What are Subtitles?
You see subtitles everywhere. You see them in different types of fonts, formats and languages. It is so common and underrated that it goes mostly unnoticed.
Subtitles, however, perform an essential function in our daily lives.
Subtitles bridge communication gaps.
The earliest subtitles were known as intertitles, and they were used in silent movies to clarify scenarios and give characters voices. When sound became a part of moving pictures, the role of subtitles was transformed more into one that assists the hearing-impaired (SDH – Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of hearing) in understanding what is happening on the screen.
In these scenarios, subtitles are text rendering of dialogues or commentaries on screen. They are provided mainly in the same language without any additional information for the sole purpose of transmitting the message from the moving pictures. This also includes improving the understanding of dialogues where strong accents are involved.
Technology has changed the way subtitles are being created, presented, and used.
Nowadays, subtitles are no longer restricted for use as a tool to assist the hearing-impaired in understanding what is going on the screen. It is now a common tool used to enhance viewers' experience, and it is also used as a marketing support tool to extend the reach of marketing messages in noisy and crowded places where media is used extensively in the form of infomercials and billboards etc.
Subtitles are also used to enable understanding across different languages and cultures, effectively extending the global reach of marketers. When done correctly and accurately, bearing in mind the cultural differences, the nuances that may improve or disrupt messages, religious sensitivity, etc., it can even help build goodwill and reduce the need to reproduce marketing messages for different markets and thus leads to savings in marketing cost.As an essential part of the multimedia localization process, translated subtitles allow audio-visual materials made in a specific language to reach a wider global audience and expand the type of multimedia material choices available to viewers globally. Think Netflix, HBO, Disney+ and more.
What is subtitling?
Now that you know what subtitles are and their short history let's talk about the process of subtitling.
Subtitling is the process of adding text (dialogues or commentaries) to any form of audio-visual multimedia to allow audiences to understand the message being conveyed and what is being said by the actors in the audio-visual multimedia.
This audio-visual multimedia can come in many different forms like films, television, corporate videos, promotional videos, YouTube videos and any other form of videos accessed from the internet. Since a considerable percentage of the global population do not speak and understand English, Subtitling can help non-native English speakers comprehend these videos. Subtitling also helps viewers understand the context and premise of these videos better.Subtitling, which consists of displaying dialogue and sound effects in text form, mostly showed at the bottom of the screen, can be turned on or off by viewers. There are many reasons why some viewers have chosen to turn on subtitles while watching a film or video. Most do not want to be distracted by noises from their external environment. However, it can also be due to internal factors like the inconsistent volume of the soundtrack and the foreign language nature of the media. Ultimately, subtitling enables viewers to maximize their understanding and enjoyment of the media they are watching.
What are closed captions? Are closed captions the same as subtitles?
Closed captions are also subtitles, but while subtitles "texturized" the dialogue or spoken words of the actors or narrators, Closed captions go further by including the description of other parts of the soundtrack like background noise, sounds made by characters or the environment and other audio cues. Close captions assume that the viewers are unable to hear the audio. Thus a complete description of the sounds which would otherwise be heard would enhance understanding and enjoyment of the media.
What are the types of subtitling or captioning available?
In general, subtitling can be offered in the following Offline Captioning:
Pop-on positioned Captioning
Pop-on positioned captioning consists of 2-line titles displayed sequentially. Each of the lines is individually timed in sync with the on-screen events of the film edits. The individual caption forms a unit of meaning and is introduced in such a way to make it easy to read and understand. In some instances, speaker identities are used. Positioned captioning should always be used for dramas, comedies, shows with numerous speakers, and TV or DVD.
Pop-on un-positioned Captioning
In pop-on unpositioned captioning, the 2-line captions are inserted and timed in the same way pop-on positioned captioning is done. The difference is is that they are centre-positioned and centre-justified into 2-line titles displayed in sequence. Each of the lines is individually timed. But not to the exact frame. The main difference here is that speaker Identities are not used. In its place, a dash is used instead to indicate when there is a speaker change. Pop-on unpositioned captioning is suitable for reality programming or documentaries and the web, where positioned captioning may be challenging.
Roll-up captioning is commonly used when time is tight to broadcast and when there are few speaker changes. Speaker identities are not used as it is not difficult for the viewer to figure out from the picture which is talking.
Subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing
Like pop-on un-positioned captioning with the addition of speaker identities and heavier use of italics to indicate off-screen sound, SDH or Subtitling for the Deaf and Hard of hearing is a form of closed captioning that supplements relevant parts of soundtrack that are important to the understanding of the plot.
What are the file formats for subtitles?
Subtitles are available in various formats, and it can be somewhat confusing for those approaching subtitling for the first time.
For a start, here are some of the formats commonly used:
- SRT (SubRip Text)
- SSA (SubStation Alpha)
- TTML (Timed Text Markup Language)
- SBV (YouTube format)
- DFXP (Distribution Format Exchange Profile)
- VTT (Web Video Text Track)
- TXT (untimed text transcript)
Don't let the list above overwhelm you.Let us calm your nerves by saying that the most common format used in subtitling is the SRT format. It is compatible with most subtitling applications and can easily be uploaded to popular videos like YouTube videos. It is also easily editable using any text editor.
Example of SRT file.
It is very easy to be intimidated by the variety of subtitling file formats, software, and applications. Depending on what you plan to do with the video after the subtitles are added, we can suggest the most appropriate format to adopt for the different scenarios:
- Displaying video and subtitles ONLINE
- Displaying video and subtitles using A MEDIA PLAYER
- Using subtitles in VIDEO EDITING APPLICATION
What are the common mistakes seen in subtitling?
Formats aside, subtitles can go terribly wrong when we do not place enough importance in the process of its creation.
When done correctly, subtitles can be a tool that enhances understanding and creates an emotional affiliation that sometimes can be missing due to noise, distraction, and language differences.
The timing of the subtitles is one of the most significant factors affecting the final quality of the audio-visual presentation. Timing mistakes can be rather irritating. At worst, timing mistakes can give the plot away and reduce the presentation's overall enjoyment, leaving viewers feeling very frustrated.
You must have seen hilarious subtitles and had a good laugh with your friends and family about it. Translation of subtitles that do not consider the cultural background of the viewers and the use of the language can come across as being offensive. Translations that are too literal or translated by machines can often disrupt the enjoyment and understanding of the film, leaving viewers dumbfounded and with a nasty aftertaste.
25 years of experience in Translation and Subtitling
Whether you need to get your message out to a local or global audience, our professional team of language translation experts and subtitling specialists are at your service.
Lingua Technologies International provide the following services:
- Translation for Subtitling
- Transcription for Subtitling
- Same language subtitling
- Technical language subtitling
- Subtitling for the deaf & hard of hearing
- Foreign language subtitling
For more information and general inquiries, please do not hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email. We can be reached via telephone at +65 6576 0138 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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With more than 20 years of proven excellence in translation services, Lingua Technologies International is one of the pioneers in offering Multilingual Translation Service Solution to Singapore and the region. The company takes pride in making translation an invaluable experience. With the ISO 17100 certification, you now have peace of mind that your translation projects are always processed and handled by professionals in accordance with the guidelines and standards outlined in this ISO certification specification developed for Translation Businesses worldwide. Let our professional team of linguists and project managers handle the tedious task of translation for you, leaving you with more time to do what matters most to you: your business.