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Subtitling English Film in Spanish
Thread poster: BJI
BJI
Mar 29, 2012

Hello,

I'm a newcomer to this forum, a first time documentary filmmaker, and I'd really appreciate some advice.

I've got a great opportunity to screen my film in Spain, at short-notice. I can't turn down this opportunity. The cinema has set a condition that it must be subtitled in Spanish. They've asked me to transcribe the film and send over the transcription for translation to Spanish. Then they'll send back the translation for me to drop into some subtitle software.

I would have thought it better to subtitle the film in English and as I'm the director, make decisions on what should be left out at that stage if, for example, there are redundant areas of speech etc. This concerns me because the Spanish subtitles might not match up with the English ones and they'd need to be reformatted for the screen etc.

Can anyone advise me on what I should do?

Thanks!

Jim


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Sylvano
Local time: 08:22
English to French
My advice Mar 30, 2012

Hello BJI,

Ask that they (or you) hire a (Spanish mother tongue from English) professional translator for subtitles, with whom you'll be able to discuss directly the translation as it is done. It's the only way to maintain control on the quality and accuracy of the final translation for the screen. If you let your film being translated 'on paper', in a literal manner (with no regards to timecueing, to subtitles length and reading speed, to frame changes, to what's on screen, etc.), with one translator working in one country then one timecuer in another, you're in for bad surprises, especially if you don't speak Spanish at all (and especially with Spanish, a language in which words and sentences can be way more longer than English).
Translation for the screen is a job for specialists. It will be part of your film in the eyes of a foreign audience, not just a way to help roughly understanding your work. Hiring a professional may have a cost, but it's really worth it. Have bad subtitles for your movie and it may not be received as it should, may not be sold to foreign distributors, and so on.

All the best to you and your film.


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Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 08:22
German to Swedish
+ ...
Agree Mar 30, 2012

I strongly agree with Sylvano. Don't go for "subtitling on paper" - that will turn out to be far more trouble than it's worth, and probably more expensive too given the extra work required to turn this into high-quality subtitles (which is what you want). "Drop a text file into some subtitling software" = days of work, fiddling and frustration.

The translation part of subtitling is the easy part. Timing, dialoguing and text editing skills are equally important, if not more. Only a small percentage of translators are able to write snappy, concise dialogue. (And there's also a considerable difference between dialogue that sounds good and dialogue that looks good as text and works well when read two lines at a time.)

Good luck with your film!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
More ideas Mar 30, 2012

While I fully endorse everything my esteemed colleagues here have said so far, there is another possibility.

First, the cinema said they want it subtitled. Bear in mind that subtitling means that part of the spectators' possible attention to the images will be drawn to read the subtitles, as supposedly they won't understand what is spoken there. Would they like to have it dubbed instead?

Please note that I am not advocating for dubbing at all, just offering you the option. I hope that my article http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/dub-or-sub-.html helps you in making a decision. The reason I'm mentioning this possibility is that as you are the producer, you have access to all the raw footage, soundtrack, M+E, etc., so this should bring the cost of having the video dubbed down, much closer to having it subtitled. You'll be the judge.

BTW, if there are testimonials there, hybrid is also an option.

If you go for subtitling, however, while the transcript helps a lot in the correct spelling of proper nouns, a good subtitles translator works directly from the audio track, so they can keep the film rhythm in the subtitles.

Finally, as a videomaker, if you are interested in the subtitling process because you'll be doing part of it yourself in this case, I've tried to describe it briefly at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/subtitling.html .

Good luck!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:22
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
First subtitle in English Mar 30, 2012

I believe you should compose the subtitles first in English, as if for deaf viewers. But keep in mind that Spanish needs much more space, so English one-line titles will become two-liners in Spanish most of the time.

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Sylvano
Local time: 08:22
English to French
Why not Mar 30, 2012

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
Would they like to have it dubbed instead?


It's a possibility, of course, especially when considering a documentary film. But I doubt it would be as inexpensive as a subtitling job, because of the acting part (you'll still need to pay a translator, but also a narrator actor and/or several actors for the interviewees if they're not subtitled) and the recording-sound editing part. All this can be really expensive if you want professional quality.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Maybe hybrid Mar 30, 2012

Sylvano wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
Would they like to have it dubbed instead?


It's a possibility, of course, especially when considering a documentary film. But I doubt it would be as inexpensive as a subtitling job, because of the acting part (you'll still need to pay a translator, but also a narrator actor and/or several actors for the interviewees if they're not subtitled) and the recording-sound editing part. All this can be really expensive if you want professional quality.


Of course, none of us here apart from BJI has seen the video. If it's a narrated documentary, the narrator may be dubbed, when there will be supposedly more to be seen, and the interviewees may be subtitled. Subtitling here makes it more lifelike, and dubbing unrehearsed non-professional ad-lib delivery never comes out good.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:22
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
If you can't have direct contact with the subtitler Mar 30, 2012

your idea sounds better, precisely because of format constraints. A script might be good for dubbing, but for subtitling perhaps even subtitles for the hearing-impaired might work better.

[Edited at 2012-03-30 19:19 GMT]


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:22
English to Hungarian
+ ...
English subtitles first Apr 1, 2012

BJI wrote:
They've asked me to transcribe the film and send over the transcription for translation to Spanish. Then they'll send back the translation for me to drop into some subtitle software.

I would have thought it better to subtitle the film in English and as I'm the director, make decisions on what should be left out at that stage if, for example, there are redundant areas of speech etc. This concerns me because the Spanish subtitles might not match up with the English ones and they'd need to be reformatted for the screen etc.


You are absolutely right; you need to send the English subtitles, with timing, etc. It has advantages: an experienced English subtitler – who does subtitles for the deaf or for translation – can do the job in more or less the same time, for the same money as someone doing a full transcription.

Then as you said, you have a much better control over the text. The only thing to remember not to exhaust the limits of the individual subtitles if possible, because English words tend to be shorter than the words in other languages, so you need more space for them, as Heinrich already explained.

Also, the English subtitles could be used for deaf people and to facilitate the translation into any other languages if necessary, in the future. I hope that you will be able to make good use of it.

I don’t think that dubbing would be an option at this stage, because of the costs.


[Edited at 2012-04-01 11:41 GMT]


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BJI
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Apr 1, 2012

Thanks for all the insightful feedback. Very much appreciated.

I think I'll follow the subtitling in English first, then translation of those in Spanish, and then a check to make sure it all fits, before the final burn.

Dubbing might have been an option but this is a music documentary and I don't think it would fit this type of film.

I have another question. Songs - should these be subtitled? I've gone through my collection of music docs and can't find one which even has subtitles.

Thanks again,

Jim


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Now you've said it all Apr 1, 2012

BJI wrote:
Dubbing might have been an option but this is a music documentary and I don't think it would fit this type of film.


Definitely! No point in dubbing a documentary on music.

BJI wrote:
I have another question. Songs - should these be subtitled? I've gone through my collection of music docs and can't find one which even has subtitles.


It depends on whether understanding the lyrics would be meaningful, if it would add value, for spectators. Btw, many subtitlers use italics in the subtitles for song lyrics.


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Sylvano
Local time: 08:22
English to French
I agree Apr 1, 2012

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
BJI wrote:
I have another question. Songs - should these be subtitled? I've gone through my collection of music docs and can't find one which even has subtitles.


It depends on whether understanding the lyrics would be meaningful, if it would add value, for spectators. Btw, many subtitlers use italics in the subtitles for song lyrics.


+1
I'd say no, unless meaning is really key to the documentary.

If I may add two remarks :
- translating songs may prove really tricky (again, especially from English into Spanish) with rhymes, images and so on (unless you just want to convey general meaning)
- avoid translating well known songs (I once had to translate the lyrics of 'Singing in the Rain' into French for a documentary, and the result was just ridiculous)


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BJI
TOPIC STARTER
Song subtitling Apr 1, 2012

Sylvano wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
BJI wrote:
I have another question. Songs - should these be subtitled? I've gone through my collection of music docs and can't find one which even has subtitles.


It depends on whether understanding the lyrics would be meaningful, if it would add value, for spectators. Btw, many subtitlers use italics in the subtitles for song lyrics.


+1
I'd say no, unless meaning is really key to the documentary.

If I may add two remarks :
- translating songs may prove really tricky (again, especially from English into Spanish) with rhymes, images and so on (unless you just want to convey general meaning)
- avoid translating well known songs (I once had to translate the lyrics of 'Singing in the Rain' into French for a documentary, and the result was just ridiculous)


That's a good point, actually. I think most of the people watching the film will know the songs as they are fans. Those who don't will appreciate the melody and may even understand the English a little bit.

I may transcribe a couple of clips and see how I feel about it.

On another note, I'm using Belle Nuit Subtitler and I think it works well.


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kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:22
English
+ ...
Subtitling songs Apr 5, 2012

The song lyrics shouldn't be translated; either leave them in the original language or don't subtitle them.

Sometimes subtitling lyrics can actually be counted as copyright infringement in some areas. One well-known music channel I used to work for had an outright ban on lyrics in subtitles because of this, so it's worth checking that in advance.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
This makes no sense to me (though I might be wrong) Apr 5, 2012

kmtext wrote:

The song lyrics shouldn't be translated; either leave them in the original language or don't subtitle them.

Sometimes subtitling lyrics can actually be counted as copyright infringement in some areas. One well-known music channel I used to work for had an outright ban on lyrics in subtitles because of this, so it's worth checking that in advance.


Dubbing a song might involve copyrights, since it would be a new performance, worse, if the new rhyming/metrics have been devised by someone else.

However subtitling... an operetta in a foreign language would make no sense to anyone who doesn't understand it. Nevertheless, subtitles are intended to give the spectator only the gist of what's being sung, e.g. "Love is a many-splendored thing..." would become "O amor é maravilhoso..." in PT.


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