Duration / Spotting of subtitles
Thread poster: Noukita

Noukita
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
German to French
+ ...
Mar 26, 2013

Hello everyone,

I am new to ProZ though I have already a basic experience with translation/subtitling (mostly German>French).

But I would like to have a few "experts"-opinions about the 2 following problems I recently encountered.

1) When you have a documentary, where someone takes quite long for his sentence, how long do you display the subtitle? Sometimes I try to cut the sentence in two separate subtitles of one line each instead of the regular 2-lines-subtitle). This is possible when the person hesitates for example, and makes a silence inbetween. But sometimes it doesn't always make sense, for example if the person makes a mistake by pronouncing a word and correcting himself.
In this case, do you keep the same rhythm of displaying the subtitle like the other few sentences just before (but then the subtitle "disappears" already in the middle of the sentence, even if there certainly was enough time to read it). That is what I would tend to do, but I have doubts and ask myself if other persons might find it strange that the subtitle disappears while the person is still speaking (I am not talking of a difference about few images, but sometimes whole seconds).

2) The other problem I have (in a documentary too) is when the person begins to talk before a scene change ("off-voice", you don't see the person yet, just hear her talking a few seconds before she appears on screen in the interview situation).
I was taught not to put subtitles astride two scenes. In this case, may I derogate to this rule (what I would do if I can put more or less half of the the subtitle over the cut), or is it always better to start the subtitle only once you see the person (but then it might be quite "narrow" with the timing of the following subtitles, and it could be strange if the person talks and the subtitle takes long to first appear.

Thanks a lot in advance for your help and hints!

Noukita


 

Monica Paolillo
Italy
Local time: 20:45
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Tricky question Mar 26, 2013

Hello Noukita and welcome.

It's a tricky question the one you asked because, when it comes to subtitling, each and every media content can pose different issues and challenges and often it's a matter of subjective choices based on the special features of the projects.

You described a very common situation and all I can do is try to tell you what I'd probably do in the first scenario, presuming I was able to grasp exactly the situation you find yourself in. First of all, what you have to keep in mind is that a subtitle cannot stay on the screen for more than 7 or 8 secs. So it's a good idea in the case you describe to opt for single liners instead of two-line subtitles. Also in some cases, when the speaker speaks very slowly for example, you will find yourself having to split the sentences in a way that may even force you to subtitle the speaker's hesitations and their own corrections as well, therefore sentences can be broken as long as the syntax of each subtitle can stand alone independently. This is very important and it's what you have to worry about in your case. You will have to break sentences for rhythm's sake, which has to be consistent, and to make sure subtitles don't stay on screen too long forcing the viewer to read them multiple times. But be careful, you shouldn't have the subtitle disappear if the person's still speaking so you'll have to rearrange your structure to make sure that doesn't happen.

In the second scenario, we all want to have subtitles disappear on shot changes but in the case you describe, which is common for documentaries and one-to-one interviews, I would not wait until the person gets on screen if they start speaking earlier than that. What you want to do is make sure your subtitle, coming in when the person starts speaking, will not go off screen too soon after the shot change. Just have it there a little longer. This is to make sure the viewer doesn't get distracted. Hope this makes sense in your specific case.

This is just my two cents, Noukita. To tell you exactly what you should do, I would really need to see the video so the above suggestions may or may not make sense in your specific situation. Also, even though there are standards we all want to meet, many times you find yourself making subjective choices based on the specific cuts of the video, for example, or on other parameters you have to come to terms with in daily practice.

Best of luck for your future and happy subtitling!

[Edited at 2013-03-26 14:15 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-03-26 14:48 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-03-26 15:53 GMT]


 

Noukita
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Mar 26, 2013

Hello Monica

Thanks for your answer, it helps me a lot.

About case 1, exactly, I was concerned about letting the subtitle too long, having a person speaking really, really slowly (I think he reflects a lot before each word said!). I thought that lots of very short subtitles, even if separated with a few seconds might simply nerve the audience.
It is a good input to subtitle the hesitations and corrections too, I will try this!

For case 2), well, that is what I found the most logical too (I mean, to start before you see the person for good) but I was a bit afraid of "breaking" the rules, and it is nice to have a confirmation from someone else (even if I know there always is a part of subjectivity in such things). It makes me feel more comfortable! And that's right, I did not think of showing the subtitle just a bit longer to compensate the "cut-effect". I will do that for sure.

Grazie mille, thanks a lot again, I am very happy you answered me, and so quickly too!

Have a nice day,
Noukita


 

Monica Paolillo
Italy
Local time: 20:45
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Hold it! Mar 26, 2013

Noukita wrote:

lots of very short subtitles, even if separated with a few seconds might simply nerve the audience.


Caution, Noukita. You shouldn't have lots of very short subtitles. You have to have subtitles that stay onscreen no longer than 7 or 8 seconds. They shouldn't be too short. 7-8 secs are enough to put in quite a lot of text, so they won't be short. Unfortunately, sometimes the audience will be nerved as much as we are when we hear someone digressing all the time. It's about the same experience the audience will have with the video without subtitles. Of course, you can, and you must mediate and try to improve the viewer's experience to the best of your ability but you can't do miraclesicon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2013-03-26 15:11 GMT]


 

Noukita
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks again Mar 26, 2013

Hello Monica

sure, I probably did not express myself perfectly in my last answer, but that is what I meant too, I wanted to avoid having lots of short subtitles one after the other (by cutting the slow sentences in too many pieces, according to how the person speaks).

Therefore I think that including the hesitations and corrections definitely is worth a try! And that way I can cut the sentences in a few parts again, and those part will be long enough for a subtitle.

I guess in such a case like I described before it is not always easy to find the ideal balance but at least, your hint will help me improve the quality of the subtitling in such "challenging" moments of the film.

Thanks again! icon_smile.gif


 

Sylvano
Local time: 20:45
English to French
basics of subtitling Mar 27, 2013

If the person starts speaking just a few frames (up to a second, say) before shot change (even in the case of an actual scene change), you have to wait for next shot to display your subtitle.
Otherwise, it should appear right when the person speaks and disappear at shot change.

We've all been taught (well, should have been) not to jump shot changes, but also that it's OK to do so when you can't do otherwise. Readability stays the priority. In that case, the rule is that your subtitle has to be perfectly balanced on both sides, over your shot change.

As far as long sentences are concerned, indeed, you should split into several subtitles. But in the case of hesitations or even unfinished sentences, you always have the possibility of NO subtitles. Depends on the importance of what is (half-)said, but it's always a possibility, which usually proves natural and comfortable for the viewers.


 

Noukita
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the feedback Mar 28, 2013

Hello Sylvano,

with some delay, thank you too!

I did not properly know how to handle unfinished sentences (especially when there are many of them, and they are not only made of "...er... mhmm... " but something like for exemple "actually I believed.... (silence) ... well at that time, blahblah..."

That's right, I could dare more to sometimes ignore some of the unfinished sentences when they really are too "unfinished" and too much of a mumbling. And let the hesitations in when they are reasonable.

I hope our posts will help other persons asking themselves the same questions icon_smile.gif

And happy Easter to all!

Best greetings
Noukita


 


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