What Makes Good Subtitling?

Producing subtitles are crucial in order for the viewer to understand and fully take in the video they are watching. The subtitles being used can completely change a viewer’s opinion just based on their intake of the language.

What is subtitling?

Subtitling is the process of translating spoken dialogue into written text on the screen. It is a type of audio-visual translation, with its own set of rules and guidelines. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the first movie to be subtitled in the year 1903. In those days subtitles were known as intertitles. But after the introduction of sound in movies, the first showing of a subtitled movie was in the year 1929, The Jazz Singer with French subtitles. Since then, developments in technology have changed the way subtitles are created and presented on screen.

Characteristics of a Good Subtitle

Subtitles have to be legible and feel natural. Imagine watching a glossy promo video in a language that you don’t know – and being unable to understand the subtitles because they’re too small or disappear too quickly. The frustration caused by this can disappoint the viewer and even put them off the product being advertised. It’s essential to check that the translation is very visible and remains on the screen for long enough to allow the viewer to read it. As a rule, you want to have an easy-to-read font, an adequate size, and a dark background to make the subtitles easier to read. It’s also important to consider the communication channel that the subtitles are going to be used for. Viewers can read faster if they are watching something on a big screen, compared with a television set. As such, this influences the way in which subtitles should be formulated. Another key consideration is to ensure that subtitles have a natural feel to them. It’s not easy to make concise subtitles feel natural, but here are some technical rules and solutions that help to get round that problem. It’s possible to integrate things like intonation and vocal characteristics using punctuation like question marks, exclamation marks and hyphens – all of which are familiar to viewers.

The Significance of Subtitling

  • Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of hearing (SDH) are crucial for people who are deaf or struggle with hearing. The subtitles mean they can still watch with the understanding of what is being said or sounded.
  • Subtitles are used so that speakers of other languages can enjoy movies/TV etc and can understand the dialogue being spoken but in their language.
  • Sometimes, a movie or TV show may have some dialogue in a foreign language. e.g., the Brad Pitt movie Seven Years in Tibet had a few conversations in Hindi and Tibetan. Subtitling such movies can help the viewer understand the context better.

What we do

At 2002 Studios Media, we take a good understanding into making sure that the subtitles we produce are well written, timed, and easy to read. We make sure that watching a video that we have subtitled is read and processed with ease and we apply to all the characteristics of a good subtitling job in the above.

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