TM-Town Expert Translator Q&A

Everything You Wanted to Know About Subtitling

Featuring Max Deryagin

Starts: January 21, 2016 Ends: January 23, 2016

Max Deryagin is a full-time freelance translator and subtitler located in Perm Krai, Russia. Over the six years of work, he has collaborated with a great number of independent and corporate clients and subtitled over 300 videos ranging from short commercials to full-length movies for TV, DVD and Web.

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Questions: 3
Comments: 7

3

bdingwall

Barbara Dingwall

Hi Max,

I've never translated subtitles. Could you please explain exactly how you do it? Is there a particular software you use?

2

max_deryagin

Max Deryagin

Hi Barbara,

Hm. This is a rather broad question, and I don't think I could answer it reasonably well without dropping a kilometer-long wall of text.

I will take a different route and suggest that you buy a hardcover version of my favorite book on audiovisual translation, which is Audiovisual Translation, Subtitling (Translation Practices Explained) by Jorge Diaz-Cintas and Aline Remael. Not only does this book boast great AVT theory and graded exercises, but it also comes with a DVD with sample film material and — most importantly — a demo version of professional subtitling software that you will use for the exercises. It's a great introduction package with a nice quality-to-price ratio.

Speaking of software, I use EZTitles Enterprise 5. The license costs €2,380, though.

2

diasks2

Kevin Dias

Hi Max,

Do you ever do any closed captioning work? I know there are some slight differences between closed captioning and subtitling and I'm curious if there are any differences in approach to the two from a translator's perspective?

2

max_deryagin

Max Deryagin

Hi Kevin,

Tricky question, because the very definitions of closed captioning and subtitling differ in different parts of the world. In Europe, subtitling and captioning are synonymous, whereas in NA, Australia and New Zealand, by "captioning" people mean "on-screen text for the hard of hearing" and by subtitling they mean "on-screen text for those who don't understand the video's language or accent".

Now, if we're talking about Line 21 closed captioning (for TV), it is usually intended for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as for people in sound-sensitive or loud environments. They are intended for the people who understand the source language, so there isn't really any point to translate them, apart from a couple of notable cases — Spanish CC2 captions in the United States and French captions in Canada.

I personally have never translated closed captions due to my language pair, but I can imagine that there is barely any difference, apart from the need to translate the non-speech information, including speaker identification and sound descriptions.

Hope this answers your question.

1

natanio

Nate Hill

What's the most challenging aspect of subtitling that most people are unaware of?

3

max_deryagin

Max Deryagin

Hi Nate,

I would say, translating comedy. Namely — wordplay, puns and cultural references. This is because audiovisual translation operates not in one channel, as the regular one does (written word), but in four — spoken language, sounds (including music), picture (=video) and on-screen text. This complicates matters, well, fourfold, because you are constricted by four planes of meaning, and not just one.

For example, imagine translating the idiom "between a rock and a hard place" in a book. You just find a similar expression in the target language and go with it — or, if it does not exist, you can translate descriptively or coin something new. Now imagine you are translating the same idiom in a comedy film, and the video sequence shows a person literally standing between a rock and some hard place, maybe even with a sign plate saying "Hard Place". What do you do now? If you find a similar expression, chances are, the video won't make much sense, because in the target language the idiom has nothing to do with both rock and hard place, which is the case in Russian. Now you have to come up with something else and think much harder than you normally would translating a book.

And this is why translating comedy is, in my opinion, the most challenging aspect of subtitling.

On the technical side of things, working around shot changes is quite difficult. Along with the time (reading speed) and space (row length limit) constraints, it restricts your choices of how to segment the script into subtitles.

1

natanio

Nate Hill

Thanks! That's a great answer. I can imagine how challenging that is.

Are there also cases when the media can also be edited to help the translator out? For example, when I watch Disney movies that were made for Japanese audiences with my kids, even if we change it to English, any signs or important text on the screen has been rendered to Japanese. I guess this is something that is easier done in animated films, but are there times when you just get completely stuck? What are your options in those cases?

1

max_deryagin

Max Deryagin

In professional subtitling, on-screen texts such as road or shop signs, for example, are usually rendered as non-speech information, so they appear at the bottom of the screen, centered, often in brackets and capitalized: [ROAD SIGN: STOP]

In fansubbing, however, substituting the visuals for on-screen texts is common practice, and it's come to the point that sometimes you won't even realize the text you saw wasn't the original one but rather the translation. This is because the Advanced SubStation Alpha subtitle format that fansubbers use makes it relatively easy to do such a thing.

1

diasks2

Kevin Dias

That's a really interesting point about working around shot changes, I had never thought about that before...but that must present quite a challenge sometimes!

1

max_deryagin

Max Deryagin

You bet! For example, Netflix's guidelines on shot changes are rather strict. They change entirely how subtitlers and translators go about doing things.


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