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[Subtitling Rates] pay rate for subtitles (transcription/timecueing/etc) -without- translation
Thread poster: DQ Carder
DQ Carder
Feb 26, 2008

I've read all the topics on subtitler pay rates I could find, but I didn't find exactly what I needed, so if you could kindly bear with me. : )

Background info: A few years ago I acted as cameraman for what turned out to be a 6+ hour instructional DVD set. After that, I spent about 9 months editing it (including extensive video and audio correction), doing the special effects (100+), and all the "post-post-production" stuff like compression, DVD menus, and even the DVD cover and included materials (and the website!). Since I had never worked on such a project before, and because I didn't ask for much to begin with, I was paid very little considering the time spent and the final quality (which was, I think, as good as it could have been considering the source footage and available tools).

Because it's an instructional video and not just entertainment, the price for the set is a good deal more expensive than a documentary or a movie would be—nevertheless, it's been selling extremely well and a surprising number of the buyers are from overseas, so now they want me to do the subtitles. It will take me significantly more time than an experienced professional since I'll be learning the ropes, but I'm used to that and am confident I can attain the same level of quality a professional would.

As I understand it, that's not an issue from the standpoint of an employer because the pay rate is generally per minute of footage or per subtitle.

So I have a few questions.

Firstly, what does (monolingual) timecueing/transcribing alone generally pay per minute? Because this is an instructional video, all 6+ hours are nearly non-stop talking, so in lieu of charging per subtitle, I think I should ask for something slightly above average. Or should I charge per subtitle?

Secondly, what does subtitling itself cost? Perhaps that's the wrong term to use, but what I mean is taking the finalized timecued text and adding it to the DVD, including adding a subtitle menu. I will have to do this for (I think) 5 different languages in addition to English, and will also be in charge of making a template for the translators. I'm not sure what this involves but I imagine there will be some extra notes or parameters to include with my template to ensure we get exactly what we need.

Thirdly, if anyone has ever done a project like this where they were in charge of the entire subtitling process, what did you charge?

I really appreciate any feedback or advice anyone can offer! Hopefully I posted this in the right place.

P.S — (off-topic) I figure someone here might also have experience converting NTSC projects into PAL. If that's the case, anything you can tell me about that process or the pay rate would be much appreciated!

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-03-15 18:11 GMT]

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:34
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Some guidelines Feb 27, 2008

Hello DQ,

I've done most of what you mention there except being a cameraman with anything heavier than a Super-8 or VHS-C amateur camera.

I also have a personal tendency to simplify my cost estimating process. I work mostly with average rates for each operation, so it's a matter of counting and multiplying. Of course, I adjust these average rates to remain both profitable and competitive in the markets I serve.

Your rates depend a lot on your market, i.e. your direct competition. For instance, my translation rates between EN and PT in Brazil have no relationship with, say, rates between DE and HN in India.

So I have a standard rate per minute of playing time for AV work. It's comparatively high in my market, as my translation for lip-sync dubbing is ranked among the best available. Since the time-consuming method I use to transcribe, transcribe/translate, or translate for subtitling is the same, I charge the same rate for these. The result is that most of my work of this kind is technical by nature. Let's say my rate for translating AV material is 3X per minute of total playing time. It wouldn't help you to know it in Brazilian currency, though the US$ exchange rate has fallen again here today.

Then there are many video operations, which I call "passes".

Due to market pressure (plenty of other people doing it cheap), I charge X per minute to time-spot subtitles... as long as I was the one who created them. You wouldn't believe what I had to put up with, to time-spot third-party subtitles.

[Once I had to do it with the 'material' rendered by some client's big-shot's mistress, and while she "invented out of nothing" whole phrases never said, omitted phrases said facing the camera, and translated "thirty-five million" as "55,000", I was expressly not allowed to delete one comma from that garbage.] So, for time-spotting third-party subtitles I charge 2X/minute.

I also charge X per minute for each "pass". What is a "pass"? It's one operation running the whole video through the computer. It may be converting from mpg, wmv, flv, whatever, into avi (my subtitling format), or even capturing from VHS tape. I outsource conversion from film, Betacam, U-matic, etc. as there is no use in keeping such equipment idle and in working condition. It may be de-interlacing, if needed. And it may mean burning the subtitles on the film. If multiple-language subtitles are to be overlaid on the movie - i.e. selectable through the DVD player remote control - I charge X per language (=set of subtitles). If double subtitles are required (e.g. one at the bottom for speech, another on the top to say what's the key point being demonstrated then in training films, or who's that person talking in documentaries), it's 2X. Depending on the job and the client, sometimes I don't charge for some of the passes.

DVD authoring depends on complexity. It usually varies from 20X to 35X for the whole disk.

Of course, the profitability of these passes depend directly on your computer speed (not only processor speed, but all the hardware). When you upgrade, you have the choice between becoming more profitable or more competitive, or a mix of both.

As you will be subtitling for several languages, one possibility that increases speed and lowers cost is to create and time-spot subtitles (not full-content closed-captions!) in the original language. Then have these subtitles translated as text (cheaper and faster) while preserving the spotting. Due to phrasal construction in each different language, it might be necessary to check the time-spotting.

Finally, about transcoding NTSC/PAL, if you have the necessary software, for me it would be just one more pass.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

[Edited at 2008-02-27 11:11]

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DQ Carder
Re: Feb 27, 2008

Thank you José! That doesn't answer all my questions specifically, obviously, but that's all very helpful. I know exactly what you mean when you say "you wouldn't believe what I've had to put up with", because I've had to deal with quite a bit of ridiculous technical and business garbage myself.

The idea of using "passes" as another variable is helpful. An example would be the deinterlacing, like you say, or the time-intensive but superior method I use to get rid of text and video flickering. I am responsible for the producing the "gold" discs that get sent out for master tapes, and this involves a good deal of color correction et cetera, though that's all been done already so it's not something I'd include in the complexity of this subtitling project. I've also already done—as part of the original project—the non-dialogue subtitles (clarifications and the like).

Fortunately, I'm working with the machine and hard drives that has all the source footage, so despite it being old and a bit sluggish I don't have to move files around . . . but, I do have to do a lot of re-rendering.

The issue is really that in the past I did what you did and simplified my pricing, however I did it to a fault. I also did a lot for free, and in the end I was paid way less for the hundreds and hundreds of hours of work than I'd like to admit! Which is why I'm being very careful with this quote and trying to get specifics on pricing.

I'd like to either charge per minute of footage or per English subtitle, perhaps adding a fee for each subsequent pass on the video (the actual adding of subtitles, for instance) and each pass on editing the text (double-checking the timespotting on foreign languages and getting edits from the translators if need be, for instance). I'd like to do this in the most "industry standard" way so that I get paid appropriately but don't screw my employer over either.

I read somewhere that the US standard for translation is about $5.00 – $5.50 per minute of footage. We have roughly 400 minutes of footage, and there is a lot of talking relative to most projects, so I figured we'd be paying each translator somewhere around $2,200. I'm guessing $2,500 instead because we will need to do some quality control and editing, and I like to give a high estimate. We have around 5 languages we're going to be adding in addition to English, so for just the translation I'm guessing it will cost around $12,500.

So what I need to figure out is what to charge for my:

1 — transcription (English voice to English text)
2 — timecueing
3 — templating for translators
4 — editing/fine-tuning/re-time-cuing/et cetera
5 — adding all language subtitles

I can figure out my own additional fee for each pass, and I will probably call the DVD menu additions and the PAL conversion one pass each.

One thing I really can't do is try to figure my pay out of "how much time or effort it ends up taking" because that gets complicated. I like to get paid for "the job", not "my work", which is why I'm trying to get specifics on all the above.

Thanks again, José, and thanks in advance to anyone else that can offer some input or answers.

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United Kingdom
Local time: 17:34
+ ...
It may be more cost effective to contract out Feb 28, 2008

I've done a few jobs where I've been asked to provide English subtitles, a translation template and the translations for various languages

The normal freelance rate in the UK for template generation is about £3 per minute, and then about £3 per minute each for the translations. The companies charge more. I think it's about £7 for the template and £4-5 for the translations.

That works out at about $13 per minute for the template and about $9 for each translation at current exchange rates. You've also got to factor in the amount of time you're going to spend importing translated text if your translator doesn't use the same software as you do and then there's the time taken to generate the tiffs or bmps. If you're talking about 400 minutes of video, that's going to work out pretty expensive.

Another thing to consider is that a trained subtitler will break down the captions in the template file into sense groupings, which makes it easier for the translator. I've seen loads of subtitles where everything has just been typed in verbatim filling two lines of text then moving to the next caption mid-clause. That makes it awkward for the translator and the end user to make any sense out of it.

The template could be generated by one subtitler in about two weeks. Allow another week per translation as the master file will probably be sent out in segments. The proofing and rendering would probably take about another week.

Good luck with the project.

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DQ Carder
draft quote Feb 28, 2008

kmtext, thanks.

You're right, as far as the work-to-pay ratio, it would be more cost effective to contract out. However, since I'm not concerned about the work-to-pay ratio (just the pay, since I'm a freelancer with little work at the moment), I don't think that's an issue for my employer. I will most definitely take the time to do the template properly and professionally—the quality of the work won't be any less if I do it, and the workload on the translators will not be any more if I do it (as opposed to contracting out).

What I'm thinking (to keep it simple) is to charge $12/minute for the transcription, timecueing, and the template, then $2/minute for each "pass" (as José put it) adding the subtitles to the video (the rendering/flicker-filter passes I would do for free . . . or should I charge for those as well?).

If I have 5 languages total, this will work out to an additional $10/minute (unless I charge for the render and flicker-filter passes).

I will then charge my standard web design/maintenance rate of $20/hour (work time) for DVD menu creation and any administrative stuff like communicating with the translators and editors or technical hurdles like moving files around, converting file types, et cetera.

So my quote would look like this:

$12/minute-of-video + $2/minute-of-video per language + $20/hour for miscellaneous work

I know it's going to be a lot of work . . . but does this sound right to y'all? Is any of this high?; low? Should I be charging more per language considering the rendering and filtering required? José, do you think I should count the PAL conversion as a pass?

I always undercharge . . . I'm not good at giving quotes! But I think we're getting close to some final answers.

I really, really appreciate all the input! Also: does anyone have any good links to guides for creating templates and other subtitle-related stuff?

My employer will surely be using this site to find some or all of our translators. : )

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DQ Carder
going once . . . Mar 4, 2008

So I take it that sounds reasonable enough that no one feels compelled to yell "no no no, what are you thinking!?" . . . is that right? I'm going to talk to my potential employer tomorrow about this so if anyone has anything to say about my proposed job quote, let me know!

Thanks again everyone.

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how did your project go? Jan 17, 2011

I just found this thread through a google search. how did your project go, if you remember? how much did you end up charging and was it fair?

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[Subtitling Rates] pay rate for subtitles (transcription/timecueing/etc) -without- translation

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