LG CI OLED TV: Changing how the subtitles display

November 12, 2021

This information is for me in case I ever need to do this again.


This week we replaced out 12-year-old not-very-smart-TV (55″ Samsung) with a you-beaut 77″ LG CI OLED. It has a LOT of settings, but one that’s pretty hidden and hardly touched on in the online help is subtitles—all I could find was how to turn them on or off (under the Accessibility settings). I went down a rabbit hole of modifying SRT (subtitle) files for those programs that had them, but with no joy. The subtitles displayed in a large white font in the lower half of the screen. A bit of Googling suggested that changing the SRT format to ASS might help as there was more you could do with the ASS subtitle file, like changing its position on the screen, putting an opaque box behind the subtitles etc. It was easy enough to change the file format using the free Subtitle Edit program, and easy enough to interpret and modify the code (especially with the help of this website: https://fileformats.fandom.com/wiki/SubStation_Alpha). However, almost all the forums etc. suggested that while this might work for subtitles displayed on your computer (e.g. playing through VLC player), most TVs had their own settings and these overrode anything you might set in the subtitle files. Great. I hadn’t found any settings that might change the subtitle display, only the one for turning them on an off.

So I did some testing…

  • I played a program without its accompanying SRT file to see if the subtitles were embedded in the program—they weren’t. With no subtitle file, there were no subtitles.
  • With the SRT file, the subtitles displayed, but none of the changes I’d made to the font colour were shown.
  • I removed the SRT file and replaced it with an ASS file that I’d modified in Subtitle Edit to change the colour of the text, add an opaque block behind the text, and shift the subtitles to the top of the screen. The subtitles displayed fine, but not with ANY of the settings I’d changed—they were still in largish white text and partway up from the bottom of the screen.

Finally, I decided to see if there was anything at all in the on-screen playback controls for the program. With this TV, you have to press any button or shake the remote to get the basic playback controls (rewind, pause, fast forward, plus a timeline). Underneath were instructions to scroll down to find more controls. I hadn’t done that, so gave it a try. And there on the far left of the extra controls was an icon for subtitles!

And when I clicked it, I got all sorts of things I could set! I could change the text colour to one of about 6 different colours (I chose yellow—white is hopeless on a white background), I could set the font size to something smaller (I think I went with the smallest—it’s still easy enough to read on this large screen), and I could set the position of the subtitles, to a degree. The default position is 0, and the options range from -3 to 3. I tried 3 and the subtitles moved up quite a way on the screen (but still in the lower half—you can’t get them to display at the top at all), and then I tried -3 and the subtitles moved down almost to the bottom of the screen. Not perfect, but MUCH better than the defaults.

I think TV companies are doing their customers a disservice in having such limited options for subtitles. It’s all very fine having wonderful picture and sound, but many people rely on subtitles—at least part of the time—when they watch TV (hard of hearing, wanting to watch in silence when the rest of the house is asleep, strong regional dialects and accents, mumbled speech, etc.). Subtitling technology seems to have hardly changed, and I think it’s ripe for attention, as this ex-Samsung designer states: https://superavi.com/subtitles-were-never-designed-the-missing-element-in-tv-typography-design/

(One thing I haven’t figured out is why the subtitles sometimes jigger and shake—my husband thinks there’s a correlation between laughter and this jiggling, and he might be right. More observations are required… there’s certainly nothing in the SRT files I checked that would do this.)

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