English subtitling in the UK
Thread poster: Fynn
Jun 14, 2012

Hi,

I'm an Australian subtitler currently living in the UK and debating whether to try and get into freelance subtitling here (English language only) and whether it's worth buying a (vastly overpriced) software license. I'd love to hear from anyone currently working in this field on whether there is enough work to get by (I've heard anecdotally that freelance subtitlers are doing it tough at the moment) and what the typical rates are, how work is charged, etc. Apologies if this isn't the right place to ask - if anyone can point me towards other online resources for English-language subtitlers in the UK, that would also be very much appreciated.

Cheers


 

Virginie Ebongué  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:07
Member (2007)
Italian to French
+ ...
Subtle Jun 14, 2012

Hi Fynn,
I've heard about this association: http://www.subtitlers.org.uk/
They may help you.
Good luck!
virginie


 

sandraFrench
English to French
companies recruiting - subtitling Jun 19, 2012

Hi!

I would like to know about companies hiring in this industry in Europe.
I am eager to get into that field. That seems to be very stimulating.

Thanks in advance.


 

kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:07
English
+ ...
Not going too well these days Jun 28, 2012

I've just heard that one of the large subtitling contracts has been awarded to a different company due to them undercutting the current contractor by a substantial margin. The result of that is the rate they're offering freelancers has been cut even more.

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:07
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A roundup of the situation Jun 28, 2012

Though I am on the other side of the Atlantic, and possibly on the reverse side of the language pair likely to be requested in the UK (i.e. I translate mostly from EN) this page seems to give an accurate picture of what is happening worldwide in video subtitling.

The shift from analog (VHS, Betacam et al.) to digital (DVD et al.) video was initially a blessing... a translator who had the tech-guts to learn it became able to subtitle a video and author a DVD using his/her own computer, no need to buy/rent outrageously expensive equipment. Then it became a curse... now any half-witted teenager (thinks s/he) can do it for peanuts and make a bundle. We often see the results of this on cable TV.


 

kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:07
English
+ ...
That's a good explanation Jun 29, 2012

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Though I am on the other side of the Atlantic, and possibly on the reverse side of the language pair likely to be requested in the UK (i.e. I translate mostly from EN) this page seems to give an accurate picture of what is happening worldwide in video subtitling.

The shift from analog (VHS, Betacam et al.) to digital (DVD et al.) video was initially a blessing... a translator who had the tech-guts to learn it became able to subtitle a video and author a DVD using his/her own computer, no need to buy/rent outrageously expensive equipment. Then it became a curse... now any half-witted teenager (thinks s/he) can do it for peanuts and make a bundle. We often see the results of this on cable TV.


That's a good link, and gives an accurate summation of the current situation in the UK. If I worked only in monolingual subtitling, I'd probably be doing something else now, but, fortunately for me, I'm one of only a few subtitlers working in my language pair, so I've been able to keep my rates at a reasonable level - at least for translation.

The company I used to work for made a number of staff redundant and then began to outsource to India. However, the quality of the work coming back was appalling in some cases - mishearings, lack of understanding of cultural references, and in one case a programme being delivered unfinished because the subtitler had been offended by a sex scene halfway through, but hadn't mentioned that to anyone! The remaining staff in the UK were actually spending more time correcting mistakes in programmes than it would have taken a UK-based subtitler to subtitle them from scratch.

Needless to say, they stopped outsourcing fairly shortly afterwards, but the damage had been done, and due to the drop in available work, the freelance rate had been cut by 20%, and a number of other subtitling houses followed suit once the word got out. Since then, rates have been declining year on year, and the rate currently on offer is just under 50% of what it was when I went freelance eight years ago.

As stated in the link, some companies are still outsourcing to other countries, and the freelancers who work for them are being exploited. The QC rates are even lower than subtitling rates, but they're expected to produce a polished final product, sometimes earning as little as £90 for two days' work. When it comes to translation, the situation isn't much better. One of my friends was given a day to QC a film translated from French, again in India. What should have been a three- or four-hour job took her 25 hours, working overnight without a break, and then her pay was docked because she didn't deliver by 9:00am!


 


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English subtitling in the UK

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