What Is The Process Of Subtitling?

Subtitling is the process of adding text to any audio-visual media to express the message that is being spoken. Essentially, subtitles are a written abridgement of the spoken audio. They allow people to read and understand what is being said, even if they don't understand the language of the speakers.

Subtitling is a type of audiovisual translation that has its own rules and specifications. Thus, it is a translation that has restrictions and certain criteria which directly affect the final result.

The Limitations you have in the Process of Subtitling

Timing is crucial. A subtitle has a minimum duration of a second and a maximum duration of 6 or 7 seconds on screen. There is also the reading speed parameters. Reading speed is the relation between the duration of a subtitle and the number of characters that it can contain so that it can be read.The subtitles should appear as the characters starts speaking and should disappear when they stop, so that they are synchronised with the audio. Also, the shot changes must be taken into account.The space which we have in our translation is limited to 2 lines of subtitles. Each line contains 35-42 characters (depending on the specifications). This includes spaces. The subtitle is formed by 2 lines.

The ideal result is that the subtitles are atune with the audio, in such a way that they sound natural and fluent, so much so that the viewer is undisturbed by the subtitles and almost unaware that they are even reading.

The Phases in the Process of subtitling

The process of subtitling consists of the following phases:

– Spotting: The process of defining the in and out times of individual subtitles so that they are synchronised with the audio, and adhere to the minimum and maximum duration times, taking the shot changes into consideration.

– Translation: Translating from the source language, localizing and adapting it while accommodating the characters permitted according to the criteria.

– Correction: sentence structure, comprehension and overall flow of dialogue. The text must be a natural text, which flows with the same punctuation, spelling rules and language conventions. The subtitles must be split so that they the viewers can easily understand them. Above all, they must not distract the viewer. Some of the basic principle criteria are: punctuation, line breaks, hyphens, ellipsis and italics.

– Simulation: After spotting, translation and correction, the film must be reviewed in a simulation session: a screening with the subtitles on the video screen just as they will appear on the final product. Modifications of text and timing can be made during the simulation.

In subtitling, it’s a given, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is for typos to sneak into the most diligent subtitler’s work. After editing for grammar and style, it’s really worth doing a pass to make sure the facts, figures and names in a subtitle file match up with what’s in the primary source. Your credibility will thank you.

About the author:

Kelly O’Donovan is the creator of GOSUB.tv – An education in the art of subtitling.

GOSUB was born from a passion and enthusiasm for subtitling and teaching.

Having started as a linguistic teacher and then moving on to become the Operations Manager of a leading subtitling agency, Kelly used her know-how, affection, and savvy to create efficient and exciting audiovisual courses.

From her years of experience working with producers, dubbing agencies, video-on-demand platforms, entertainment distributors, encoding houses and more, she has learnt a mountain of information about subtitling and closed captioning. She decided to couple this involvement with her other skill set, which is teaching. GOSUB was created for you, and we hope that you will find her courses of value.