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A Beginner’s Guide To Subtitling

 So, you’ve decided to do subtitling? Are you unsure of where to start?

Worry no more.

Usually, subtitling looks simple on the surface because it can be done by machines such as your computer. However, don’t forget that a human translator offers that human touch that no machine can ever give.

In the digital world, it’s no longer a surprise how viral video content can go. With this characteristic, you can be certain that many viewers across the world will access video content.

Then, how does this video content cater to this massive audience?

With huge barriers such as language threatening to spoil the party, only subtitling can come to its rescue.

As things stand now, viewers are no longer skeptical of reading or seeing subtitles running across the screen even if they understand the language of the audio they’re listening to or the video they’re watching. For this reason, subtitling has become a popular feature even on popular social media sites such as Youtube and other multimedia applications.

Apart from being helpful to those with hearing difficulties, subtitles also boost your content’s accessibility, increase your audience’s attention, and even enhance its Google ranking.

This guide for beginners aims at providing basic but comprehensive information on what subtitling is and the steps on how subtitling is done.

But, first things first.

Simply put, subtitling refers to the process of translating audio content into the text written on the screen. In other words, subtitles are the written representation of audio in any form of moving pictures.

What Is Subtitling?

Types of Subtitles

  1. Hard/Open Subtitles

This type of subtitles can’t be turned off since they are permanently ‘burned in’ to the video. With this type of subtitling, one doesn’t need additional software or equipment to replay the content.

To make better open subtitles, you need to decide right from the filmmaking design stage. This is necessary because you’ll need to leave spaces on the screen for the subtitles.

  1. Closed/Pre-Rendered Subtitles

These subtitles require different video frames placed on the original video during playback. Here, it’s possible to turn the subtitles on and off and usually appear at the bottom of the screen in one or two text lines.

Also, you can add multiple languages with closed subtitles, making it possible to change over between them.  Fortunately, with the help of software such as SubRip or OCR, you can modify these subtitles into ‘soft’ ones.

You may already be familiar with this since they are found on DVDs, Blu-ray, BBC iPlayer, and recently on Netflix.

  1. Soft Subtitles

These subtitles exist outside the video as distinct commands or marked-up content with timestamps revealed during playback. To be successful, soft subs require the player for playback functionality. Additionally, soft subs are easier to make and modify than hard ones and are commonly used for fansubs.

Steps in the Subtitling Process

  1. Workflow

First, understand that creating good and quality subtitles require you to be orderly and time conscious. To do this, ensure you have set out a good workflow.

If you’re working alone, this may sound a bit too demanding since you may only need an organized folder to keep files for raw videos and subtitles. Even so, ensure you backup the files with final subtitles to avoid losing hours of hard labor.

But if you’re in a team,  start by assigning roles. This way, it’ll be clear who is doing what and also help in the crediting process. You can assign roles either by time division (A does the first half and B does the second half) or by role (A as a Typesetter and B as a Translator).

To have well-organized files, use software such as GitHub, which allows you to view updates easily and merge episodes seamlessly.

  1. Timing

Use Aegisub to create typeset or precisely timed subtitles.  Some prefer using SubtitleEdit, but it isn’t easy creating frame-perfect subtitles.

Upon opening Aegissub, this window appears:

While you’re here, follow these steps:

Video > Open Video > Locate the video file on your computer.

Here is a list of shortcuts you can employ to make subtitling fast and enjoyable.

  • Ctrl + P: Play/Pause video
  • Ctrl + 1: Go to the beginning of the selected line
  • Ctrl + 2: Go to the end of the selected line
  • Ctrl + 3: Start the line exactly where the video is currently
  • Ctrl + 4: Change the end of the line
  • Ctrl + Shift + D: Divide the line at the current frame
  1. Translating

At this stage, you simply pick each line and translate what is being said/written into English or the language you want.

To make this more interesting, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Be consistent with terms and names.
  • Be free to paraphrase or add flourishes that make it easy for the viewers to understand and interpret.
  • Ensure you preserve the authenticity of the show
  • Watch out for the Aegisub CPS box: if it gets red, rephrase the line to make it concise.
  • Where two people talk simultaneously or in the same line, make sure you distinguish them for clarity.
  • Ensure your translation focuses on the meaning, authenticity, or aesthetics of the show rather than just the real meaning of words
  1. Typesetting

Typesetting has everything to do with styling your subtitles. To style your subtitles, you choose fonts, size, color, shadow, position, and many more other aesthetics displayed in the subs. Your choice of what to select depends on the software used, such as SSA and  STR formats.

Take your time to understand the correct font and good subtitles for your subtitles. In fact, there are times when you’ll be required to override some style parameters in Aegisub.

  1. Encoding

While this is usually a much complex part, it’s good to understand that you can use software such as VapourSynth to get quality videos from under-par sources.  

You can encode using two ways: Softsubs and hard subs.

Softsubs means that the video container (MP4 or MKV) contains audio, video, and subtitle tracks. This way, you can add multiple languages to a single file, allowing the viewer to disable the subtitles.

  1. Edit Again and Try Yourself

Perfection is not easily attained. While you’ve invested much time in creating subtitles, and you’re very sure they’re good to go, take some time to go through again and fix any loose ends.

Frankly, there’ll always be areas to fine-tune. Endeavor to reduce errors as much as possible.

Conclusion

You can create compelling, easy-to-understand, and aesthetic subtitles for your videos. However, you need a good guide that will take you through the steps to achieve this. This guide gives you the tips to help you through the process and lays down detailed steps that you can follow as a beginner.

Why Choose LatinoBridge?

From 2010 when we started, we have invested time and material resources in providing top-notch language interpretation, translation, and transcription services to many clients across the globe. With this experience, we are rated among the leading language experts, and to us, subtitling is as easy as ABC. 

By choosing us, you consent to quality services. Through us, the world speaks to Latin America and Latin America speaks to the world. Our professional staff are highly experienced and every subtitle they add reflects the true meaning of what the video is about. For our subtitling services, contact us today and we shall set the ball rolling.