Tips for Translating Subtitles More Efficiently
Thread poster: Brooke Cochran

Brooke Cochran  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:17
French to English
Jun 21, 2016

I have been working for a client for a few months and my speed has certainly increased. BUT I saw posts here that say some people can translate ten minutes of video in one hour which is WAY more efficient!

I thought I worked pretty efficiently, but, to hear that others work faster... Well, I'm fascinated.

Do you have any tips? Software you use? A method you love?

For me, I translate in Excel with the ST in one column and the TT in another and a column containing a character count formula. And just type away, lots of backspacing and revising, though, to make things match. Of course, I have the video open, too, and compare my translation with it throughout the process.

It currently takes me about four hours to provide a solid, proofread, final version of ten minutes of video. Note: I'm working with a time coded script in the source language, so I translate into to the target language and make sure the characters, line breaks, etc. match the provided time code and will read smoothly.


 

Faustine Roux  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:17
English to French
Don't rush it. Jun 22, 2016

I doubt those who subtitle 10 minutes of video per hour are producing good subtitles.
It takes time to find the right translation, with the right meaning, style, register, while making sure it will be easy to read, not cross any shot change unnecessarily, follow the rhythm of the film, etc.

Subtitling is not "just writing a translation at the bottom of a screen". It's much more than that and it takes time to do it well. Professional subtitling software will enable you to produce accurately timed subtitles and to check your reading speed. They don't "help you be faster", they are necessary to do a good job, provided you already know how to produce good subtitles.

Translating a maximum of 5 min of video per hour is acceptable, and quite fast to be honest. If it's not profitable, charge a higher rate or find new clients.



I hope that helps.


 

Sylvano
Local time: 21:17
English to French
Faustine 's right Jun 22, 2016

Subtitles should be made (cueing + translating/typing) using a software dedicated to subtitling. With this, you can set a lot of things (cps, fps, min and max durations, line length, etc.) and, above all, check in real time the result of what you're doing and whether it works, on-screen, while you play the video.

 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:17
Member (2013)
English to Russian
- Jun 22, 2016

Brooke Cochran wrote:

I have been working for a client for a few months and my speed has certainly increased. BUT I saw posts here that say some people can translate ten minutes of video in one hour which is WAY more efficient!

I thought I worked pretty efficiently, but, to hear that others work faster... Well, I'm fascinated.

Do you have any tips? Software you use? A method you love?

For me, I translate in Excel with the ST in one column and the TT in another and a column containing a character count formula. And just type away, lots of backspacing and revising, though, to make things match. Of course, I have the video open, too, and compare my translation with it throughout the process.

It currently takes me about four hours to provide a solid, proofread, final version of ten minutes of video. Note: I'm working with a time coded script in the source language, so I translate into to the target language and make sure the characters, line breaks, etc. match the provided time code and will read smoothly.


Hi Brooke,

It is only possible to translate 10 minutes of video material per hour if you do corporate with terminology that you know by heart. You can manage it because, as opposed to films, there is no symbolism, no allusions, no change of register/mood/rhythm, no stylization for different historical periods etc. Plus, the spotting requirements are much more relaxed, which means you don't have to condense as much or stress about shot changes. All the major challenges of film translation are not present, so you can just type away.

For anything non-corporate, I would say that even 5 minutes an hour is quite a stretch, but it depends on the material at hand.

And yes, professional software significantly speeds up the process by semi-automating the "backspacing and revising" part.

[Edited at 2016-06-22 13:28 GMT]


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 21:17
German to Serbian
+ ...
Agree. Jun 22, 2016

Faustine Roux wrote:

I doubt those who subtitle 10 minutes of video per hour are producing good subtitles.
It takes time to find the right translation, with the right meaning, style, register, while making sure it will be easy to read, not cross any shot change unnecessarily, follow the rhythm of the film, etc.

Subtitling is not "just writing a translation at the bottom of a screen". It's much more than that and it takes time to do it well. Professional subtitling software will enable you to produce accurately timed subtitles and to check your reading speed. They don't "help you be faster", they are necessary to do a good job, provided you already know how to produce good subtitles.

Translating a maximum of 5 min of video per hour is acceptable, and quite fast to be honest. If it's not profitable, charge a higher rate or find new clients.



I hope that helps.


And for this complex and comprehensive process I am constantly being offered $2 per video minute, which is why I never do subtitling projects.


 

Kalyanasundar subramaniam
India
Local time: 01:47
Tamil to English
+ ...
Tips for translating subtitles more efficiently Jun 23, 2016

I agree with Sylvano . You must use a dedicated subtitle software .That would solve many of your problems. I would suggest you to use Subtitle Edit . This is an open source software,where you can have the Original subtitle with time code and the translated subtitle in the same page side by side . The translated subtitle would use the original time codes . You can save the file in many different types of subtitle formats and time formats.In Subtitle Edit you can set your requirements like characters per line,line breaks, minimum duration ,maximum duration,minimum time lag between subtitles etc.If you exceed the limit set by you it would give an alarm by changing the color of the text.

I am from India .I do 15 minutes of video/film subtitling in one hour. I hope this reply would help you.


 

Brooke Cochran  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:17
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jun 24, 2016

Thank you to everyone for your input!

I started working with subtitling software today.

I wasn't sure how it would work, since I'm not being paid to do the spotting/cuing/timecoding, but it really is making things easier and faster.


 

Theodoros Karyotis
Greece
Local time: 22:17
English to Greek
+ ...
Apples and oranges Feb 20, 2017

I think there has been a mix-up, as the original poster talks about translation of existing subtitles, while most of those who responded talk about creating the subtitles from scratch, which is a far more complex task that involves transcription (optionally), translation and timecoding.

I believe that, using an application such as Subtitle Edit (http://www.nikse.dk/subtitleedit/) which I have found to be the most efficient and versatile, it is possible to translate existing time-coded subtitles at a minimum rate of 10 mins of video material per hour of work - depending, of course, on the complexity and density of the source material.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:17
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Not Excel! Feb 21, 2017

I see you've already moved to more suitable software, but anyway, for other translations, please don't use Excel. It was designed for accountants not wordsmiths!
You're much better off with Word, in that it was designed for wordsmiths, with a decent spellcheck, comparison and annotation features if you need to go back and forth with an editor or client, and you can even make a table with ST and TT columns if you like! And the wordcount is given free of charge at the bottom of the screen.


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Nathalie Schon  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:17
German to French
+ ...
Dear God Jan 15

It's not efficient. It's a fraud if indeed they subtitle creative work so fast. The QCer has all the work to fix these "masterpieces" so don't try to imitate these subtitlers.

Brooke Cochran wrote:

I have been working for a client for a few months and my speed has certainly increased. BUT I saw posts here that say some people can translate ten minutes of video in one hour which is WAY more efficient!

I thought I worked pretty efficiently, but, to hear that others work faster... Well, I'm fascinated.

Do you have any tips? Software you use? A method you love?

For me, I translate in Excel with the ST in one column and the TT in another and a column containing a character count formula. And just type away, lots of backspacing and revising, though, to make things match. Of course, I have the video open, too, and compare my translation with it throughout the process.

It currently takes me about four hours to provide a solid, proofread, final version of ten minutes of video. Note: I'm working with a time coded script in the source language, so I translate into to the target language and make sure the characters, line breaks, etc. match the provided time code and will read smoothly.


[Edited at 2018-01-15 16:42 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
On developing an m.o. Jan 16

This is very important:

Theodoros Karyotis wrote:
I think there has been a mix-up, as the original poster talks about translation of existing subtitles, while most of those who responded talk about creating the subtitles from scratch, which is a far more complex task that involves transcription (optionally), translation and timecoding.

Where do you start from?
You may have:

  • Just the video and nothing else
  • The video and the complete script in the original language
  • The video and a "template", which is the subtitles file, the full script all broken and timed


There is a considerable difference in the time and effort it will take you from doing the job from each one.

Theodoros Karyotis wrote:
I believe that, using an application such as Subtitle Edit (http://www.nikse.dk/subtitleedit/) which I have found to be the most efficient and versatile, it is possible to translate existing time-coded subtitles at a minimum rate of 10 mins of video material per hour of work - depending, of course, on the complexity and density of the source material.


This is the last option in the list above. However it is limited to standard subtitle file formats, the most popular being SRT, though there are 60+ of them. Some large subtitling companies have developed software to make templates in MS Word (DOC/DOCX) files compatible with subtitling. And yet some ignorant people do it using MS Excel too.

Subtitle Workshop (http://subworkshop.sourceforge.net/) is another freeware option, so you have a choice.

Several colleagues will tell you that the only way to produce professional quality subtitles is by using self-claimed "professional" subtitling software, usually having a 4-digit price tag in USD. These will often make it easier for you to produce high quality subtitles with a lesser knowledge of the ropes. However a subtitle file is usually a plain text file, containing time-in, time-out, the subtitle text, and sometimes a few parameters. You can see a couple of samples about 2/3 of the way down at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/subtitling.html


Now I'll dare to contradict the master...
Max Deryagin wrote:
It is only possible to translate 10 minutes of video material per hour if you do corporate with terminology that you know by heart. You can manage it because, as opposed to films, there is no symbolism, no allusions, no change of register/mood/rhythm, no stylization for different historical periods etc. Plus, the spotting requirements are much more relaxed, which means you don't have to condense as much or stress about shot changes. All the major challenges of film translation are not present, so you can just type away.

For anything non-corporate, I would say that even 5 minutes an hour is quite a stretch, but it depends on the material at hand.

Nope, Max. Incidentally, my specialty is corporate video.

Okay, institutional videos are often VO-narrated, so you have a lot of flexibility.
Product launch videos vary a lot, and these are most often dubbed, when the budget allows, as the company wants spectators to actually see the images, instead of reading subtitles.
However training videos are usually not different from feature films, except in their playing time, most in the 10~30 minutes range. They are often used to show dramatized scenes in management, sales, communication etc.

Most important is that the corporate client usually doesn't know squat about video, and most often they don't have the script (first case on the list).

I spent 18 years translating corporate video for dubbing, before I ventured into subtitling. No, I don't think either one is easier or more difficult than the other, just a different game, like switching from basketball to volleyball. Dubbing is all about metrics, while subtitling is all about conciseness. They share some common tools, like a round ball and a court of similar size; they differ in basket vs. net.

The point here is that you have to develop your m.o. for each case you intend to work on.

My m.o. for subtitling is probably 'flawed', as it was adapted from translation for dubbing. In my early days, I used open-reel audio recorders to translate, and a word processor. Afterwards, I'd watch the (VHS tape) video on TV, scribble notes on my translated script printout, and then implement them on the text.

As digital video came up, I moved to Express Scribe (http://www.nch.com.au/scribe) to watch and translate. I use MS Word for dubbing, and the Windows Notepad (= unformatted text) for subtitling, pre-breaking the subtitles to size. Later I move that TXT into Subtitling Workshop or Subtitle Edit for time-spotting, formatting, etc. to get a SRT, SSA, ASS, whatever.

My average translating speed for translating only, either for dubbing or subtitling, is 1:6, i.e. one hour to translate 10 minutes, deducting the breaks (as it's quite tiresome to keep this speed). I've heard of several colleagues having this same average.

I spellcheck, proofread, review, shorten, improve, etc. in the time-spotting/formatting step.

Some people prefer to do it all-at-once. They translate and time-spot on SW or SE, one subtitle at a time. Later, they review the entire job done. The expensive subtitling software has a bunch of automated quality-checking tools for this workflow; this is their differential. If you use freeware, YOU will be the quality-checking tool.

Working on templates, of course, is much, much easier. You'll have pre-timed subtitles on one column, being expected to translate them side-by-side on another column. Productivity soars! As a yardstick, I can translate up to 12 minutes of video in one hour, breaks deducted, when working on subtitle templates.

At the outset, check what you'll be getting as input, and try different methods, until you find your ideal workflow.


 

subtitleinsider
United States
Genre matters Feb 23

Note that even for non-corporate videos, the genre matters a lot.

Average number of subtitles per 100 minutes of programming:

Drama: 1,000
Documentary: 1,500
Comedy: 1,600
Stand-up: 1,650
Reality: 1,750

(these numbers are the same for features and series)

You will almost automatically spend 50% more time on non-drama programming. Documentaries present additional time spent researching terms, while comedies and stand-up present additional time spent coming up with clever translations for double entendres.

One tip that may or may not make your work more efficiently: Watch the video in its entirety before starting the translation process.

If the video is interesting, this will allow you to actually enjoy the video beforehand, and also prevents you from constantly getting sucked into the material as you do your work. It gives a good overview of the project, so you are better able to estimate how long the work will take you. Finally, it allows you to get the correct tone for the subtitles right from the start.


 


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