Mar 05, 2020

A Simple Guide to Choosing A Subtitling Service

If you followed this year’s Oscars closely, you know that it was a massive win for foreign movies and the subtitling industry.


The Oscar-winning Parasite’s director Bong Joon Ho’s earnest statement about embracing subtitles as a way to appreciate many incredible movies, reflects the changing perceptions about subtitling. Be it production houses or brands; subtitling helps your videos reach a wider audience of various linguistic preferences.

Having said that, the subtitling service you choose makes a lot of difference, too. In this article, we’ll help you understand the process of subtitling, its challenges, and how the right service can help you resolve those challenges.


How is subtitling done?

Typically, when you share your requirement with a subtitling service provider, they’ll ask you to specify the following:

  • Total time duration of the video
  • Video’s source language (the language in which the dialogues have been spoken)
  • Video’s target language (the language you want for the subtitles)
  • Format of subtitles (font type, font size, color, etc.)


Based on your requirements, the subtitling service company will give you a quote. If you agree with it, their subtitling experts will get on the job. To understand the challenges you might face with subtitling, you must understand the amount of work that goes in it.


1. Spotting and transcribing

Spotting means defining the ‘in’ and ‘out’ time of the dialogue. The subtitling experts listen to the audio and determine times when the subtitles should start and end.

As per the average readability of a person, there shouldn’t be more than one line per frame. Spotting helps ensure that the subtitles are well synchronized with the audio and video. The experts then transcribe all the dialogues in the source language.


2. Translating and proofreading

Translating the subtitles into the target language involves localizing them to fit the right context and considering accents. Experts ensure that they use italics, hyphens, line breaks, etc. to make the subtitles easier to read.


3. Correcting in simulation

The final edits happen when the video is seen in simulation – with the visuals, audio, and subtitles. If the experts catch any errors in the subtitles or timing issues, they make the necessary corrections.


Challenges with subtitling projects

As you see, completing a subtitling project successfully takes a lot of work. It isn’t just about translating the dialogues from one language to another. The subtitling experts must get the timing right, format the subtitling properly, and make it comprehensible for a foreign audience.

Quite understandably, subtitling projects come with a set of unique challenges:

1. File sharing: Whether you have a film production or make short social media videos on your phone, you must be saving them in a specific system or file format. If your subtitling service providers accept video files only in selected file formats or platforms (for instance, Google drives, Dropbox, Vimeo, etc.), converting all those files into the acceptable formats will just make your to-do list longer.

2. Timing issues: Do you ever get annoyed when the subtitles disappear before you finish reading them? Nobody likes that. When the subtitles don’t match the average reading rate or the dialogue speed, it hinders the entire visual experience. 

3. Video quality: If the sound quality of the video is low (dialogues are unclear), it could lead to errors in subtitling.

4. Multiple speakers: Multiple dialogues overlapping in the video make it difficult for the experts to write and display the subtitles.

5. Text display: The way subtitles are displayed plays an essential role in their readability. If the font size is too big, too small, or there is too much text per frame – the subtitles will be illegible.


Choosing the right subtitling service

Choosing the right subtitling service will help you find solutions to all the challenges mentioned above. So, you must check if the subtitling company:

Right subtitling service


1. Accepts videos shared on all platforms and in all formats

Eliminates the task of converting files on your end. For instance, Translate By Humans accepts a wide range of file formats including .mov .avi .mp4 .vob .ogg .3gp .cfm .fl. 


2. Uses subtitling experts rather than taking the help of automated subtitles

If you are uploading your videos on a platform that allows you to add automated subtitles, you might think it’s an easy way out. However, automated subtitles have many errors and, more often than not, fail to incorporate the right context.


3. Tests subtitles after uploading to ensure they’re displaying correctly

The subtitling company’s work doesn’t stop at providing you with the subtitles. They must test it and check for errors in a simulation session. 


4. Helps you gain an SEO advantage by including all the right keywords

When you upload a subtitle file along with your video, all search engines crawl its text. Consequently, optimizing your subtitles will increase your video’s chances of showing up in the search results for specific keywords.


Conclusion

Like Bong Joon Ho said, subtitles open a whole world of foreign visual content that still stays hidden and unappreciated. However, you must choose the right subtitling service, which does justice to your videos by putting their best experts – native speakers with previous experience in subtitling – on the job. 

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Aarohi Pathak

Aarohi Pathak

Aarohi Pathak is the Senior Content Writer at Translate by Humans. A former English literature student, she believes that the world's best stories are yet to be written. Given a choice, Aarohi happily wears the copywriter's hat and combines words that drive action. She has previously written content for finance and insurance, FMCG, and technology industries.

When she's not writing, Aarohi spends time collecting mugs, reading, and checking TV series off her 'to watch' list.

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