Subtitling Series Pt. II

Subtitling Series Pt. II

How to Get Your Subtitle Project Off the Ground

We Go Behind the Scenes with Expert Subtitle Translator: Cécilia Allain

We sat down with resident subtitling expert and French correspondent, Cécilia Allain, to talk about all things subtitling, and give us insight into a subtitle translator’s day to day work, and how Language Department produces the highest quality subtitling translations across the globe, from beginning to end.

Cécilia outlines the basic project timeline below, which we take a deep dive into. 

Subtitle Translation Timeline:

Step 1: Getting your project off the ground

  • First, the client sends through the file to be subtitled. 
  • Our subtitling experts review the video file and establish the tone, vocabulary, and technicality. 
  • The subtitler may need to do background research to establish the above, particularly on projects unfamiliar to a subtitler — eg. when working on an eLearning project, subtitlers will need to immerse themselves in information on the subject to ensure clear and accurate translations. 
  • The subtitled will then review the client style guide and vocabulary glossary.
  • Once done they will create the SRT (.srt) file — referring to a “SubRip Subtitle” file, which is the most common subtitle/caption file format, establish cue points for dialogue, and transcribe the video into audio.

Step 2: Synchronization (the best part!)

This is where subtitle translation companies adapt the subtitles to audio.

Here Language Department takes into account the capacity of reading for the brain, the CPS, and CPL.

CPS refers to characters per second, and includes all characters, spaces and punctuation, this varies slightly depending on a given language (i.e. French is more verbose than English, and must be varied). The rule of thumb is to aim for an average of 13 CPS with a margin of 2 CPS, above or below. The higher the CPS on-screen, the less time you have to read.

CPL refers to characters per line. The golden rule of subtitling is 35 characters per line, with 1 screen scene showing 2 lines at most. 

The subtitle must also consider the video frame rate, with 1 subtitle on-screen for a minimum of 1 second, and a maximum of 7 seconds so that the viewer has enough time to read.

Step 3: Stylization, More Than Just Words

A good subtitle translator will take into account the structure and presentation of the subtitle, and will always display the subtitles with the first line shorter than the second line.

They will choose the color of the subtitle (white, black, yellow) and if they want to make it stand out using a background color. 

Step 4: Simulation, Check It, Check It, Check It – Then Check It Again!

The subtitle translator will again review the content – rewatching the video with subtitles to ensure text is synced, checks for spelling or grammar and other issues, and adjusts as necessary.

“The main function of subtitling is to help the public understand the story and dialogues while allowing time to watch and enjoy the visual elements and audio”. 

This whole process can take approximately 8 hours to complete for a 20-30 minute file.

Cecilia explains that it is important that in the translation process, the resulting subtitle does not take away from the viewer’s experience. “We speak fast, faster than we can read”. Trying to summarise a sentence, while capturing the essence and intent in an easy-to-read and succinct way can be difficult. A professional subtitle translator will be passionate about what they do and find pleasure in playing with words, finding the right balance, and the best solutions for translating subtitles. They need to be curious about the world around them and enjoy learning.

Language Department uses 100% human translation for this purpose. 

No machine can capture a source language’s feeling, understand context or language-specific nuances, or accurately translate content that should not be translated literally, such as idioms, like a human translator can. Sorry, Google Translate!

Some Other General Practices from Professional Translators

  • No cutting sentences in half! A sentence must be completed in one subtitle frame
  • One sentence per line, having an additional sentence within a line doesn’t present well
  • Numbers: 0-10 must be spelled out, 11+ you must use the numbers..
  • .. However if beginning a sentence with a number, it must be written out (Because it looks better!)..
  • …However there are always exceptions – eg. a countdown would be written as numbers. 

The Unsung Heroes of Film

Not enough credit is given to the work of a subtitle translator. Often, many fail to consider that there are numerous roles in the process.

Often the hours of research that go into a simple eLearning project are overlooked, where translators must research language-specific terminology, convert measurements, currency and more. 

What’s more, not every polyglot can subtitle. With international guidelines to abide by and a deep understanding of linguistics, it takes a special kind of translator to do this work. 

What Makes Language Department Stand Out as a Leading Subtitle Company

Language Department is passionate about subtitling, with over 25 years experience working in movies and subtitles. This passion has translated into the service they provide today.

The subtitle translation team of 10 subtitling translation expert’s expansive experience, excellent organization, and care for detail enables them to produce a high-quality subtitling service. 

Getting Your Subtitle Project Off the Ground Today

Language Department can help you bring to life your next project, with their team of talented subtitlers. The team offers services in 60+ countries, and has a breadth of experience across all mediums, including feature films, e-learning videos, television series and more. 

Cécilia Allain is a French translator and Subtitling Expert with 6 years of experience. She has studied in France, UK and Spain, and lived in the USA (Utah) and Mexico for 4 years. 

She is the French Manager, in charge of QAs and subtitling for Language Department, has a degree in Spanish Linguistics and a Master in Translation and Interpretation from the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, France, and from the Universidad de Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain.

She has worked on notable projects such as the subtitling of The Walking Dead Season 8, for the BBC, various movies and documentaries. She speaks French, English, and Spanish and has a deep love for the Spanish language!

Language Department provides premium subtitle translation services. If you are ready to embark on your next subtitling project, contact us for your FREE quote to get you started on your journey.