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Your Guide to Professional Subtitling Without Errors

Is subtitles translation a profession or a form of art?

With an impressive controversy surrounding the question, the right answer is that video subtitling is probably a mix of the two things!

Having a huge impact on society over recent years, video subtitling services are now enabling us to access a broad diversity of entertainment sources ─ including movies, series and video games. Significantly, when it comes to the video production industry, professional subtitling is currently being taken very seriously by media businesses. But why?

The reason is very clear. Even though subtitling errors can sometimes be funny, yet the text is crucial to most videos and films. If the subtitling service is not done right, the video or movie will be incomprehensible. Worse, the lack of professional subtitling will certainly lead to communicating the wrong meaning and thus misleading viewers. Catastrophic, isn’t it?!

This being said, let’s be frank. The success or failure of your video content depends on the quality and accuracy of the video subtitling service you outsource. Professionally, accurately and artfully rendered subtitles will enormously enhance your film or video.

On the other hand, subtitles translation errors are terrible. They will make it hard or even impossible for your viewers to watch or follow your video. As a result, all the effort you’ve made in making the video will yield no ROI. A disaster, isn’t it?

Why Should You Choose a Professional Subtitling Provider?

It goes without saying that if you’re in the media industry and you need to outsource video subtitling services, you must choose a professional company that would help you make your movie a hit. There’s general consensus in the media circles that there are a number of key things you will need from your subtitling service provider. Let’s look at some of them.

The most valuable asset you should seek in your subtitling service partner is the human element. Their team of subtitlers will be delivering the most important aspect in the whole process, namely the “viewing experience” for spectators. Even though we might be seeing zillions of vloggers, channels broadcasters and video service providers, yet onscreen text quality is something else! It’s the privilege of a few video subtitling services vendors that have proficient and expert teams of subtitlers.

Importantly, your professional subtitling provider should have a reputation for a fast turnaround. As a successful media business, you need to deal with a video subtitling agency that is committed to meeting deadlines without compromising quality.

How to Avoid Video Subtitling Errors?

Ideally, you should be partnering with a professional subtitling provider so that your end-users ─ your video and movie viewers ─ may finally enjoy a piece of authentic content, without missing any details due to language barriers.

However, subtitling errors will certainly result in viewers turning their backs on your video, and thus, you will be losing your audience to other more interesting media. This is why we’ll list here several subtitling errors, so you may learn how to avoid them to make sure you don’t lose your audience due to bad subtitling. 

1- Avoid Word-by-Word Translation

Words have different meanings that differ from one language to another, and so are idioms and metaphors. They differ from one culture to another. Therefore, if you go for literal video subtitling, you’re definitely heading for disaster! But why?

Viewers need to relate easily to what they’re watching. So, if the subtitles aren’t in line with the onscreen images, the whole watching experience will turn out to be a total failure. Imagine a literal translation of the expression “he was caught pants down”, or “it’s raining cats and dogs” in a movie! If professional, the subtitler will understand that they mean “he was caught unprepared” and “it’s raining heavily or hard” respectively. If the subtitler, however, chooses to translate word for word, you’ll end up having ridiculous text in both cases.  Accordingly, you need to choose a subtitling service partner that has translators who are native in the target language.

2- Never Create Subtitles Without Watching!

When you get to know the essence of professional subtitling, you’ll understand that it’s all about context! Never create subtitles depending on the script only without watching the audio-visual content ─ or else you’ll be making a hell of mistakes. If you ignore watching the audiovisual material, you’ll fail to spot a lot of details and you’ll consequently make all sorts of errors which could have otherwise been avoided. Once more, it’s all about context!

3- Wrong Timing

Not only should subtitles be accurate and culture-friendly, but you also should ensure that they’re properly timed. Why?

When viewers see subtitles on the screen before or after the character conveys the corresponding speech, this confuses them and gets them to believe that something is missing. In fact, this common mistake usually disrupts the entire viewing experience and is regarded as one of the most serious subtitles translation errors.

Therefore, you should consistently make sure that video subtitles appear just when the speaker begins talking ─ or else you would have made a useless subtitle! Further, you must continuously run the subtitles on the video to check timing and make the required editing.

4- Voices Should Have Different Styles

In the movie world, every character in the motion picture has ideally its own uniqueness and individuality, and should, therefore, have a distinct voice. It’d be ridiculous and altogether wrong if all characters were speaking in the video with the same style of speech.

For example, if the scene involves an old university professor ─ a baby boomer ─ speaking formally to his students, it’d be absurd if the subtitler used the casual language spoken by millennials! 

Therefore, professional video subtitling services agencies always ensure that each character on the screen would have its own specific voice and style of speech. With this, they identify the way of speaking of each character and ensure that this is reflected through the translated subtitles.

Moreover, if you, as a media company, have different voices in your video content, you need to help your subtitling partner by providing them with a “style guide” that would help them identify the language differences and would finally ensure that your viewers can identify themselves with the situations they see.

5- Beware of Unnatural Line Breaks

Subtitles and the actual speech on the screen should go hand in hand ─ with subtitles following the natural way of speaking. Consequently, a line break should take place following a clause or following the end of a phrase.

If the subtitled text is haphazardly split, viewers won’t be able to follow the lines.  Ideally, viewers shouldn’t be placed in a situation where they would need to read a sentence twice, or else, the audience will dislike the entire watching experience.  

So, a professional video subtitling services vendor should edit all unnatural breaks in the subtitles, even if they have to redo the whole translation.

6- Avoid Too long phrases

Typically, more than 2 lines of subtitled text on the screen is dangerous. It might result in covering the image and thus damaging the entire viewing experience. 

Worse, spectators don’t have enough time to read all the text on the screen. So, when the moving picture doesn’t correspond to your subtitled text, this would definitely create confusion, and viewers won’t be able to watch the video.

Normally, your subtitles should appear on the screen just when the actors are speaking. So, you need to opt for a subtitling service provider whose subtitlers are versed in the art of avoiding long phrases and have an aptitude for clarity and brevity.

7- Punctuation Matters!

Without punctuation, viewers won’t be able to follow the text on the screen, and it would make no sense to them! Though periods are rarely used in subtitling, yet it’s important to use exclamation marks, question marks, commas, colons, semicolons, and apostrophes if you wish to keep your context clear. Therefore, you need to ask your video subtitling provider to follow best practices both in grammar and punctuation rules.  

8- Unreadable Text

To give the viewers of your media good user experience, you subtitled text shouldn’t be too small or too big.

As for the background, you have to avoid placing text against a background of the same color. It’s logical that viewers will be able to read your translated subtitle at the bottom of the screen only if the text color noticeably contrasts with the color of the background.

Furthermore, you need to take into consideration that there are millions of viewers who access videos through their smartphones across the globe. So, you must ensure that your subtitled videos are tested on various devices to guarantee that spectators can effortlessly read them under all circumstances.

Why LatinoBridge?

According to hundreds of media businesses that have been relying on our subtitling service, for more than 10 years, to drive their business growth, LatinoBridge is the perfect choice for many reasons.

With LatinoBridge’s video subtitling services, our clients always boost the reach of their videos, movies and programs by localizing them for targeted overseas markets. With this, videos attract more and more viewers and thus increase sales and boost revenues.

LatinoBridge, our clients explain, consistently deliver accurate, professional subtitling that captures the essence of their message in order to ensure an engaging experience for their audiences.

Last but not least, our clients always commend our company for having native-speaking subtitle translators who have extensive, hands-on experience in professionally transcribing the spoken texts of their business videos, documentaries, video games, commercials, and institutional videos.

Contact us today for a free quote.