History of Subtitling and the Art of delivering high quality perfect Subtitles

The first audio visual films reached an international audience in the year 1929. Since then there have been two dominant audio visual translation methodologies, dubbing and subtitling. While dubbing was mainly used in German, Italian, Spanish and German speaking countries in and outside Europe, Subtitling became a particularly preferred form of audio visual translation over dubbing in countries with large non-European speaking communities and small European countries that had high literacy rate.

The Art of delivering high quality perfect Subtitles

When comparing subtitling with other forms of audio visual translation such as dubbing, there are four main issues which require expertise and planning for delivering high quality perfect subtitles:

  1. The subtitles that appear on the bottom of the screen partially interfere with the visual images, which is why most transcripts appear as small pieces of written translations that generally don’t extend over 2 lines of about 35 characters each.
  2. The format, structure and styling of subtitles should be such that it enhances the visibility and legibility of each and every subtitle.
  3. Since subtitling is a written form of audio visual translation, it has an inherent limitation of communicating the actual tone of voice. The translator should keep this point in mind while creating subtitles and should provide subtitles that clearly communicate the intent of the audio visual content.
  4. The speed of display, dialogue and translated subtitles requires proper synchronization. This synchronization requires calculation and planning because of various technical reasons which are specific to subtitling. Firstly, the speed of dialogue or other audio visual extracts which require translation are generally faster than the rate at which full subtitles can be rendered. Therefore proper time and size management of the subtitles with relation to the audio visual scenes is required. Secondly, the average reading speed of the viewer also varies greatly. Again this impacts the rate at which the subtitles change and size of the subtitles would also vary depending on the reading speed of viewers. Thirdly, subtitling necessitates short intervals in between every subsequent subtitle.

Subtitling is an inexpensive mode of audio visual translation. As a leading subtitling company in UK, we take into consideration all the above mentioned pros and cons of subtitling, to ensure high quality perfect subtitles for all audio visual translation requirements.

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