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How to get into subtitling?
Thread poster: Jessie LN

Jessie LN
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 13, 2007

I love translation and feel really drawn by subtitling in particular - I even wrote my dissertation on it. I'd like to know how you got into the business and if you have any advice on how I could get my foot in the door? I'm really not sure how to go about it. I've been contemplating doing this internship: http://www.ecisubtitling.com/placements.html ... I'm seriously thinking about it, but I'll have to save up a huge amount of money first to be able to live in London!

Any words of wisdom? Thank you!


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 22:57
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
A course is probably a good start Dec 13, 2007

At least to get a feel of the basics to subtitling.

At any rate, with or without such a course, you could contact subtitling agencies working in your language pair. You would presumably be given a test of some sort, and if they like what they see, Bob's your uncle!

Good luck.


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:57
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Few are willing to share information Dec 13, 2007

My advice is that you look for all forum entries by Jose Henrique Lamensdorf. He is a partial member of Proz. He works in subtitling and, to date, he is the only one I have seen willing to share his knowledge and experience, and encourage others to follow the subtitling path. He seems to be a great professional and even better human being.

There are others in the Proz community dedicated to this endeavor but my impression is they do not want any competition and are always trying to discourage people from getting into it.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
WOW! Thanks! Dec 13, 2007

Luisa Ramos wrote:
My advice is that you look for all forum entries by Jose Henrique Lamensdorf. He is a partial member of Proz. He works in subtitling and, to date, he is the only one I have seen willing to share his knowledge and experience, and encourage others to follow the subtitling path. He seems to be a great professional and even better human being.


Luisa,

Will you come to my funeral to say it aloud?
Just kidding... I'm only 55 and fortunately in good health.

My point in doing it is to get more professional translators into the video market, as we are the only ones who can drive wannabes and amateurs out. As long as these people can get by with sub-standard work, low-price-driven clients will resort to them and let spectators believe that sub-standard is the standard.

I self-taught myself to translate for dubbing (20 years ago) and for subtitling (4 years ago), but my technique seems to be based on some natural talent. People who have talent for something often don't need a course. People who don't, quite likely won't gain much from it. In spite of my piano lessons, the results of my talent-less hammering the keyboard led me to drop music after a few months.

So it's a matter of taking a practical assessment. I try to guide people to where they can get the means to do it. If they find a natural talent, they'll do it well without or before a course, like Mozart. If they find a developable skill, they'll take a course and learn to do it well. And if they find it's not their stuff, they'll discreetly exit the scene before any damage is done. I'd simply hate to clean a Steinway from all the tomatoes and eggs I might get from the audience!


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biankonera  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 23:57
Italian to Latvian
+ ...
Just go for it Dec 13, 2007

I agree with Luisa - it seems that people working in the field of subtitling are not willing to share the experience and maybe give others any precious hints on how to get into this so exclusive field.

I myself am doing translations for voiceovers for a company that also does subtitling. Just like you I had no idea how to get into the world of audiovisual translations so I did a bit of research. For me all it took to get started was an email to the head of the company which provides these translations in my country. I did a test translation for them (note: I knew I will have to do that before I contacted them) and am happily translating movies and TV series ever after.

I completely agree with Jose - its all about the talent. Courses are a good thing no doubt however this is a creative process and you need to have that something extra. Even without any courses you can be great at what you do. My personal suggestion is - believe in yourself and start approaching the companies that do subtitling. If you really want it, you will get that job!:)


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:57
French to Spanish
+ ...
That's not fair! Dec 13, 2007

I do share what I know about subtitling too, as my colleague José!
And, well, yes, it's true... we often try to discourage people to get into business!
And for one reason, in my case:
People want to translate FOR subtitling and they say they want to be a SUBTITLER. No.
One thing is to be a translator FOR subtitling, and another, very different, to be a SUBTITLER.
The first one needs very special skills... just take a look at the discussions right here.
The second one has to deal with different techniques, depending on in wich support you want to subtitle: DVD, Betacam/DVCam, 35 mm., electronic subtitling, close caption, etc.
To get on the second stage, you MUST, first, be a very good translator for subtitling, of course.
Then, you do need some money to get softwares and equipment, except for DVD... a lot of free softwares on the net to do it: a laptop, a DVD burner (is that the name?), that's it.
For the others supports, forget it: you'll need a loooot of money.
So, this said and back to your question, yes, of course, you need a special training.
I don't know the company you're thinking of, but that's a begining.
Then, experience, experience, experience. If you're good, people will notice it and hire you.
Good translators for subtitling are quite rare, at least here in Mexico. Why? It's not a very well known specialty and it's not so well paid, as far as I know. But, I repeat, if you're good, you'll could make a live of it.
Best of lucks to you!


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Thierry Renon  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:57
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
ECI Dec 13, 2007

Hello,

I "know" ECI (I used to work for a translation agency in London specialising in translating for the media and I have been to their offices in "No-Ho" a couple of times) and their placement sounds like a good idea. It's a well-known company.

Like Juan mentioned, there are 2 parts to subtitling 1. doing the spotting list 2. translating it and adapting it - I think it actually helps a lot to work on both aspects, even if you end up just doing translation.

However (!), it's true the work is not really well paid (understatement? and prices offered seem to keep going down, the reverse of inflation!) and sometimes stressful (tight deadlines) but enjoyable. A lot of translation students want to work in subtitling, so the main subtitling companies (in London and elsewhere) have no trouble finding students for them (cheap/free labour to do the quality check!!!), then replacing them without actually employing new people. I'm not saying all of them do that (and I don't know about ECI), but doing a work placement is not a garantee of work!

So that's why a lot of translators "warn" students about subtitling, it's not as glamorous as it sounds!

Good luck anyway,

Thierry


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The 3 steps in subtitling Dec 13, 2007

There are 3 steps in subtitling.

1. Translating
This requires various techniques, not worth discussing right now, but the result is TEXT, formatted to blocks of 1 or 2 lines with X (my X is 32) chars per line. Sometimes, depending on the whole setup, the [Enter] between the two lines of a subtitle is replaced by a "|" without the quotes, and without spaces around it.
It must be done by a translator.

2. Spotting
Involves marking time-in and time-out for each subtitle, in sync with the events (speech) on the movie. There are several dozen formats for this file, and many of them are convertible into one another.
This can be done by a "sesquilingual" person, i.e. able to understand moderately the language spoken on the film, and fluent in the subtitle language. The reason is that some adjustments may be necessary, e.g., moving one or two words from one subtitle to the previous or next one, for proper timing, and at times merging or splitting apart subtitles.

3. Burning
There are two major ways of burning subtitles.
One is doing it onto the movie itself, which will result in video like a subtitled VHS tape. The only way to watch the film without the subtitles is by covering the lower part of the screen, maybe with duct tape.
The other - for DVD only - is to create a transparent layer holding the subtitles over the film. This allows for, AFAIK, up to 32 different selectable subtitle sets for the same film on one same DVD.
This needs no more than a computer operator to get it started, and really powerful hardware to take just a few hours!


There is no harm in a translator doing all three, but for the last two operations it's using overqualified personnel for progressively more menial work.

I do all three for very specific reasons. As my main specialty is training films, they are usually short, averaging 30 minutes. If I were working with full-feature movies, I'd outsource these last steps.


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Maria Pelletta
Local time: 21:57
English to Spanish
joining you all soon Dec 17, 2007

Hi everyone!

I am about to join you all soon in the subtitling world... and I don't know a great deal about how the industry works.

I am a translator, and I prefer the "freedom" that creative translation gives you. I am doing a course with TsEdi and I am learning a lot about the process and the strategies one might use to get it right when subtitling... and I am loving it.

Someone was asking about a course and I would recommend it (the course, but not necesarily TsEdi: the course is very nicely put together, but their communication skills are poor, so every time there is a problem to solve, it takes me a whole month to have it sorted... by then I forgot what I was trying to do!)

My next task is finding work, or finding out where to find work.
I hope I will get experience and will be able to participate actively in this forum.
So far it has been enlightening reading your posts.

Maria Elisa


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Jessie LN
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you! Dec 17, 2007

Thank you so much for all your insight and advice! I suppose a subtitling course would be just as expensive as living in London for an unpaid internship, so I could do either.

I didn't think it would be the most well-paid work, especially in my particular language pair, but it's still something I'd like to have a go at, even if I can't make a living out of it.


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Maria Pelletta
Local time: 21:57
English to Spanish
TsEdi Dec 18, 2007

Marialaluna, you live in Spain... why don't you check this place out.
You can do a presencial course which means that you won't face any of the problems I had with the website and getting in touch with the tutor. you might find others!!! But at least you are there, you can find out. As I said, the course is full of interesting information and practise. I am enjoying the bits I can do! Feeling very frustrated when I can't go forward because I am waiting for a reply.
It wasn't too expensive either. Check their website. www.TsEdi.com
Good luck
Maria


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:57
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Different purpose, different methods Dec 18, 2007

I totally agree with everything Juan Jacob and Thierry Renon wrote, but I would like to add:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

There are 3 steps in subtitling.

1. Translating
This requires various techniques, not worth discussing right now, but the result is TEXT, formatted to blocks of 1 or 2 lines with X (my X is 32) chars per line....
It must be done by a translator.

2. Spotting
Involves marking time-in and time-out for each subtitle, in sync with the events (speech) on the movie...
This can be done by a "sesquilingual" person, i.e. able to understand moderately the language spoken on the film, and fluent in the subtitle language. The reason is that some adjustments may be necessary, e.g., moving one or two words from one subtitle to the previous or next one, for proper timing, and at times merging or splitting apart subtitles.

3. Burning

I do all three for very specific reasons. As my main specialty is training films, they are usually short, averaging 30 minutes. If I were working with full-feature movies, I'd outsource these last steps.


As José Henrique said, he does all three for very specific reasons.

However, the big subtitling agencies who handle most feature film and TV work in Europe and the USA usually follow this process:

1. Create a master file in the original language, including spotting. For that, they prefer to use native speakers, who may not even be translators, but these are the SUBTITLERS.

The translators follow the master file, in essence translate that, with the addition of listening to and viewing the original to help them.

With this technique the translation of the subtitles can be done into several languages, and the master file is there to be used years later if needed, to translate into more languages.

The master file gives a basic framework, and the spotting is done only once. That is a huge advantage.

2. Translation into any number of languages, done by translators. Quality check - also done by translators.

3. Burning, etc.

The translator has to be good, understand the spoken language - including slang - well, learn the constraints of subtitles, and be able to work within the limitations these impose.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:57
French to Spanish
+ ...
With a spotting list... Dec 18, 2007

...like this, you're done.

1: 01:00:20.03 01:00:24.07
#This film is the director's
point of view on Jacques Vergès,

2: 01:00:24.11 01:00:29.03
#which may differ from the opinions
of people interviewed in it.

3: 01:01:10.19 01:01:13.11
Jacques Vergès wrote...

As colleagues said, huge agencies have people to do the spotting list.
It can be translated into X number of languages, of course.
This is a boring job, let me tell you, and nothing to do with translation.
Hour: minutes: seconds: frames. You must be very precise.

Otherwise, you can have a complete script, like this:

6 316+04 FS OF PILOTS STANDING FACING ADMIRAL AT FG R.

ADMIRAL (CONT'D)
Please, gentlemen. Be seated. Please.

THE PILOTS SIT. SOME ARE STANDING IN BG.

ADMIRAL
As you’ve all probably noticed, we’re currently headed north. 6


7 318+08


325+12 319+15


330+06/ 1+07


4+10 ADMIRAL TO TROOPS)
Please.

ADMIRAL TO TROOPS)
You probably noticed, we’re heading north.

Or, a dialogue list:

Peter : qu’est-ce que je fous là…

Peter : qu’est-ce que c’est…

Le type de la morgue : Attends, attends, attends

Le type de la morgue : Peter de Wit.

Or, sometimes, can can have... nothing! In that case, you must do all the translation by ear! Very hard, very long!

Best of lucks.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Serial translation Dec 18, 2007

What Juvera and Juan described is "industrial" subtitles translation and, quite frankly, the video is often not involved in the process.

Different language-pair translators just get the spotted subtitles text file in language A, nothing else. They may use Trados if they wish (many of these clients prioritize having Trados over the translator being still alive), and translate these subtitles.

Some of these translators even use secondhand files. For instance, if the original film is in CZ, and they have a CZ>DE, but not a CZ>EN translator, they might use a DE>EN translator on a second round.

I once saw a DVD originally in EN, where the same gross misinterpretation from the EN subtitles was repeated in both PT and ES. Can't remember exactly what it was, but it would have been definitely avoided, had any of the two translators ever seen the film.

Quite frankly, IMHO this is not 'video translation'. It is plain text translation interspersed with a huge quantity of 'silly numbers' (the spotting), which any CAT tool will skip over.

Juan Jacob wrote:
Or, sometimes, can can have... nothing! In that case, you must do all the translation by ear! Very hard, very long!


This is what I call video translation: you do it from the video. Those must have Trados-type clients run away from these: as it takes work, hence time, it often costs money... not peanuts.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:57
French to Spanish
+ ...
Right. Dec 18, 2007

As José says, believe it or not, a lot of clients ask the translation of a movie WITHOUT seeing it! Gee! Killer translation!

A lot of errors:

In French, the man says: Souris, souris ! (That is, Smile, smile, while he's taking a photo).
In Spanish: ¡Ratón, ratón! (Mouse, mouse!)

Not so funny.

How to translate "red" in Spanish without visual context? Rojo(s) or roja(s)?

I accepted ONCE to translate a picture without seeing it, in my beginnings. Gee, when I saw the picture at the cinema, I wanted to hide under my seat and die right there! Never, never translate a motion picture without a screening.

Luck.


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