle is widely used by producers of movies, series and TV shows; although you can more easily associate them with the fantasy genre, they are helpful for any genre.

They are an essential part of modern visualization because they provide additional information to connect with the plot and fully enjoy the content of the video production.

If you produce videos for your projects, you may consider incorporating forced subtitles to give more clarity and ensure that your audiences understand the entirety of your content.

Emil Nikkhah
Hi, I'm Emil Nikkhah.
For over 25 years, I have successfully built several television post-production companies.
Frustrated by the high cost and slowness of manual transcription and subtitling in this industry, we decided to create ScriptMe, a powerful software for automatic transcription and subtitling.
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