One of the areas in which translators are most active within the localisation industry is subtitling. Used in medium such as films, TV and training videos, to healthcare and medical research, subtitling can be a complex service to get right. Here are some reasons why:
1. Multiple Speakers
This factor can be particularly challenging for subtitles, regardless of whether you’re translating them or not. Even relatively basic conversations can be hard to keep up with when there are several speakers at once. Not only do you need to think about screen space and pacing, but you also have to make sure the corresponding text is visible as people are speaking and that readers can finish reading each subtitle before the next appears.
Things get even more tricky when you have to deal with fast-paced conversations, arguments or debates between half a dozen people.
2. Text Length
Keeping each subtitle short enough to comfortably fit on the screen so that it may be read easily and quickly is not all that simple. Written text varies in length across different languages and English tends to be shorter than most.
Text length can be a challenge when subtitling due to limited space, as the text should not be cut off, but adding a lot of text can take up too much of the screen display.
3. Text Length vs. Dialogue Speed
When dialogue speed in the footage outpaces the viewers’ reading speed, the subtitles need to be rearranged. The best solution is to plan ahead and show the subtitles slightly before the speaker so that viewers have enough time to read. If this is not possible, the subtitler needs to adapt the text to fit the screen. Although it is not an ideal solution, by compromising we can deliver better results.
When translating subtitles, an extra effort must be made not to include any literal translations, which can confuse the viewers and result in poor translation/text adaption. Examples include localising length or weight measurements and time based on the region and language of the intended audience.
Language in subtitles should have a natural flow and be easy to read, so that the experience remains enjoyable and realistic.
5. Font Size
Font size can be a challenge, as the text must be legible from all devices and screen sizes. A font size needs to adapt to the screen dimensions and always remain clear and comprehensible.
When text is naturally longer than others, text size is a key consideration; putting text in bold is also an important aspect to consider, along with spacing between the letters.
Delivering subtitling as a professional service requires a high concentration and a good level of planning, and there are many factors which need to be taken into consideration. However, with the right experience and skillset, a high quality product can be created and delivered, ensuring a wide audience is able to enjoy and use the material in the same way as the original.
Here at GlobaLexicon, we use our extensive knowledge of this service to ensure we are delivering subtitled work of the highest quality.