Film Subtitling Facts You Didn’t Know


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The Dubbing King software caters for various Audio-Visual Translation (AVT) modes. It is used for subtitling, translation and the dubbing processes.

Film Subtitling Facts You Didn't Know - DubbingKing

Film Subtitling Facts You Didn't Know - DubbingKing

One might argue it's an odd place to begin, but I'm firmly convinced that those who possess a continuous thirst for knowledge are indeed the most enlightened. Unlike many who stumble upon fresh ideas or subjects and pay them no mind, I make a habit of extensively researching any and all things I come across. This proactive approach, or 'actively researching on Google' as they say, yields great depth and breadth of understanding.

We all know what subtitling is and why it’s a film process that is used widely and greatly. We also know how beneficial it is in a lot of different ways that I will mention as we go on in this article. Some people like me don’t really appreciate subtitles in films, but most people prefer watching films with subtitles rather than without.

The process that is subtitling usually seems like a complex process, but you would be surprised to know that it is an easy process that has its normal difficulties just like any other film process. It only entails having a translator who is well versed in the rules and regulations of the process that are subtitling and a video editor who usually does the mounting of the subtitles on the screens.

Is subtitling viewed as an art form or merely as a peripheral aspect of film production? The creation of films is undeniably an artistic process, with each component - subtitling included - meriting its own recognition as a form of art. Like a troupe of actors delivering a script, subtitlers collaborate, using their creativity and linguistic prowess to convey subtle emotions and cultural nuances across languages. Hence, if dubbing is considered an art, so too should subtitling.

You may think, how can subtitling or translating a movie be considered as an art? To further expound on this aspect, it is very important to know that there are many challenges faced while doing it. It is an art that helps the movie reach all over the globe. If it wouldn’t have existed, then filmmakers would have no source of inspiration from movies of the other countries and other parts of the world. Translating is not the only goal of making subtitles, there are many other factors. Anything that ends up being an inspiration for something else is always referred to as an art because its impact is not felt through the mouth but by what it entails as a wholesome entity.

Just like any other film process, subtitles have their own benefits and I will do the process a disservice if I don’t outline some of its benefits.

Benefits Of The Subtitling Process

  1. Using subtitled films as a learning tool when mastering a new language can prove particularly effective. For anyone intent on picking up a foreign language, my advice would be to start by watching subtitled films. It serves as a prime opportunity to learn new vocabulary, observe sentence structure, and even hear the correct pronunciation. This strategy can significantly ease the transition when formally commencing language classes.
  2. When in a silent place like a library and you don’t have earphones but feel the need to watch a movie, it is always advisable to go for a film which has subtitles? This will allow you to mute the film and watch the movie while following through the subtitles. Try it sometimes, you will not regret it.
  3. Same as point two, if you are in a place where there is a lot of background noise or the audio is distorted and you would love to watch a film then it would be advisable to get a movie that has subtitles. You will not need the sound of the movie to watch it because you can just use the subtitles.
  4. If you're viewing films that contain potentially offensive material while in a public space, enabling the subtitles can indeed be beneficial. Not only does this approach allow you to privately consume the content, but it also reduces the risk of inadvertently causing upset or offence to those around you.

Now that the benefits are out of the way, we can look at the different facts and limitations of the process that is subtitling. Film being an expressive form of art, it is very important to make sure that every viewer can understand it in the simplest way possible and when doing it through subtitles it becomes hard. Making sure that viewers from different countries in the world get the target message really the most important thing.

Subtitle guidelines

Subtitling: An Art Form with its Own Set of Challenges

1. Expressing the emotion:   

Some find solace in spoken words, others in written text. For those who, like me, excel in expressing themselves through writ, the task of translating a film's emotions into text whilst adhering to the rigours of subtitling, is no small feat. Subtitling is a balancing act, requiring a level of precision and contextual understanding that surpasses mere translation. Handpicking phrases from one language to form cogent sentences in another requires deftness. Should you note imperfect subtitles next time, please grant the translator a degree of leniency, they're undoubtedly offering their utmost.

2. Language barrier:

With over 25000 spoken languages in the world today, language barrier is as real as it might get. Different words have specific meanings and have meant a specific thing and to pass a particular message and emotion. When you have to translate these words into other languages and have them mean the same thing, it really becomes super complicated. The worst part is when you are dealing with language pairs are not within the same linguistical relations. Translation for subtitling is usually complicated and if you end up working with a translator who is not a native speaker of the target language and has a deep understanding of the original language, you will end up with a lot of translation mistakes. Translation mistakes only mean that the context of your original film will not be upheld. It also gets tougher when you have to consider the cultural beliefs.  

3. It has its own screenplay:

When script writing it is known that a lot of film directors usually have a copy of drafts of a film written in the English language or any language that they would want to have the original films subtitled into. This is a very good thing to do because it ends up saving you a lot of money and time, either getting translators who must be well versed in both the original language and the target language. If you have a script in English, it’s easy to get a translator who understands English and the target language. In an instance where you do not really need a translator because of the fear of them possibly ruining the artistic aspect, then the drafts also come in handy.

4. Time and Space:

When I say time and space be sure I’m not referring to the time that subtitlers used to create the subtitles but the timing and spacing are in lines with the rules of subtitling. The subtitle should be shown for exactly the same time as the character is talking, or else the audience will get confused about who is talking and who isn’t. This only means that the translated words should be the exact number to those being spoken by a character in a scene. Being able to hack this and still have the subtitles remain in the original film is hard, and it has to be done because it’s very easy for viewers to notice mistakes in subtitling.  

5. Swearing and songs:

Arguably, the most arduous words to translate are swear words. Every language harbours its own unique set of these, and translating them to preserve their intended influence is no picnic. For instance, translating the French 'Zut alors!' directly into English results in 'Shucks!', a considerably milder exclamation. A similarly complex challenge extends to translating song lyrics, where a literal translation can entirely falter in encapsulating the song's essence.

In closing, understanding the intricacies, constraints, and boons of subtitling provides invaluable insight into this often overlooked facet of film production. Grasping the process illuminates its significance in bridging linguistic and cultural divides, thus enriching the viewer's experience - a clear testament to subtitling's pivotal role.

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