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Subtitling software recommendations
Thread poster: Johanna Liljenzin

Johanna Liljenzin  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:13
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Oct 21, 2009

My employer has been asked by a client to acquire subtitling software for a specific project. The software must be able to save files as either .pac or .380.

- Could you please enlighten me as to which software is most often used for subtitling? Is there an industry standard, like a "Trados of subtitling"?
- Are there any cheaper options out there?
- Which subtitling software do you prefer, and why?

Kind regards,
Johanna


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Depends on what you need Oct 21, 2009

If you must deliver the subtitle files for someone to subtitle/broadcast that video, these seem to me to be proprietary file formats that will work on their own software and no other.

On the other hand, if you are expected to take a video, translate it for subtitles, and burn them, the cheapest option uses freeware.

I translate from the soundtrack, not from often unreliable (and blatantly wrong) transcripts. This allows me to preserve the film "rhytm" in the subs. Also, the sub breaks in one language wont necessarily be the same as in another. For instance, "handkerchief" in PT is "lenço"; while "customer needs" is unavoidably "necessidades do cliente" in PT.

For the translation, I use Express Scribe (free). You may find the link for download and many tips about this kind of work at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/audio_-_en.html

The next step is time-spotting, which you can do with Subtitle Workshop (free from http://www.urusoft.net/download.php?lang=1&id=sw ).

Finally, you may burn the subtitles with VirtualDub, freeware from http://sourceforge.net/projects/virtualdub/files/virtualdub-win/1.9.7.32661/VirtualDub-1.9.7.zip/download .

To learn how to do it, you may find many useful tutorials at http://www.videohelp.com .

Finally (or firstly - your choice), to learn something about the whole video localization process you may read your truly's Guide at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/guide.html .


On a final note, regarding the use of free software, using the comments from the author of an excellent freeware program, the cost entitles you to a user-friendly interface and tech support, however many free programs will give you superb performance, as long as you don't mind configuring all the nuts and bolts via a sometimes complex interface.

Good luck!


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Ioana Daia  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 17:13
Spanish to Romanian
+ ...
The one that I'm using Oct 21, 2009

There is no such thing as a Trados for subtitling, I'm afraid... Plus, as far as I know, these professional softwares are a LOT more expensive than Trados.
There is Wincaps (don't know much about it, but maybe some colleagues here can help with some information), Poliscript (way too expensive I would say). Some big companies developed their own subtitling program.
I am using EZtitles, which allows you to save the file with the .pac extension. Don't know about .380, I haven't heard about it (you might be talking about .890, I'm using that one too). They have options for renting the software (might be interesting if your project will last only a few months).


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Johanna Liljenzin  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:13
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 22, 2009

Dear José and Ioana,

Thank you both for responding to my query!

It sounds to me like EZtitles would work for us, but I welcome more suggestions.

I did indeed mean .890, not .380.

Kind regards,
Johanna


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juhamatti  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:13
French to Finnish
+ ...
Spot Software Oct 24, 2009

PAC and 890 are the most common formats in Scandinavia.
Usually the subtitler only translates and spots, and a post-production company, most likely his or her's client's client, or a tv channel takes care of the subtitle rendering.

I recommend Spot Software (www.spotsoftware.nl) or Titlevision (www.titlevision.dk).
I use the former, since it's more affordable.
There are others, like Screen, Cavena's Tempo and so on, but the price tag is not for mortal freelancers.

Both Spot and TV are developed by subtitlers (not amateurs), so both interface and usability are excellent.
They also have fast and well-informed support.

I tried Subtitle Workshop once, but it's no good for professional DVD or broadcast subtitling, at least not when dealing with Nordic or Central-European clients.

If your employer is new to the whole subtitling process, you may be in for a bumpy ride

[Edited at 2009-10-24 21:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-10-25 11:25 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Tools and results Oct 25, 2009

I'll tell you a story, trying to spare too much technical detail.

In the late 1960s, Ford launched the Corcel in Brazil, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Corcel . Differently from most locally-made cars then, it had front-wheel-drive. From the beginning, it became known to wear the front tires much, much faster on the inside than on the outside. People thought it was because it was "normal" for front-wheel drives, which was true, but not because of that, but due to the convergence in the wheels.

One wheel alignment shop owner and mechanic in Sao Paulo, named Mario, solved the problem. Amazingly, every Ford Corcel after wheel alignment by his shop wore the front tires evenly. The key was in convergence. Traditional rear wheel drives used toe-in - see http://www.familycar.com/Alignment.htm - as the front wheels tended to "open" that angle when the car was "pushed" from the rear, and so Ford's original specs used that. Mario realized that a front-wheel dirive "pulling" the car would tend to "close" that angle, so he aligned the wheels of all Corcels with toe-out, and solved the problem. Ford corrected their specs, and the car was very successful for many years. I had a whole succession of these myself in those days.

Well, and what kind of alignment equipment did such a genius, Mario, have? A very simple and battered wheel alignment stand, when other mechanics had some pretty snazzy units. He explained: "My machine is 100% accurate. I check that often. But any such device will only tell me what is going on, the measurements. *I* am the one expected to interpret all that, decide what's right or wrong, and what should be done, how, and how much to correct what's wrong."


Likewise, Subtitle Workshop (and many other such programs) will do no more that create a text file with the subtitles, time-ins & time-outs, and possibly some specs on fonts, position, sizes, styles, colors, etc. The user must "make" the subs that a program will burn on the video.

Of course market demand will determine whether it's worth the time and effort to develop any subtitle file converter into some proprietary file type.

TV stations generate subs on-the-fly while broadcasting. That calls for specific equipment and, to make the whole environment work, needs its own software, that has its own standards.

The whole point here is that Subtitle Workshop will generate the subtitles TEXT and TIMING. This depends on the translator and the spotter, not the software. Later production steps, yes, WILL make a difference, as the human factor will play a minor role there.

I agree that SW cannot generate subtitles in broadcasting standard file types, that's part of the deal. However to generate a subbed DVD, a skilled professional can write and time the subs with SW, tweak them as needed using Windows Notepad, if they really know their stuff, and then, by using adequate DVD authorig software, generate a professional quality DVD. On the other hand, an unskilled subtitle translator and spotter, using the most advanced professional software, will get lousy results... like those I often see on cable TV.


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Paul Cohen  Identity Verified
Greenland
Local time: 12:13
German to English
+ ...
First time subtitling? You may need some help. Oct 25, 2009

juhamatti wrote:
If your employer is new to the whole subtitling process, you may be in for a bumpy ride


That's probably the understatement of the month.

If this is your first time subtitling, you'll probably need some help. I'd suggest involving someone on the project who has experience with subtitles and knows how to deal with timing, spotting, cuts, the difference between DVD/TV subtitles and cinema subtitles, etc. Otherwise the result won't look very professional, no matter what kind of software you use.


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Johanna Liljenzin  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:13
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, I'm sure it will be a bumpy ride :-) Oct 26, 2009

Thank you all for your invaluable help!

I don't doubt for a second that it will be a bumpy ride, but, hey, challenges are there to be overcome. And if you never try, you never learn...

Kind regards,
Johanna


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Ioana Daia  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 17:13
Spanish to Romanian
+ ...
Different projects Oct 26, 2009

You'll definitely have to learn a lot of things and especially adapt yourself to this specific field that implies more than translation. But sometimes the spotting part is already done, so you might get your file directly in .pac or .890 format, with the spotting already done. It would definitely be easier to start with this kind of projects, that imply using the professional tool, but are not asking you to do the spotting.

But I agree with Paul, no matter what kind of subtitling project you have, it's really important to have someone in the team who has extended experience in subtitling and its variants.

Good luck !

[Edited at 2009-10-26 09:39 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
IMHO it's inadequate training Oct 26, 2009

Ioana Daia wrote:
But sometimes the spotting part is already done, so you might get your file directly in .pac or .890 format, with the spotting already done. It would definitely be easier to start with this kind of projects, that imply using the professional tool, but are not asking you to do the spotting.


I think that translating from pre-spotted subtitles is a cheap but bad way of doing it. Each langiage has its own dynamics, its rhytm. Part of the subtitling job is to ensure that the rhythm of the subtitles is in sync with the action in the film. Pre-spotting spoils that.

So learning to translate pre-spotted subs is like learning to drive with automatic transmission; it will be much more difficult to handle a stickshift when you have to. In Brazil, unless the candidate is physically impaired, they must take the driving examination with a manual transmission car. What they'll drive later is their problem. On the other hand, I know people in California who have been driving exclusivey cars with automatic transmissions for several decades, and who are totally unable (nor licensed) to drive a stickshift, not even in an emergency.

So my suggestion is to learn how to do the most complete job. If things get easier, so much the better for you.


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kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:13
English
+ ...
Some options Oct 28, 2009

The three main systems used by broadcasters in the UK are Swift, WinCAPS and Isis, produced by Softel, Sysmedia and Starfish respectively. There are other manufacturers too, but they tend to produce bespoke products.

I've been using Swift for years than I care to think about and it is a very good system. WinCAPS and Isis are also very good systems. There are some minor comptibility issues with the three systems, due to differing interpretations of the various export format specs, but there's usually a work around.

Swift and WinCAPS have been around for quite some time and Isis is the "new kid on the block". As a result, the company has a slightly more flexible approach to product development and a definite "can-do" attitude.

The three systems have similar price tags and capabilities. I found Swift and Isis to be more user-friendly than WinCAPS, but to balance that out, WinCAPS does have some features which are better than similar ones on the other two systems.

I'd suggest checking out the three companies' websites and arranging trial versions of the software to see which best suits your purposes.

However, as some of the other posters have said, there's more to preparing subtitles for broadcast than just setting timecodes and typing in dialogue, so I'd suggest taking a subtitling training course as well.


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HJ Laurent
Local time: 15:13
English to French
+ ...
subtitling training course Dec 16, 2010

Would you be able to recommend some in the UK (South East) please?

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