Best Practices For Subtitling

Best Practices For Subtitling
Several studies have substantiated the fact that reading subtitles is easier than listening to dubbed voices for both adults and kids who are more than 11 years old. For viewers, who are not native speakers of any particular language, it is easier to understand the video through subtitles. And on top of that, you can follow the narrated event more efficiently if you are watching the video in a crowded surrounding. In a nutshell, written content attracts more attention from the viewer on the screen.

This is why a large number of viewers now prefer subtitles for a better viewing experience. Reason being, there is a minimal distraction with subtitles on the screen. Also users’, brains and eyes are now already habitual about reading subtitles on the screen to process the videos.

Transcribing a video can help you reap several benefits including enhanced user experience and making the video accessible for the audience having a hearing disability. Apart from that, having an accurate transcript can help you boost audience engagement and enhance SEO. You can also easily make derivative content from transcripts including blogs, guides, email campaigns, eBooks, and social media posts among others.

You can transcribe your videos either on your own or hire a professional service to get the job done.

Here are all the details if you want to go the DIY way.

Do it Yourself (DIY)

To create a high quality transcript from a video is not very difficult. All you need is access to the video and a word processor.

Follow the below-mentioned steps to create a flawless transcript.

1. Watch Video

Try to watch the video in an increment of a few seconds. You can start by watching for 10 seconds or fewer and as you get used to it, you can start watching longer sections. However, you should first practice accuracy over speed to ensure the transcript is flawless.

2. Create Transcript

Write exactly what you hear as you watch the video. Make sure that you have an eye for details to ensure context is not lost in the text. For instance, if melancholic music is playing in the background then you need to mention that as well. If you are creating the transcript from a video for caption or titles then you should note essential contexts like footsteps, slammed doors, and background chatter among others.

However, for subtitle file translator to create a transcript for quotes or notes then writing down the dialogues will do the job.

3. Edit For Perfect Timing

After you are done writing text from the video, watch it again carefully to check out the accuracy of time stamps on the transcript. Accurate timestamps will help you easily take reference from the right parts of the video. On top of that, it will also help you expedite the transcription process for captions or subtitles.

4. Prefer Verbatim

Avoid unnecessary editing if you have time for verbatim speech. You should aim to provide viewers with as much access to the soundtrack as you can. You can write subtitles within the constraints of space, time, shot, changes, visuals, and others. The idea is to never eliminate any sound or word whenever you have the time to include. However, keep in mind that there should not be any conflict with visuals.

5. Preserve The Style

Your subtitling should reflect the speech style of the speaker. For that, you need to consider the speaker’s nationality, register, era, and more. It will help pick a more appropriate set of vocabulary.

Go through these examples to understand in a better manner.

Register: deceased vs dead, sex vs intercourse Era: cab vs taxi, radio vs wireless Nationality: pants vs trousers, mum vs mom

6. Break At Natural Points

Ensure to break lines and subtitles at logical points to keep them easily readable. You can make ideals break through punctuations including comma, full stop, dash, and more.

If you need to break the sentences abruptly then avoid breaking article/ noun, preposition, conjunction, pronoun, complex verbs, and more.

7. Target Minimum Timing

Recommended reading rate for an average user is around 160 to 180 words per minute. Based on this rate, you should target 0.3 seconds per word. However, timings of subtitles depend on other editorial decisions as well including text editing, speed of the speech, shit synchronization, and more.

You need to think beyond the number of words on the screen to decide the amount of time a text should remain on the screen.

8. Merge Subtitles For Short Shots

If you see two or more fast shots that are quick for a subtitle, then you merge the speech of these shots. However, make sure that your subtitle ends at the last shot.

9. Use Colors

It is a best practice to leverage color to differentiate between two speakers. It helps in identifying who is saying what easily.

This way, you can combine the speech of two speakers in one subtitle and differentiate the speakers through different colors. But if there are more than two speakers, then you need to write the subtitle in a new line for all the speakers. You can precede each line with a dash.

10. Proofread

Transcripts with grammatical errors and typos can lead to bad customer experience and a dent in your business’ brand value. Hence, proofread all the transcripts carefully to ensure every word and line is flawless.

Other Key Points To Keep In Mind

  • In normal scenarios, each subtitle is supposed to come with a single sentence. However, if you need to use two lines then it is advisable to use the shorter line at the top to ensure as minimal overlapping with the image. It should also be left-justified to ensure unnecessary rolling of eyeballs.
  • Make sure that all the important dialogues are captioned and there is clear differentiation between speakers. You can also simplify the text to make sure they become easy to read and more user friendly for viewers.
  • Use font size that is easily readable from a distance. Also make sure to keep high contrast between the subtitle and the background i.e. video.
  • It is best practice to position subtitles at the centre-bottom of the frame to avoid any overlap with the text appearing on the screen. However, while following this convention, it is crucial to not obscure the on-screen caption or face of the speaker.
  • Make sure that all the subtitles are accurate. You can leverage pauses, change of scene, and music to synchronize subtitles with the speech accurately.

In Summary

Subtitling has come a long way from its origin. Earlier, it was just used to meet compliance to make the video content accessible for differently abled viewers. However, with digitalization of content across the globe; it has now become a potent tool to reach global markets. People from all over the world are enjoying critically-acclaimed and popular world cinema and TV shows in different languages that are not necessarily their native language. For instance, English speaking viewers are watching French movies with English subtitles and Americans are watching Indian TV shows in Hindi language with English subtitles.

Hence, it has become business-critical for content creators to subtitle their videos in multiple languages to make it more accessible for the global audience.

AUTHOR_NAMEAbout the Author:
Shirley Williams is a subtitle file translator by profession who has worked on several international projects of repute. In her free time, she loves watching movies and traveling.
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