Advice, please: creating subtitles in source or target language?
Thread poster: Lauriso

Lauriso
Latvia
Local time: 00:08
Feb 10, 2015

Hi all,

I'm a translator, but don't have any experience with actually creating subtitles. We have a video of a theatre play in Latvian, and we will need English subtitles. The question is - what is more sensible - creating source language subtitles first, then translating, or translating "live" - while creating the subtitle file.

Any other hints on what software to use, etc would be much appreciated!


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Some sound advice Feb 10, 2015

Though subtitling may seem simple, since so many people (fansubbers) do it for free on the web, it is not.

To give you an example, the client who got me into translating video for dubbing back in 1987 tried to wing it at subtitling. They have been in the trade for decades, had their own (analog) dubbing studio for many years, so they are not unfamiliar with the trade.

I got into subtitling in 2004 on my own, did a lot of work for them, yet always delivered the finished DVDs, so they never bothered to delve into it.

One day, they needed a quick subtitling job done. I received their call on my mobile... while on vacation overseas! Couldn't help them. So they had their first hands-on experience. Two guys, very experienced in video translation and dubbing, worked one entire weekend on subtitling a 10-minute video, and the result came out awful.

My suggestion is that you engage someone fully familiar with the entire process to do it. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be a translator (you'll handle that part, with some guidance from them). For time-spotting, if the person understands basic Latvian and English, that will be enough; no fluent mastery required.

The process is described at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/subtitling.html . If you are brave, and really want to face the beast, search on http://www.videohelp.com . On top of endless information on digital video and software, they have some good tutorials too.


 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 03:08
Member (2013)
English to Russian
Are you sure you want to follow through? Feb 10, 2015

Lauriso wrote:

Hi all,

I'm a translator, but don't have any experience with actually creating subtitles. We have a video of a theatre play in Latvian, and we will need English subtitles. The question is - what is more sensible - creating source language subtitles first, then translating, or translating "live" - while creating the subtitle file.

Any other hints on what software to use, etc would be much appreciated!


It goes without saying that you should first create subtitles and then translate them, as translating on-the-fly leads to mistakes and mistranslations. However, subtitling a play is an incredibly difficult task that requires quite some knowledge in the field. Is your client aware of your being inexperienced in subtitling? Are they okay with that?


 

Lauriso
Latvia
Local time: 00:08
TOPIC STARTER
|Thanks Feb 10, 2015

Thanks for your replies, guys.

Yes, they are aware of the situation, we are trying to figure it out together. I have experience in subtitle translation, just not the subtitling itself.

So what I'm getting from you both is that a person with subtitle making experience should create the subtitles in the original language first, right?


 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 03:08
Member (2013)
English to Russian
Yes, Lauriso Feb 10, 2015

Lauriso wrote:

Thanks for your replies, guys.

Yes, they are aware of the situation, we are trying to figure it out together. I have experience in subtitle translation, just not the subtitling itself.

So what I'm getting from you both is that a person with subtitle making experience should create the subtitles in the original language first, right?


That would be the best option, in my opinion.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Clarifying Feb 10, 2015

Lauriso wrote:

I have experience in subtitle translation, just not the subtitling itself.


Do you only translate? ... or do you do time-spotting too?

If you do the time-spotting, you'll just have to provide the translated, time-spotted subtitles (and the video) file to someone who can take it from there, and they'll get it done. Make sure you provide them with the file type they want (e.g. srt, ssa, ass, etc.) so there won't be hiccups in conversion.

Though I don't know a word in Latvian (maybe my 20% knowledge of Polish would help... or not), I could do it, though not this month, because I'm loaded above the lid. I only refused to do it in Japanese, because I wouldn't know if I had put the characters upside down or mirrored.

Lauriso wrote:

So what I'm getting from you both is that a person with subtitle making experience should create the subtitles in the original language first, right?


Subtitles in the original language are used only when it's more cost-effective to translate from so-called pre-timed templates into a host of different languages, using cheaper* translation.

The normal way is to translate for subtitles directly from the video, preserving its rhythm, and applying as much conciseness as possible, so there will be more time left for the subtitle-reading spectator to watch some of the action.


* I don't mean necessarily less-qualified translators, but as it speeds up the process considerably, pricey translators will charge less per minute of video playing time, because it takes them less time to do it.

[Edited at 2015-02-10 11:58 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-02-10 11:59 GMT]


 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 03:08
Member (2013)
English to Russian
What?! Feb 10, 2015

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

The normal way is to translate for subtitles directly from the video, preserving its rhythm, and applying as much conciseness as possible, so there will be more time left for the subtitle-reading spectator to watch some of the action.


How is this the normal way? Pretty much everyone I know in the industry translates from templates, whether they are working with direct clients or subtitling agencies/TV stations.

I cannot imagine translating a play on-the-fly. What would be the workflow? At what point do you create timecodes? How can this approach be faster with the same accuracy?

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
Though I don't know a word in Latvian (maybe my 20% knowledge of Polish would help... or not), I could do it, though not this month, because I'm loaded above the lid. I only refused to do it in Japanese, because I wouldn't know if I had put the characters upside down or mirrored.


How do you create timecodes for subtitles in a language you are not fluent in? How do you know where to put in-cues and out-cues and whether or not you should snap to a shot change?


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I'm off the mainstream, like the OP here Feb 10, 2015

Max Deryagin wrote:

How is this the normal way? Pretty much everyone I know in the industry translates from templates, whether they are working with direct clients or subtitling agencies/TV stations.


For the record, I specialize in corporate (training, institutional, product launch) video. My usual video client is a company whose local subsidiary received a video from headquarters overseas, and wants it dubbed or subtitled for use in Brazil. If it's dubbing, I translate, and a studio takes over. If it's subtitling, I cover the whole nine yards (or as few as they want). Ever more often, I translate and subtitle corporate videos from Brazilian companies who want to exhibit their feats to the world.

I also translate occasionally (for the past 7 mos. or so it has been often, due to a special project) feature films and TV series from templates. In this case I'm one of a "dozen" languages those big time producers will have available for cable TV. As the translation process is much faster, my rates per minute of playing time are significantly lower.

Max Deryagin wrote:
I cannot imagine translating a play on-the-fly. What would be the workflow? At what point do you create timecodes? How can this approach be faster with the same accuracy?


As I understood it, they shot the entire play on video in Latvian, and want to subtitle that video in English. It's not surtitling on-the-fly.

However there ARE some specialists for real-time translation and subtitling, who are in high demand during international film festivals.

Max Deryagin wrote:
How do you create timecodes for subtitles in a language you are not fluent in? How do you know where to put in-cues and out-cues and whether or not you should snap to a shot change?


I only translate professionally between English and Portuguese. However I speak Italian, French, and Spanish for my personal use, hence I understand these too. So I can certainly time-spot videos where any of them is spoken, or where the subtitles have been translated into any of these, though I can't reliably fix typos on a translation into them. I have done is a few times, and it came out okay.

However you won't convince me (and some people have tried really hard) to do it in German, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, etc.


 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 23:08
German to Swedish
+ ...
Like this Feb 10, 2015

Max Deryagin wrote:

I cannot imagine translating a play on-the-fly. What would be the workflow?


Not sure what you mean by on-the-fly... but back when I did subtitling, this used to be the typical workflow for a talkshow (where scripts are usually not provided):

1. If possible, watch the entire programme to get a feeling for content and timing. With proper software you can also do rough subtitle division at this stage (in real time).
2. Translate as-you-go, doing subtitle divisions following the natural rhythm of the conversation.
3. Time code by watching your own translation and spotting the subtitles (editing the text as you go).

Back then the subtitles were usually cued language-for-language after each translation, which is the only way to get a good result.

Occasionally we got pre-cued subtitles from some other language. The quality was uniformly atrocious and it was always a nightmare to fit your text into some other semi-competent translator's idea of subtitle timing.

Perhaps this procedure is now standard? The downward momentum of the subtitling industry in both quality and pay rates has been a 20-year trend.

(José usually knows his stuff, by the way.)

[Edited at 2015-02-10 19:33 GMT]


 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 03:08
Member (2013)
English to Russian
Very interesting Feb 10, 2015

Joakim Braun wrote:

Max Deryagin wrote:

I cannot imagine translating a play on-the-fly. What would be the workflow?


Not sure what you mean by on-the-fly... but back when I did subtitling, this used to be the typical workflow for a talkshow (where scripts are usually not provided):

1. If possible, watch the entire programme to get a feeling for content and timing. With proper software you can also do rough subtitle division at this stage (in real time).
2. Translate as-you-go, doing subtitle divisions following the natural rhythm of the conversation.
3. Time code by watching your own translation and spotting the subtitles (editing the text as you go).

Back then the subtitles were usually cued language-for-language after each translation, which is the only way to get a good result.

Occasionally we got pre-cued subtitles from some other language. The quality was uniformly atrocious and it was always a nightmare to fit your text into some other semi-competent translator's idea of subtitle timing.

Perhaps this procedure is now standard? The downward momentum of the subtitling industry in both quality and pay rates has been a 20-year trend.

(José usually knows his stuff, by the way.)

[Edited at 2015-02-10 18:34 GMT]


Thank you for the insightful infoicon_smile.gif


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I'm not alone!!! Feb 10, 2015

Joakim Braun wrote:

Not sure what you mean by on-the-fly... but back when I did subtitling, this used to be the typical workflow for a talkshow (where scripts are usually not provided):


Yes, this applies to most corporate videos. Most non-video companies have their videos produced by video companies, sometimes through advertising, PR, or other agencies, so the precious script is far beyond reach, when it gets to a subsidiary overseas who needs it dubbed or subtitled.

Joakim Braun wrote:
1. If possible, watch the entire programme to get a feeling for content and timing. With proper software you can also do rough subtitle division at this stage (in real time).
2. Translate as-you-go, doing subtitle divisions following the natural rhythm of the conversation.
3. Time code by watching your own translation and spotting the subtitles (editing the text as you go).


Here we differ, and I am the oddball.

I began translating video in 1987 for dubbing only. I received VHS tapes, dubbing was done in U-Matic; many years later, they switched to Betacam.

As VHS (Video Home System) does not have an immediate start-stop feature, and the editing units having it were outrageously expensive, I transferred the audio to open-reel audio tape recorders, and translated from there, using them as "dictaphones". Two such units from Akai were still in good shape when I sold them to antique collectors, after having endured some 15 years of hard work.

Joakim Braun wrote:
Back then the subtitles were usually cued language-for-language after each translation, which is the only way to get a good result.


In 2004 I discovered that, with digital video, I would be able to do the entire subtitling job with a standard PC. No more need for a video tape editing suite, GenLock, Char Generator, etc. A "nobody-else-can-do-it" request from a client led me to learn about subtitling and adapt my m.o. from dubbing.

So I watch/hear the video on Express Scribe, and write my translated subs on Windows Notepad. I set it to use a monospace font, and set the window width to my maximum line width (auto break on). Save it as TXT, no other option. Then I shoot it through Media Subtitler just to convert to SSA, SRT, ASS, whatever, for Subtitle Workshop, where I do at once both cueing and reviewing.

Some power users sneer at SW because it's free. They are proud of their USD 4-digit subtitling software. The point is that I really know what I'm doing there and, if there is anything SW can't cover, I'll edit the subtitles file manually, either on SubStation Alpha or the Windows Notepad.

Then I burn the subs using VirtualDub, which is also free, but provides matchless video quality results when one knows how to do it. Alternatively, I burn with Any Video Converter.

Joakim Braun wrote:
Occasionally we got pre-cued subtitles from some other language. The quality was uniformly atrocious and it was always a nightmare to fit your text into some other semi-competent translator's idea of subtitle timing.

Perhaps this procedure is now standard? The downward momentum of the subtitling industry in both quality and pay rates has been a 20-year trend.


Yes, this is the mainstream standard now. That's the way I work for those who subtitle for the big studios in Hollywood. They are aware that this method impairs quality, but it's the only way they can quickly, affordably, and consistently deliver countless movies and TV series translated into more than umpteen languages for worldwide distribution.

I only work for the good ones, they demand a certain level of performance from their transcribers-cuers, my output is reviewed by another skilled translator (or I review another skilled translator's output), and everything is checked before calling it a wrap. Now and then they return with some fixes on the transcription, to check whether the translation should be amended. Most of all, they pay reasonably, if compared to countless offers that I turned down.


 

Lauriso
Latvia
Local time: 00:08
TOPIC STARTER
Geekspeek! Feb 11, 2015

OK guys, I didn't get half of what you were talking about, but it seems the discussion was enlightening for everyone involvedicon_wink.gif.

Do you only translate? ... or do you do time-spotting too?

I do only translation. I don't have any experience in time-spotting. How difficult is it to learn? The theatre people are my acquaintances, so we're thinking of the cheapest and most time-effective way to do this together.

Oh, and Latvian is not similar to Polish, since it's a Slavic language, while Latvian is not. In fact it's only similar to Lithuanian, the only other Baltic language (although with some borrowed words from Russian and German).


 

jbjb  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 00:08
Estonian to English
+ ...
efficient Feb 12, 2015

The most time-efficient and cost-efficient way is to do it the way Joakim and José described.
Watch - translate into subtitles on the fly - timecode the subtitles (reviewing at the same time) - watch the result (reviewing at the same time).

Don't bother to learn time-spotting for a single project. It's like asking "I have to translate 10 pages of text, they want it in Trados. I've never used translation software before. Does it take long to learn Trados?"
Yes, it would take you a long time to learn it and it would not be efficient in any way, especially if you compete with thousands of translators who have already mastered Trados (or subtitling with time-spotting).

You say you have translated subtitles before - you must have contacts in the Latvian TV industry. Most of the channels would have professional subtitle editors whose work consists of timecoding unspotted subtitles provided by translators. They are paid 20-30 eur or less for spotting a feature film in their daily jobs, so if they charge you 3-4 times more for this job, they are happy and you have still gotten it cheap.

Just translate the subtitles and ask a professional to do the spotting for you.


 

Lauriso
Latvia
Local time: 00:08
TOPIC STARTER
Hm? Feb 12, 2015

Just translate the subtitles and ask a professional to do the spotting for you.

Now I'm not sure that "spotting" is. There are no subtitles to translate. There is only a video recording in Latvian. Should I watch and translate the spoken text on-the-fly? I don't understand :/.

[Edited at 2015-02-12 08:49 GMT]


 


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