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Advice on subtitling rates
Thread poster: Christophe Delaunay

Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:43
Member (2011)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Aug 26, 2013

Hello all,

An american agency is offering me those rates for subtitling projects:

"The rates are as follows, in USD at the rate of per minute runtime:

- Translate - $4 per min
- QC Full - $0.6 per min
- Conform - $0.48 per mins."

What do you think of them? They seem a tat low to me.. I haven't done subtitling for quite a while, that is why I'm asking your feedback.

Many thanks in advance.
Chris


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 00:43
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Subtitling Aug 26, 2013

There are some people here who will call that slave labor and others who feel that it's a perfectly reasonable rate. As usual the best thing to do would be to estimate how long it takes you and whether it comes out to a reasonable hourly rate.

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Hughito  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:43
Member (2013)
Chinese to French
+ ...
Depends on the video. Aug 26, 2013

Hi Christophe,

I've recently worked on a subtitling project, and when I asked for 6 euros per minute, my employer immediately accepted my offer... So I guess it's possible to ask for more.

It really depends on the video, though. You should ask for a sample, just to check if there is a lot of talking... or not.


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Consuelo Mellado  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:43
English to Spanish
Choice: Low rates or good quality Sep 18, 2013

Hi!

Low rates account for misspelling, wrong grammar and unintelligible literal subtitling. Most people notice bad translations and think that translators are not able to get it right. However they seem not to complain to the ultimate responsible of bad translation: contractors or agencies. Most likely the spectators' feedback would make them change their price policies and pay professional translators whatever rates that dignify their work.

Some translators state to have been paid as much as 15 euros per minute. Then a 6 euros per minute rate is really competitive. I am applying for some subtitling projects with an 8 euros per minute rate... with no success for the moment.

Good luck!


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:43
English to German
+ ...
I am working on one right now Sep 19, 2013

1 minute = US $19.65

(Subtitles, 18 minutes, corporate video, US-based agency, calculated rate/word based on word count only 12 cents, but I like this kind of job too much, so I agreed)


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Pauline Riccarand  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 17:43
English to French
+ ...
Just wanted Oct 14, 2013

to say thanks for this forum. A young translator can learn a lot here! I was hesitating to accept the offer I received on Saturday evening (at 7.30 pm), now I know that I shouldn't. Here's the mail I got:

---
Dear Pauline Riccarand :

Please let me know if you are available to translate 110 Minute movie subtitles from English to French? Please confirm asap?

All translation has to be entered online into following website and subtitles are already available in English. This will be an ongoing project where i will send you several movies to translate every year.

[...]

Deadline: Monday 14 Oct 4 PM UK time

Runtime: 110 min

Rate: USD 110 total
---

I told the PM I wasn't available that weekend, she said that I should send her an email on Monday to see if the project was still available. I don't understand why she's giving such a tight dealine (2 days to translate a 110 minutes movie seems pretty challenging to me) if there's that the project will still be there on Monday.
Another point: the translation has a spotless BB record with 5 given by translators with very good rates. Now I feel like this agency is trying to take advantage of a newbie!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:43
English to Portuguese
+ ...
On taking advantage... Oct 14, 2013

Pauline Riccarand wrote:

Another point: the translation has a spotless BB record with 5 given by translators with very good rates. Now I feel like this agency is trying to take advantage of a newbie!


Pauline,

From my experience, most agencies don't know enough about video - translation, subtitling, dubbing, DVD, authoring, etc. - to take any advantage on anyone. At best, they want a low price to close an easy sale, and enough markup to ensure their profitability.

Once I had a large and complex video project with a foreign agency I often work for on other types of jobs. It involved translation into two languages (I did only one of them) of the video for dubbing, ditto of a PPT file to be edited into the raw video, dubbing itself (both languages done in Brazil), assembling the audio tracks, and authoring two interactive DVDs. The agency PM got so involved, and learned so much in the process, that he later bought Sony Vegas to edit all his home videos into professional-looking productions, as he told me.

On the other hand, I often do video work for a local translation agency. Very local indeed, about 4 miles' distance, though we've never met face to face. I get jobs from half a dozen of their PMs. Some of them have learned a few things about video from our phone conversations, and admitted having read 'only parts of a few' of the educational pages on this subject I have on my web site. They just want it done.

This agency's end-clients know even less about video. Last week a very reputable, century-old multinational company sent me through them a bunch of videos to translate & subtitle: a couple of MP4s in HD, a couple of standard MP4s, three MPG2s, and one WMV. Sometimes they send me other formats (FLV, AVI, VOB, etc.) as well.

This happens to all this agency's video clients, small and large, not only this one. When phone them to I ask the PM what format/size they want them subtitled, they are somewhat puzzled at the options, pros & cons, and tell me they'll ask the client. The reply they get from the endclient is "video, of course!". They advise me not to push further for a definite answer, as we wouldn't get any; their contact at the end-client already had enough of a hard time to successfully send them the files via an online file transfer service. Video is too far away from their core business.

So I usually deliver the videos subtitled in the same format I received them. Now and then I get a phone call that some client is desperate, because the video I sent does not play on their computer, and they have a presentation scheduled for tomorrow using it. So I convert it into whatever I think is most likely to work anywhere, and it usually solves the problem.

Apart from very rare exceptions, AFAICS they just want it reliably done on time for an affordable price/within budget. No attempt to take any advantage on anyone.


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Sylvano
Local time: 18:43
English to French
Not taking advantage of anyone, really? Oct 14, 2013

A 110 minute movie (1000 to 1500 subtitles, maybe more) to be done in 2 days, at a rate of 1 dollar per minute... Let's be serious, please.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:43
English to German
+ ...
Is this a silent movie? Oct 14, 2013

Pauline Riccarand wrote:
Deadline: Monday 14 Oct 4 PM UK time

Runtime: 110 min

Rate: USD 110 total



Just wondering.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:43
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Ignorance Oct 14, 2013

Sylvano wrote:
Not taking advantage of anyone, really?
A 110 minute movie (1000 to 1500 subtitles, maybe more) to be done in 2 days, at a rate of 1 dollar per minute... Let's be serious, please.


Sylvano,

My take on video work requests is that most prospects/clients know so little about how it's done that they think it should be cheap. After all, we see so many lousy movies/series on TV that are not worth translating, that it may lead outsiders to think it can't cost much, if they do it.

A couple of months ago, a prospect contacted me about translating and subtitling a video. I gave them the price, they asked me to explain why it was so expensive - which I did - and eventually thanked me, because they'd be using another option. A couple of days ago they contacted me again, this time they want me to do another one, longer, not mentioning the possibility of ever using that other option.

Apparently they learned a lesson in the meantime, however it doesn't seem that they were trying to obtain any undue advantage from anyone.


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Sylvano
Local time: 18:43
English to French
With all due respects Oct 14, 2013

José, when a company subtitles feature films, they specialize in that field (read Pauline's post again) and are perfectly aware 1 dollar per minute is a very low (not to say ridiculous) rate and that translating a 2-hour movie in 2 days is a take on catastrophy. So I maintain : they are definitely trying to take advantage of the translator in that case. I know it may be different when you deal directly with institutional clients for instance, but that's obviously not the configuration we're talking about here.

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jbjb  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 19:43
Member (2005)
Estonian to English
+ ...
Netflix Oct 14, 2013

The market for subtitling has been mixed up during the past year by companies like Netflix (and others of the type) that need a huge amount of content translated over a short period or fast. As they enter new markets, they have hundreds and thousands of hours to translate at one go.

They don't care who does the work. They just ask various translation companies to submit their rates and the companies obligingly do. Then you have translation companies from China, India, UK, US, Turkey all trying to translate movies into French, German or Finnish - naturally they don't have people for that and look for them on proz and other websites. Many of such companies have never translated subtitles before or have concentrated on English-Indonesian translations and now try to add French to their languages. But they have got the assignment because they told Netflix that they can handle English-French at the same price as they regularly do English-Indonesian.

Also professional subtitling companies see the work slipping to whoever and try to reduce their rates to remain competitive.
Netflix and others just don't care - they just know that they will be adding 5 new series, 200 episodes each, to their web page in 2 weeks and need to have some text running under them by that time. They divide the work into batches of 50 episodes and farm the work to 20 companies from all over the world. And then you have desperate companies looking for translators at lower than rock bottom prices and just days to handle the work.

USD 1 per minute is what it often comes down to. Just a few years ago USD 3 per minute was the rate that U.S. companies tried to apply to the most expensive European languages (French, German, Scandinavia) for DVD projects and that was considered an outrage by many.
I think Scandinavia has already slipped to that price level because they have more translators/people aware of subtitling. French and German have still been holding out but with this recent Netflix craze the prices - and quality - are going to drop even more.


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ahmadwadan.com  Identity Verified
Kuwait
Local time: 19:43
English to Arabic
+ ...
Process & charging Oct 13, 2014

In your view, what is the best practice for subtitling a crude video (no source transcript available, just a video)? and what is the average transcription rate including time spotting?

I wish you detail the technical steps.

Thank you


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Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:43
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Transcribe, not translate Oct 13, 2014

Dear ahmadwadan.com, I guess you mean you need the video transcribed first, then translated. Charge by the hour, not per word or per subtitle, unless the subtitle consists-as most do-of x amount of characters, so you know roughly how many words there will be per subtitle. Translating subtitles is fun for some, but tedious, and you, especially, since your video has not yet been transcribed, do not know the quality of the video. Therefore, you have 2 different jobs-one of transcribing which means going back and forth-and another of translating which also means going back and forth to check who said what to whom, agreement of verbs, adjectives, etc, if the language requires it. I think it is much safer to calculate and quote per hour, but for 2 totally different jobs and ask to see the quality of the video first. Hope this helped and that this is what you wanted. Some can take a really long time; others less, but still longer than ordinary translation, even if you are provided with the source text, or text right underneath the video.

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ahmadwadan.com  Identity Verified
Kuwait
Local time: 19:43
English to Arabic
+ ...
Transcription burning software Oct 13, 2014

It is kind of you dear Josephine to reply me promptly. Your input is of great value. Any idea about practical tools used for burning transcription on video?

Thank you


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