The Art of Subtitles and Captions

Hero Curve Element
The Art of Subtitles and Captions

More people now have access to global media than ever before and a number of online platforms offer hundreds of movies that are available on-demand, at the click of a mouse (or the touch of a screen). With the globalization of media content, more and more films become accessible to audiences worldwide, which fuels demand for subtitling services.

Video footage typically needs subtitling when the audience cannot understand the language used in a film. -This may be because the content requires translation, for the country where the material has been released, or it may be that a person is unable to hear the audio and so needs on-screen text to read. The reason that the subtitles are needed essentially dictates what’s required. Where an audience can hear the audio, then it is subtitles that will be required, whereas closed captioning is needed when an audience can’t hear the audio and needs a text description of what is occurring on-screen.

We receive many requests to subtitle films, documentaries and corporate videos. We can receive files in pretty much any format, whether MP4, AVI, MKV, WMV, MPG, MPEG, VOB, TOD, MOD or FLV. Whatever the format our clients supply the subtitles in, the end goal is the same, – perfectly synchronised subtitles, in time and space.

The subtitles obviously have to be timed to appear with the relevant images on-screen, typically appearing for in-between one and six seconds. There should not be more than two lines per subtitles and each line should not have more than thirty-five characters, including spaces.

There is also a real art to ensuring that the subtitles appear at exactly the right point and for exactly the right period of time. Within the industry, this is often termed ‘spotting’, for obvious reasons. This means that the linguist producing the subtitles or closed captions must think carefully about the way that the material has been edited and really look at what is happening on-screen, to work out exactly how best to time the text.

In addition to getting the timing right, the linguist must ensure that the text encapsulates all that’s said, presenting it succinctly and also confirming to certain grammatical conventions (not splitting verbs across across lines for example). This is (of course!) on top of the task of translating the content!

Fortunately we have a team of gifted linguists who have the technical expertise to prepare subtitles, for any project, large of small.

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.


Do you need translations? Get in touch.

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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