How to avoid common errors that cost you time, money, and quality

Subtitle Primer: What NOT to Do

The previous post was a primer subtitling guide for producers and filmmakers. Today, we’ll tell you how to avoid the most common mistakes that can cost you time and money. Understanding them will help you get your video content translated professionally and effectively.

What not to do #1:

DON’T pay someone to translate your script or transcript and then hire a subtitler to turn that translation into subtitles.

Localization and translating for subtitles are different from doing the translation of a video transcript. Subtitles have to fit into a limited time and space –viewers can only take in so much written information while also following the images on the screen.

That’s why creating subtitles usually means condensing the original dialogue. A subtitler’s task is to find efficient ways to describe the dialogue in one or two lines that are no more than 24 to 43 characters long (depending on the platform) while also considering reading speed. (Reading speed is the total number of characters in a subtitle, divided by the number of seconds it appears on the screen.)

Another issue is sentence structure. A text translator may take liberties with altering the speaker’s sentences to read better on the page; however, subtitles have to stick more closely to the patterns of the speech on the screen. (It’s possible that sentence structure is entirely different in some language pairs.)

When a professional subtitler is asked to work from a text translation, they often spend about as much time adapting it as they would translating from scratch. That means you’re paying double – and often spending more than you planned to get quality subtitles. 

When they realize this, some producers overlook adaptation and tell their editors to stick the text translation into the video. But that’s not fair to the viewer. When you have to stop and start playback to follow the text constantly, you quickly get frustrated.

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What not to do #2:

DON’T get your editor or junior editor to “create” the subtitles in the edit suite using the text tool of your NLE (Non-linear editing: Premiere, AVID, FCP, etc.).

Why tie up expensive editing software and get non-standard subtitles created by someone you hired for an entirely different set of skills?

A subtitler working with professional subtitling software does it faster and more precisely, which goes along with international subtitling standards.

You get a frame-accurate subtitle file that imports effortlessly into your system.

And – the best of all – you get subtitles that are easy to read and understand, created according to the best practices that are well-established.

Think about subtitling as an entire process, and hire professionals. You will: 

    • get a better product,
    • save time and money,
    • and avoid messy problems in the post.

Also, most importantly, the audience will watch your story as you intended.

Want to talk about subtitling your project? Drop us a line.

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