Subtitling into Multiple Languages - The Dos and Don’ts!

by Knockhundred Admin

Sometimes we receive a video file that a client is hoping to have subtitled into English. This is usually a straightforward project, since we have a team of individuals who are really experienced at transcription and at subtitling, who are always ready and on-hand to help. But more and more frequently we are receiving requests to subtitle into multiple languages, which can be a little more challenging for us!

We are typically contacted by advertising agencies and post-production companies, who almost always require a quick turnaround of video files. The videos themselves can arrive in almost any format, including, but by no means restricted to: Flash video format (.flv), AVI format (.avi), Quicktime format (.mov),vMP4 format (.mp4), Mpg format (.mpg) or Windows Media Video format (.wmv). Once we have the material, what we style the ‘source material’, it’s then our job to produce subtitle files, which we deliver in any number of formats. They can be created as plain text, Word, HTML, Final Cut Pro XML, Spruce STL or Subrip (srt). Subrip (srt) is the most common format demanded by our clients.

There are some very specific guidelines that our subtitles must adhere to, and which always add an extra challenge! Subtitles should not exceed around 35 characters per line (including spaces) and the captions should not be more than two lines in total (for each subtitle). You mustn’t miss out full stops and one sentence should not be broken up into more than three captions.

But the details don’t stop there! There are some pretty specific linguistic requirements too - the fact that different clauses should be kept to different lines for example. And things obviously become more complex when one introduces languages like French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Chinese into the mix. Different languages obviously have different scripts. Japanese has a phonetic syllabary, with two distinct alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana) AND Kanji, for example, which impacts on line length. So Japanese is usually limited to 14 characters per line. Different languages also have completely different constructions, so our linguists need to be able to really understand how best to deliver subtitles within their given language.

When we’re working on a multilingual project, all these different considerations must be taken into account. We have to be absolutely clear to our team, in terms of what the client is hoping to receive. At the same time, we need to keep in constant touch with our linguists, to ensure they are comfortable with the project and able to deliver perfect subtitles to schedule.

Contact us for a FREE QUOTE & FILE UPLOADS. Should you require our help with Transcription & Subtitling, more specifically Subtitles & Captions do not hesitate to get in touch with us and our team will do their best to help you. For General Contact, to discuss a request, please simply call us.