Capital Captions provide foreign subtitles and closed captioning services for your videos. With so many subtitle automation programmes available, it may be tempting to believe that subtitling and subtitle translation is a simple process. Often, it’s only when foreign subtitles go wrong that you realise how important it is to work with a reputable subtitle company. We partner to provide subtitle translation services and for this reason, we always rely on human subtitlers and transcriptionists with skill, experience and good old fashioned common sense.
Foreign Subtitle Formats
Capital Captions work to create foreign subtitles for many different languages, in many different formats. It’s important to understand that subtitle files can be tricky for amateurs to work with. Whilst foreign characters can be easily accessed and worked with on a Word document or PDF, if a subtitle file is not coded correctly, serious errors can occur in the display of foreign characters and that’s not good!
Some of the most common foreign subtitle formats we work with are:
- .SRT (SubRip)
- .SSA (Sub Station Alpha)
- .VTT (Video Text Tracks)
- .STL (Spruce Subtitle File)
- .EBU STL (European Broadcasting Union Subtitles)
- .SAMI (Synchronised Accessible Media Interchange)
- .SCC (Scenarist Closed Captions)
- .XML / DFXP / TTML (Timed Text)
Human Subtitles – Top Notch Every Time
We always use highly experienced, qualified subtitlers to write and edit our subtitles. Here’s why:
- Both English and foreign transcription processes involve a lot of thought and decision making. ‘What’s the best way to split this sentence? What could that word be that she just mumbled? How can I best format this for deaf audiences? What filler words should be taken out to keep a good reading speed?’
- Timings for subtitles need to be accurate to 1/1000th of a second. On top of this, each subtitle needs to stay onscreen long enough to be read (maximum 250 characters per minute), but disappear quickly enough so as not to frustrate viewers.
- Formatting is incredibly important when it comes to closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. Formatting guidelines are often very specific but difficult decisions will need to be made to create subtitles that are fit for purpose. Knowing when to use italics for off-screen speakers, when speakers need to be identified or indeed, which sound effects are relevant to the plot line is a judgement call that only a human being can make.
No matter what some would like to believe about computer automated subtitling, there are some things which are always better achieved by humans. Automated foreign subtitles and closed captioning comes with an enormous number of potential problems, including:
- Incorrect caption timings
- Subtitles which disappear too quickly or linger too long
- Misspellings, mishears, or outright misunderstandings
- Lack of formatting
- No subtitling of forced narrative
Better Quality Foreign Subtitles and Closed Captioning
If the above points cover the general formatting and writing of foreign subtitles, here we consider the translation process because it’s here where the above problems can increase tenfold.
In summary, if you’re not careful and decide to go straight for the automated, cheapest option, you might find your subtitle content gets lost in translation.
Some top reasons to use human translators and foreign subtitle editors are below:
- Different languages are typically longer or shorter than others so line edits need to be made. Substituting line by line is very rarely an adequate option.
- Localisation needs to be considered in translations for the best results. For example, an English video around fireworks may talk about Guy Fawkes Night; in contrast, an English to French translator might decide to substitute this for Bastille Day; lastly, a French to American translator may choose July 4th, or Independence Day. A machine couldn’t do this.
- When formatting and working with subtitle translation, it’s crucial to use the correct coding so that foreign characters display properly.
- Different languages use different structures, and so line by line translation for foreign subtitles and closed captioning translation will often not suffice, as sentence order will likely change between languages. Whilst working with foreign languages, being too rigid with sentence structure can potentially lead to entirely changing the meaning of your text. For this reason, it’s important to maintain some structural consistency to ensure good caption syncing. This especially applies to globally recognisable words or names.
So that’s it: all the key points to writing high quality foreign subtitles for your videos. For more information, check out our subtitling and closed captions blog or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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