Video subtitling is a type of audio-visual translation that follows a specific set of guidelines. One thing to know about subtitles is that they fall under the category of subordinate translation. Subordinate translation means the translation is restricted by certain conditions, in this case time and space. These conditions will impact the end product. The translator must make sure their translation fits into the character spacing and time slot available. This means going beyond translating just the given text, and making sure it compliments any corresponding video or audio.
In subtitling, translation is generally limited to two short lines of letters, usually displayed centrally at the bottom of the screen. There cannot be more than thirty-five characters per line. This includes any spaces or special characters like symbols. The 2 lines make up the subtitle. A subtitle cannot have over seventy letters or characters.
As for timing restrictions, the window for displaying a subtitle on screen usually ranges from one to six seconds.
The window of time the subtitle is displayed on screen correlates with the amount of letters, spaces or special characters it contains. This is to make it easy to read. These guidelines reflect the estimated reading pace of the viewers. We all read different volumes of text in six seconds and under. If a full sized subtitle is made up of 2 lines and seventy letters, this will need to be displayed for at least four seconds. This allows for around twelve words in the translation. If the subtitle is displayed for a shorter amount of time, we will need to allocate fewer words and characters for the translation.
There is another element to subtitling known as spotting, where the translator indicates when each individual subtitle needs to start and finish in order to synchronise correctly with the dialogue. Any changes to the camera angles should also be considered when calculating these durations. In the event that the angle switches midway through a subtitle, the instinct of the viewer is to go back to the beginning of that same subtitle to correspond with the new scene being displayed, throwing off their rhythm. This is why changes in scene and camera angles need to be considered by the subtitling company when possible.
TERRATRA’s subtitling service can be summarised into the subsequent steps:
Spotting: Indicating precise start and finish times for each individual subtitle in order to synchronise correctly with any audio or dialogue, working out the window of time that needs to be displayed on screen and keeping in mind any possible scene changes or different camera angles.
Translation (Adaptation): Translating the source material in keeping with the allocated number of letters corresponding to the window of time the individual subtitle is displayed on screen.
Simulation: Viewing each now translated subtitle alongside any image or audio making sure it can be read easily, correcting any minor errors or typos and carrying out any necessary adjustments to the text.