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I was thinking about which kind of field I haven't yet covered properly when I remembered "subtitling." It's an even more niche area of translations (and not just translations), but one that is well sought.

So I did some digging and found a recent article by Seelan Palay on great practices for those creating subtitles--and translating them.

Some of them are very particular and you have to use your best judgement (or a client's preference) in order to adopt them, but they regardless, they are all good tips for those both starting out and those already working in this area.

Here's some of them:

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Timing

  • Subtitles should appear and disappear exactly when the words are spoken. However, ensure captions appear on-screen long enough to be read.
  • There should be two lines of text on screen at most.
  • Set the minimum time of display to 1.5 seconds for very short dialogs (such as an answer to a question, "Okay"). These minimums do not apply in some cases with rapid dialogs.
  • It's best to consider whether the audience will be able to read through your subtitles while still following the events in the video.
  • If a lyric is repeated, create a gap between end of first lyric, and start of second repeated lyric. This ensures that there is a 'blink' on and off visually between each line to indicate to the viewer that the lyric is sung twice.
  • Use a separate subtitle for each sentence of dialog. Avoid ending a sentence and begin a new sentence on the same line, unless the second sentence is very short in length.

These are some of the best.

The first three here need to take in consideration the average reading speed of the audience. Children get to read about 13 characters per second and adults get to read 17 characters per second. Also, the greatest documentation of timed text style I know of is from NETFLIX. That's an invaluable resource.

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Meaning

  • When translating from a different language, translate meaning and not just words, making sure to get the point across to the audience.
  • Retain words like “but”, “so”, or “too”, as they are essential for expressing meaning.

"Filler words" are another issue you get to tackle in subtitling. The key is equilibrium: don't let them flood the text, but don't exclude them all either. In TV series, they are often deliberate and beneficial. In shows, they are often a hindrance and can be cut off, largely.

Quote

Punctuation

  • There are mixed views on including full stops / periods in subtitles. Film and TV productions generally do not use them, however many translators have found them useful when translating from original subtitles online and offline. Some believe that using periods at the end of sentences signals to the eye that it can go back to the image since there is no consecutive subtitle to anticipate.
  • Question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) should be used to indicate a question or emphasis respectively, positioned right after the last character of a subtitle.
  • Be consistent in the use of vocabulary that can be spelled in hyphenated form. eg. 'mid-level'.
  • When a speaker is interrupted and another speaker finishes the sentence, the interruption should be conveyed by double hyphens or a single long dash.
  • Use an ellipsis (...) when there is a significant pause within a caption. However, do not use an ellipsis to indicate that the sentence continues into the next caption.
  • Use quotation marks for on-screen readings from a poem, book, play, journal, or letter. Also use quotation marks and italics for offscreen readings or voice-overs.

These are also good practices on punctuation and formatting. The interruption and ellipsis ones are great. The last one largely depends on the style being used. Whatever you do, be consistent.

Seelan also cover Sound, Capitalization, Numbers, Line Breaks, Italics, Phonetic Words and Miscellaneous in the article. Do take a look at it yourself!

Add your own tips if you dare! :P

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Thank you for all the tips you've been giving these past weeks. This one is especially useful for me, though I've already learnt most of the basics during real projects.

2 hours ago, Otávio Banffy said:

The first three here need to take in consideration the average reading speed of the audience. Children get to read about 13 characters per second and adults get to read 17 characters per second.

I would add here that many subtitling programs (e.g. Aegisub that I use) have the functionality to count this CPS rate, and in Aegisub the rate gradually becomes redder the more you step over the average of 14-15 CPS

Other than that, I don't have much to add besides that it really helps to just look at some subtitles to see how it all works. Just find a video with subtitles and maybe check the subs using this system of rules (and come back to refresh your knowledge of the rules as you do more and more projects to make correct subtitling a habit)

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This is great! I have actually just landed my first subtitling job so this advice and also your comments in the 'Subtitling Questionnaires' is going to be really useful. I am excited and a bit nervous at the same time! They are short videos of 18 min, 17 min and 7 min, so I think is a good length to start with. I have applied subtitles in YouTube videos and dome some transcription jobs for Crowdsurf and Moravia, which to some extend, use subtitling rules. I have also used Jubbler to synchronise songs. It is not much experience, but it is something at least.

I will definitely check Netflix guidelines. But what software will you advice for a beginner?  (Transifex, Aegisub, Subtitle workshop, etc) I will be getting transcripts so I think I am going to charge them by word (some more than my rate for translation since this involve more work). They also want me to provide .SRT files, but I guess I will be able to export the subtitles in that format with most softwares.

Thanks again for all the advice guys!!

 

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Thanks for your input @Vladimir! I tried Aegisub a few weeks ago and I loved it. Bit too crowded at first, but so are most softwares.

@Noelia Martinez Castellanos, I think you need to take a look at each one and notice how you *feel* about them. Pick the one your gut tells you you like the most. They are all good and you're going to be able to work with any of them. You just need to find the one that fits you best. :)

Congratulations on your subtitling projects!

SRT is very standard. You could even make them in a notepad if you wanted to! Aegisub exports on .srt, and probably so does the others. Transifex is paid. Aegisub is free, and I believe Subtitle Workshop is free as well. Good luck!

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8 hours ago, Otávio Banffy said:

Thanks for your input @Vladimir! I tried Aegisub a few weeks ago and I loved it. Bit too crowded at first, but so are most softwares.

@Noelia Martinez Castellanos, I think you need to take a look at each one and notice how you *feel* about them. Pick the one your gut tells you you like the most. They are all good and you're going to be able to work with any of them. You just need to find the one that fits you best. :)

Congratulations on your subtitling projects!

SRT is very standard. You could even make them in a notepad if you wanted to! Aegisub exports on .srt, and probably so does the others. Transifex is paid. Aegisub is free, and I believe Subtitle Workshop is free as well. Good luck!

@Otávio Banffy thank you for the encouragement and the advice! I am about to explore the three softwares, because this will be working weekend for me! Have a nice weekend!

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20 hours ago, Noelia Martinez Castellanos said:

But what software will you advice for a beginner?  (Transifex, Aegisub, Subtitle workshop, etc) I will be getting transcripts so I think I am going to charge them by word (some more than my rate for translation since this involve more work). They also want me to provide .SRT files, but I guess I will be able to export the subtitles in that format with most softwares.

For me, Aegisub has a good balance of functionality and interface look. Subtitle Workshop is what crowded for me :)

It has some cool features, though, like error checking with various colors for various types of mistakes, and more advanced formatting options (but I never used them, so... but at least they are there)

Maybe it's just because Aegisub was the first software for subtitling that I've ever used

Anyway, making subtitles from transctripts for me personally is... well, more tedious than just translating the video from scratch (if I know the source language)... Copy-paste, cut, see if it's not long enough on the screen... so I wish you additional good luck and patience with that!

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