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Conventions for multiple speakers.
Thread poster: meinos
meinos
English
Jun 16, 2006

I am what I suppose you would call an amateur subtitler, and I am wondering what the convention is for simultaneous speakers. The situation to which I am referring has two people on screen, each giving different, rather lengthy monologues at the same time. The audience is intended to understand what both of them are saying, but I must stress that they really are speaking *very much at the same time.* I cannot seem to think of a way that I can get both of their little speeches across in a clear and aesthetically pleasing manner. Does anyone know or have any advice?

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German Services
Local time: 22:31
English to German
+ ...
This is a normal occurrence Jun 17, 2006

Having two sources speaking simultaneously is a normal occurence in subtitling, not only two characters (like in a Robert Altman movie) but e.g. a TV in the background with information important to the viewer.

Even though they both speak "very much at the same time" you have to filter it down to what is important. That is pretty much the art of subtitling/editing.

The on-screen representation can look like this (there are different possibilities):

-Why didn't you tell me...
-I was so young...

-that he kissed you...
-when he took the pictures...

-the night of the prom.
-and I just found out about them.


I myself try to keep a sentence over three titles maximum, in the above case even three is a lot because of the double speakers.
In these cases, you will rarely get it all. And that's not your job as a subtitler. Just make the audience understand.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 22:31
French to Spanish
+ ...
Simple. Jun 17, 2006

1.- you must "cut" the long dialogues, of course and keep what is essential.
2.- when 2 actors are speaking, we do this:

-Hello, I'm John, what's you're name?
-Hi there, I'm Susan, I live here.

Sometimes, I personnaly put 3 dialogues in a subtitle, why not?

-Hello, I'm John, what's you're name? -Hi there,
I'm Susan, I live here. -Pleased to meet you.

I've noticed that in England, they NEVER use 2 different dialogues in a subtitle: each dialogue, then, is one subtitle. I don't like it because that makes a lot of subtitles, quite short, and spectator's eyes get tired.

Speaking of "aesthetically pleasing manner", I would advice you not to write this way:

-Hello, I'm John, I live next door. How are today, darling?
-Fine.

But:

-Hello, I'm John, I live next door.
How are you today, darling? -Fine.

Here, both dialogues are "balanced" in character number. Much better for the reading.

Finaly, English subtitling always puts a blank between - and the first letter, like this.

- Hello, I'm John.
- Hi, there.

I don't like it because you simply loose one space each time.

Hope it helps and that I understand your question.
More advice for free.
Luck.


[Editado a las 2006-06-17 15:01]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 22:31
French to Spanish
+ ...
Why do we sometimes get tired... Jun 23, 2006

...helping others?

Two very specific answers 5 days ago... no reply, no nothing.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:31
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Hi Juan... Jun 23, 2006

Juan Jacob wrote:

-Hello, I'm John, what's you're name? -Hi there,
I'm Susan, I live here. -Pleased to meet you.

I've noticed that in England, they NEVER use 2 different dialogues in a subtitle: each dialogue, then, is one subtitle. I don't like it because that makes a lot of subtitles, quite short, and spectator's eyes get tired.

Speaking of "aesthetically pleasing manner", I would advice you not to write this way:

-Hello, I'm John, I live next door. How are today, darling?
-Fine.

But:

-Hello, I'm John, I live next door.
How are you today, darling? -Fine.

Here, both dialogues are "balanced" in character number. Much better for the reading.

Finaly, English subtitling always puts a blank between - and the first letter, like this.

- Hello, I'm John.
- Hi, there.

I don't like it because you simply loose one space each time.



I think we lost the originator of this discussion.

I have to defend the way English (and most European) subtitles are constructed.

First, there are certain conventions the viewer gets used to, and if they are ignored, it can be confusing and frustrating.

As a subtitler you are highly experienced in reading and understanding subtitles. Not everybody is capable of that the same way as you are. Also, some languages do not facilitate the same reading speed as English, French or Spanish, and their visual image is different.

I agree, that the imbalance of the
- Hello...................................................darling?
- Fine.

...is not aesthetically pleasing, on the other hand easy to read. If you center them, as they should be, they are not so unaesthetical looking either.

If you separate the two speakers, the reader doesn't have to think where the first speaker stops and the second one starts. To my mind it is not particularly helpful to lump them together. Your examples - together with lots of other conversations - can be edited easily to make it a good, separate two line dialogue.

As you know very well, apart from the length of the line, the number of digits you can actually read also depends of the duration of the subtitle, and if you don't have much time, it is better to have a shortened, but clear dialogue. If you have plenty of time, then you can split the subtitle, and write it down without lumping a number of exchanges together.

The space after the hyphen is also a sensible convention. Like the Spanish upside-down question mark at the beginning of the sentence seems totally superfluous to me -you may think that this space is a luxury the subtitler cannot afford, but when the average lenght of words in a particular language is around 8-10 letters, and frequently 14-16, believe you me, that gap is a relief itself. When the word contains a number of grammar features, like a noun plural+external+possessive, or a verb prefix+conjunctive+imperative+definite, you don't want an extra character added to it! In any case, it is not part of the word, therefore it should not be attached to it.

Even the most verbose films can be edited and enjoyable within these principles. Of course, if the tradition of subtitling in your languages allows you to do it differently, it is fine, but I wouldn't encourage it across the board.

Regards
Judith




[Edited at 2006-06-23 19:21]

[Edited at 2006-06-23 20:21]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 22:31
French to Spanish
+ ...
Hi, juvera... Jun 23, 2006

...but?

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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:31
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Sorry, Jun 23, 2006

...the phone rang and I hit the send button by mistake.
See the rest above.


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