Subtitling – Good Practice & Pitfalls!

Hero Curve Element
Subtitling - Good Practice & Pitfalls!

With the onset of globalisation, we’re finding that our clients are increasingly ambitious and want to expand their target audiences as much as possible. With our subtitling projects, clients are increasingly demanding subtitles in multiple languages. Where a particular promo is likely to be aired in six, seven or even eight countries, then the accuracy of the subs becomes paramount.

We work with translators from all four corners of the globe, but subtitlers need to have some fairly specialised skills at their disposal. Whereas some years ago, we may have found ourselves producing subtitles into French or German only, nowadays we sometimes find ourselves creating subtitles in up to eight or nine languages! English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese, to name but a few.

Whatever the target language of the subtitles, the texts need to be spot on and there are some key rules that our linguists always have to observe. These conventions are often linked to the way the subs are presented. There are per-line character restrictions, for example – no more than 35 characters per line (though this changes to 14, for Japanese or Chinese). And similarly, there should be no more than two lines for each subtitle. A sentence should never spread across more than three lines in total either..

There are also linguistic considerations, such as the language used, the syntax (the sentence structure) and the level of formality. Sometimes our clients will have a particular ‘style’ in mind and will have specific ideas in terms of the tone that the subtitles should be scripted in. In these cases, we always ensure that our team are fully au fait with what is expected and we liaise with our clients regularly to ensure that the correct tone is being employed, appropriate to the target audience.

There are a whole host of other considerations, but the key to success, we find, is dialogue. As long as we understand completely, exactly what is required and are able to communicate this effectively to our linguists, then 99.9% of problems can be avoided. Communication, communication, communication!

Need help?

Should you require our help with subtitles & captions do not hesitate to get in touch with us and our team will do their best to help you.


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We are trusted by tv production companies, marketing and advertising companies around the world to provide a subtitling service in over 200 languages.

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