How to Translate Subtitles

Subtitling has become increasingly popular over the years, thus making it an essential part of film and video production. Subtitles increase the likelihood that web users will find your video, and it attracts viewers who may not speak the language of the video.

However, subtitling involves more than simply translating dialogue and adding it to the bottom of the picture. There are steps that need to be taken at each step of the process to make subtitles easy to read.

If you ever wondered how to translate subtitles, our team reveals the stages of the process.

Step 1: Preparation for Subtitles

At the very beginning of a subtitling project, the production company sends the script and the edited film to the subtitling project manager. If the script isn’t provided, the project manager recruits a transcriptionist to transcribe all the audio that will need to be subtitled, including dialogue and voiceovers.

Next, the script or transcript goes to a reviewer, who will mark the film to determine the beginning and end of each subtitle.  The reviewer does this marking manually, but also uses subtitling software to determine time scrolling, what else will appear on the screen with the subtitles, and other sounds that may be heard in the film.

Once the reviewer is done, the process goes to the translator.

Step 2: Adaptation and Condensation of Subtitles

During the second stage of subtitling, the script goes to a translator who is not only fluent in the target language, but also familiar with best practices for subtitling.

For example, the human eye reads about 15 characters per second. To be legible, a subtitle must stay on the screen for at least one second but not more than six seconds. An experienced subtitling translator knows this and will adapt translated subtitles to meet this requirement.

This sometimes requires the translator to condense the message by summarizing it and keeping only the essential information. This can be especially challenging if the characters are talking very fast, as they often do in animated films. In these cases, the translator has to make tough choices, ether by leaving out certain information or finding ways to say a lot of things in only a few words.

Step 3: Crafting Subtitles for Multiple Audiences

Every subtitling project is meant to cater to three target audiences: 1) one that doesn’t speak the original language at all; 2) one that understands the language a little; 3) one that speaks it well, or even fluently.

Video subtitles need to strike a delicate balance between all these audiences. They need to be clear enough for those who don’t speak the language, but not so invasive that they become a distraction to those who don’t need them.

This is why subtitling is best handled by a translation professional who is proficient in both languages and understands the subtitling process.

Subtitling expands the reach of your videos and attracts a larger audience. That’s why it’s so important to find a team that knows how to create the most precise subtitles for your project.

Lean more about Acolad audiovisual services, or get in touch with our team of experts.

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