Advice on subtitle rate (EN>IT, documentary, no timecoding needed)
Thread poster: Tommaso Martelli

Tommaso Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2013)
German to Italian
+ ...
Oct 19

Hi,

I'd like to ask your advice on a potential project for a direct client. It's about translating (EN>IT) the subtitles of a DVD documentary.
I have the DVD (which contains the video with 4 subtitle tracks) and am supposed to return a video file with just the Italian subtitles.

The text is quite straightforward, no timecoding is needed in this case, since I use the English srt file and tranlsate it with Aegisub. Now my question is: should I apply my per-word rate in this case or it's more common to use a per minute rate in this field?

If I apply my per-word rate and calculate the per-minute equivalent, I will end up charging about 9€/min., i.e. 810 € for a 90 minute documentary.

Considering that it's for a direct customer (not a big company, just a small local off-cinema, which I like a lot and have been visiting since my early 20s) do you think it's a fair rate or does it tend more to the high-end?

Of course it's work and has to be profitable, but I wouldn't want to overcharge in this case.

Any advice will be much appreciated!

Thank you


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Tommaso Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2013)
German to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
further reasons behind my question Oct 20

Hi All,

as no one has expressed their opinion on my question - it probably looks like an old and recurring query - I'll try to explain the reasons for my indecision.

Since the project I'm talking about is the translation of subtitles that are already timecoded with the video (therefore no or little technical work is needed), I treated it just as a normal translation task, creating the quote on the basis of the source words.

Applying a standard rate (0,10 EUR per source word, not that much considering that it's for a direct client and that I'll have the text proofread by another translator) I end up with a total amount of about 800/900 EUR for a 90 minute documentary.

Now, that makes around 9/10 € per minute of video. Reading other discussions here on Proz and elswere I noticed that this is generally considered to be a good rate WITH TIMECODING INCLUDED. This is where my doubts arise: how is it possibile?
In the translation of subtitles is the amount of source words usually not taken into consideration for cost evaluation?

Am I wrong if I calculate the budget based on the number of word and not per minute?


Please share your experience if you like.

Thank you


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A possible solution Oct 20

Ciao Tommaso,

What you are describing is similar to working on "templates" for subtitling.

Templates are pre-timed, pre-split "subtitles" from a complete transcript. You work on these to create subtitles in a new language. The point here is that the investment in having the video transcribed, the transcript broken into maximum-size "subtitles", and these timed pays off when one needs the same video subtitled in more than two languages.

I spent 1987-2006 translating from video (until 2004 for dubbing only, thereon for both dub/sub) without a script. So I don't give the usual discount when a script is provided, and my rate in such cases is comparatively high. However this was all for "corporate video" (training, institutional, product launch), where the video is not a part of the client's core business; it is usually outsourced, and they usually don't have the script.

Then, at some time, I got into subtitling movies/TV series for specialized companies. As they were doing it into several languages, I was provided with such templates (which are often SRT files, which you could in some way extract/convert/OCR from what's available on a DVD).

Considering the quantity of both kinds of jobs (no-script vs. templates) I've done, and the time spent per minute of playing time, I found an adequate balance in the setup below. Let's avoid all currency, language pair-specific, and market issues by using a neutral yardstick: $ here means merely a nondescript "amount of money".

My balance is:
If I charge $100 to translate a certain number of minutes of no-script video for subtitling, I'll charge $30 to time-spot these same subtitles.
If I were to do exactly the same job on a pre-timed "template", it would be adequate for both - me and the client - to charge half, i.e. $50 for the translation alone.

Hope this helps.


P.S. On a side issue, in spite of my (originally Polish/Austro-Hungarian) surname, I don't speak German. However I've been told that it places verbs at the end of a phrase. I always wonder how it would be possible to work on templates translating from/into DE, if the other language has the verbs in the middle of the phrase.
Something like "Mary and I to the movies yesterday went, the film very interesting was, and we a lot enjoyed."


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ITProsSubtitles
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Just a quick answer Oct 20

Hi, Tommaso. I'm in a terrible hurry, but I promise I'll elaborate more as soon as I can, but just as a quick idea the scenario you describe can be explained with one of my subtitling team's FAQ available at: http://itpros.it/faq/

Why can’t you quote subtitle translation on a per-word basis?
Even if you only translate precued subtitles (subtitle translation from a template) it’s not really reasonable to quote a subtitle translation job by the word unless the subs are for descriptive corporate videos where you might come up with “dialogues” that may be comparable to any written text (although that’s not always the case).
The example below can give you an immediate idea.
1. 13 words (subtitling):
Hey, man. How are you doing?
Have you heard from our mutual friend?
2. 13 words (technical text translation):
Clean the stopper with an alcohol swab. Remove the cap from the syringe.
First of all, it’s obvious that translating option 1. and option 2. requires different efforts and skills. Secondly, you have to think of subtitling as a way to transfer “ideas”, “messages”, “cultural settings”, not individual words or concepts as you might be used to doing in the translation scenario. This is a creative task. Besides, in subtitling you always end up adding or removing words because your target language will require you to, either because there is not enough room, the speaker’s speaking too fast to be able to accommodate longer lines, or simply because that same idea is conveyed through a different metaphor or proverb in your native language.
For example, point 1. could become: “Hi, how are you? Have you heard from him?”, Here’s how 13 words have been magically turned into 9. For this reason you either quote by the minute of video or per originated subtitle.

That said, it might be a coincidence but the rate you suggest is still okay because documentaries are wordy and verbose and that's one parameter you do take into account when quoting based on the minute of video. Hope that helps for now. Till later.


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Tommaso Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2013)
German to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some more details Oct 20

Thank you for your answers, I'll add some more details for clarification:

- I only received the DVD (containing video in English + 4 subtitles tracks), from wich I extracted the English subtitles, in order to work on already timecoded subtitles (is this what you refer to as template, Josè?). Of course I will charge for time spent doing it.

- To create a quote, I based on the amount of words of the English subtitles (I know it's subtitles and not transcript, but is useful anyway to get an idea of the total wordcount) and, applying a reasonabole per-word rate I ended up with about 9/10 € per minute of video.
Since I've seen in other discussions that this rate is often offered for translation PLUS time-spotting, my question is: considering the time-consuming work of time-spotting, how is it possible to offer such a rate?

Am I asking too much (9/10 € per minute) for working on already time-coded subtitles?
At the same time I do not want do go below my per-word rate. What I mean is: applying a per-minute rate shouldn't lead to charge a per-word rate lower than usal translation, should it? Or am I missing something along the way?

Thanks in advance for your participation


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Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 01:41
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
per runtime minute Oct 20

Tommaso Martelli wrote:

In the translation of subtitles is the amount of source words usually not taken into consideration for cost evaluation?



Correct. Usually the rate for subtitle translation is quoted per video runtime minute.
This can mean heaven (a Western with hardly any dialogue) or hell (a verbose documentary) for the translator.

I personally charge a higher rate for non-scripted projects (documentaries, reality TV, DVD commentaries, etc.), because they tend to contain more text, and the text is often less coherent, which makes it much more difficult to end up with "pretty" subtitles.


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Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 01:41
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
(OT) German subs Oct 20

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

P.S. On a side issue, in spite of my (originally Polish/Austro-Hungarian) surname, I don't speak German. However I've been told that it places verbs at the end of a phrase. I always wonder how it would be possible to work on templates translating from/into DE, if the other language has the verbs in the middle of the phrase.
Something like "Mary and I to the movies yesterday went, the film very interesting was, and we a lot enjoyed."


Indeed, this is one of the main challenges for English->German subtitle translators, along with maintaining a feasible reading speed (German words and sentences tend to be around 30-40% longer compared to the English source).

One trick is to join subtitles so you end up with whole sentences, if possible, and then to truncate the living s*** out of the source text


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ITProsSubtitles
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Tommaso I already replied to your question Oct 20

Did you read my post? 9 eur per minute is fine if you're translating a documentary from a template because docos are wordy and verbose, but the equivalence with your per-word rate is just a coincidence.

HTH

Monica

Tommaso Martelli wrote:

Thank you for your answers, I'll add some more details for clarification:

- I only received the DVD (containing video in English + 4 subtitles tracks), from wich I extracted the English subtitles, in order to work on already timecoded subtitles (is this what you refer to as template, Josè?). Of course I will charge for time spent doing it.

- To create a quote, I based on the amount of words of the English subtitles (I know it's subtitles and not transcript, but is useful anyway to get an idea of the total wordcount) and, applying a reasonabole per-word rate I ended up with about 9/10 € per minute of video.
Since I've seen in other discussions that this rate is often offered for translation PLUS time-spotting, my question is: considering the time-consuming work of time-spotting, how is it possible to offer such a rate?

Am I asking too much (9/10 € per minute) for working on already time-coded subtitles?
At the same time I do not want do go below my per-word rate. What I mean is: applying a per-minute rate shouldn't lead to charge a per-word rate lower than usal translation, should it? Or am I missing something along the way?

Thanks in advance for your participation


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Tommaso Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2013)
German to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Doesn't make sense to compare per-minute rate and per-word rate? Oct 20

IT Pros Subs wrote:

Did you read my post? 9 eur per minute is fine if you're translating a documentary from a template because docos are wordy and verbose, but the equivalence with your per-word rate is just a coincidence.


Thank you IT Pros Subs, I actually read your answer, but was still wondering how can be no connection between the per-minute rate and the per-word rate.

As I understand it, translating subtitles can be more time-consuming tha text translating, because of various factors. This may result in the equivalent per-word rate beeing higher than one's usal rate for text translations.

But what I meant is: a per-minute rate shouldn't result in a lower per-word rate (I'm always talking about working with templates, where you know in advance the amount of words to be translated, even if you'll probably have to rearrange them to let them fit properly). Is that correct or you just do not use this parameter in subtitle translation?

Having a source text at disposal, I can't help but check if my per-word rate is being more or less respected.

Thanks again,

[Edited at 2017-10-20 13:19 GMT]


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Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 01:41
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
please delete Oct 20

(double post, please delete)

[Edited at 2017-10-20 14:07 GMT]


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Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 01:41
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
per runtime minute (2) Oct 20

Tommaso Martelli wrote:

But what I meant is: a per-minute rate shouldn't result in a lower per-word rate (I'm always talking about working with templates, where you know in advance the amount of words to be translated, even if you'll probably have to rearrange them to let them fit properly). Is that correct or you just do not use this parameter in subtitle translation?


Usually the rate for subtitle translation from template is quoted per video runtime minute, and the amount of words involved is not included in the calculation.

Of course, it's your prerogative to determine your rate any way you like.
But most clients in the subtitle world will ask for a per runtime minute rate.


Tommaso Martelli wrote:
As I understand it, translating subtitles can be more time-consuming tha text translating, because of various factors.


This is not necessarily the case if you have a lot of experience, because due to truncation (i.e., leaving out/shortening irrelevant text passages in order to maintain a passable reading speed), you might actually not translate all of the source text. In this regard, the amount of source words is not really a viable factor to determine your rate, either.
I've been translating subs for nearly 15 years now, and I'd rather translate a 7000 word subtitle template than I'd translate a 7000 word text.



[Edited at 2017-10-20 14:16 GMT]


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ITProsSubtitles
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
It definitely depends on your experience. Oct 20

Jan is right. I for one am a superfast subtitler, cuer and subtitle translator. In my case translating a manual would definitely take more time than subtitling (including timecoding and translation) a whole feature film.

As I said previously "words" are not a parameter, you're conveying meaning in this case and often rewriting the script (with more or less words than anticipated) while being 100% faithful to the original. Incredible, but true. In subtitling, there is no equivalence without difference, that might be another reason why the number of words is not important.

You should rather ask yourself whether your inexperience might impact final quality and audience experience. Are you aware that, even though you are not at all involved in timecoding, there are very specific guidelines you have to abide by to just translate subtitles? Just saying... Good luck.

BTW if you're interested in the industry there are many informative posts about subtitling on my team's Facebook page that you can follow here: https://www.facebook.com/ItProsSubtitles/

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Jan Truper wrote:

Tommaso Martelli wrote:

But what I meant is: a per-minute rate shouldn't result in a lower per-word rate (I'm always talking about working with templates, where you know in advance the amount of words to be translated, even if you'll probably have to rearrange them to let them fit properly). Is that correct or you just do not use this parameter in subtitle translation?


Usually the rate for subtitle translation from template is quoted per video runtime minute, and the amount of words involved is not included in the calculation.

Of course, it's your prerogative to determine your rate any way you like.
But most clients in the subtitle world will ask for a per runtime minute rate.


Tommaso Martelli wrote:
As I understand it, translating subtitles can be more time-consuming tha text translating, because of various factors.


This is not necessarily the case if you have a lot of experience, because due to truncation (i.e., leaving out/shortening irrelevant text passages in order to maintain a passable reading speed), you might actually not translate all of the source text. In this regard, the amount of source words is not really a viable factor to determine your rate, either.
I've been translating subs for nearly 15 years now, and I'd rather translate a 7000 word subtitle template than I'd translate a 7000 word text.



[Edited at 2017-10-20 14:16 GMT]


[Edited at 2017-10-20 14:44 GMT]


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Tommaso Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:41
Member (2013)
German to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 20

IT Pros Subs wrote:

Are you aware that, even though you are not at all involved in timecoding, there are very specific guidelines you have to abide by to just translate subtitles? Just saying... Good luck.


I'm aware of that, but thanks anyway for reminding it to me. I used to work for a subtitling company here in my hometown at the beginning of my career (long time ago;)), but I was an employee and therefore have no idea of the pricing process.

IT Pros Subs wrote:

BTW if you're interested in the industry there are many informative posts about subtitling on my team's Facebook page that you can follow here: https://www.facebook.com/ItProsSubtitles/


I'll have a look at this for sure, thank you very much!!! I'm really interested in entering this sector (again) and any advice is sincerely appreciated.

Thanks to all those who used their time to answer my questions.

Tommaso


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Advice on subtitle rate (EN>IT, documentary, no timecoding needed)

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