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Subtitling rates
Thread poster: dorthe pedersen

dorthe pedersen  Identity Verified
Germany
English to Danish
+ ...
Apr 12

Hi out there,

I was wondering if anyone has experience with negotiating rates for subtitling with a new client.

I have previously negotiated and refused a rate with someone who asked me what my rate was and then didn't want to pay it, but if a company says, "this is what we can offer you," should I just take it (if I find it reasonable)? I find that many of the big subtitling companies offer 4.00 dollars per Running minute, which is my absolute minimum, so I was wondering if any of you have tried to negotiate rates with success?


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:52
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
With Danish ?_ come on you should be at 6,50 or higher Apr 12

There are A LOT of bottom feeders in subtitling... and you should be at 6.50 or higher for Danish..
otherwise you are just stabbing your colleagues in the back

Ed


 

dorthe pedersen  Identity Verified
Germany
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To Ed Apr 12

Yes, but this does not really answer the question of whether or not it is possible to negotiate this with a new client. I have so far not come across many international subtitle vendors (placed outside Denmark) that offer a better rate. I know that 4.00 dollars is not the world and want to have a higher rate, hence my question.

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The bottom rate in subtitling is zero Apr 12

There are crowds willing to do subtitling for free, just to gain some practice in order to qualify for the professional subtitling market. They are named "fansubbers", and their work can be easily found for download on the web.

The problem is that nobody gives them feedback, in order to enable them to improve. So their quality remains at the same level as their rates. When they are offered peanuts for their subtitling service, they grab it immediately! At last they are making some money, no matter how little. They feel professional.

This is why we often see really bad subtitling on TV. The subtitling supply chain ravishes, as they are getting translation and spotting done for peanuts, and profits are mushrooming. The broadcasting network doesn't mind the quality, as the sponsor/subscriber is paying them anyway, regardless of the subtitling quality. There is no chance for the payer to check on subtitling quality before they commit to pay, and there is never any clause anywhere stipulating that they would be entitled to some penalty discount in case subtitling is bad.

This is why the subtitling rates AND quality are plummeting.

A few years ago, I had some time to spare between Xmas and the New Year, so I decided to carry out an experiment on How much time and effort would it take to "fix" amateur subtitles?

This procedure is analogous to what some translation clients do... They hire an amateur to translate at professional proofreading rates. Then they trap a professional translator into "fixing" it at the same proofreading rates. Bottom line is that - if they succeed in their ploy - they'll have a top-notch translation for 2/3 of what it should cost. Plan B is PEMT, in which case success would be achieved for 1/3 of the cost.

The report on my experiment is available only in Brazilian Portuguese on this page.

My general conclusion is that it takes a professional subtitler the same time and effort to fix amateur subtitles as it would to do them from scratch. Adding insult to injury, the outcome is quality-wise worse, since boredom leads to leniency, and 'barely passable' subs are often left unchanged.

For years I've specialized in corporate video (i.e. training, product launch, institutional) localization. These clients are not in the video industry, their videos have been outsourced via their PR or ad agency to a producer. So their subsidiaries want a turn-key video localization job, which I can do. The main point is that their image will be at stake on these videos; and poor translation may jeopardize it. So when they hire this kind of work, they want nothing but the best.

However if there is an agency in the supply chain, they'll want high profits on a comparatively expensive project, which means that they'll want acceptable quality from the cheapest translator money can buy.

I did some extensive translation work on feature films and TV series for a subtitling firm that was working directly for a major Hollywood studio. Pay was quite acceptable. Last news I had from them was that TV networks are now offering to pay less per minute for the entire subtitling job than they usually pay translators alone.

I'll refrain from delving into the Netflix paradigm beyond saying that the subtitling supply chain is getting longer and longer, on account of wider globalization (more languages) and consequently growing project complexity. As the video subtitling supply chain grows longer, it includes an increasing population of greedy in-betweens. IMHO this is what is driving video translation rates down.


 

Robert Edison  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2017)
Japanese to English
Try to get more. Apr 13

I just happen to be doing some subtitles for $4 per minute on the side. I've been doing it for a couple of months to see if it was feasible. It isn't. It's terrible. I calculated that I am making just under one cent per Japanese character (Japanese to English). It isn't worth it at all. Jose is absolutely right. There are middle men scraping off the top at every level. The show I am doing right now is going to be on Netflix, and for my language pair they pay $20 per video minute to the vendors. How can they justify only giving the translator 20% of that? Needless to say, I am not doing any more work for them after I finish this project.

Don't feed the beast. They will lure you in with interesting projects, but it gets old really fast at these rates. I tried negotiating, but they wouldn't budge. It seems pretty set in stone with the Netflix vendors. I am not sure about the company you're dealing with, but it's worth a shot to negotiate.

[Edited at 2018-04-13 02:22 GMT]


 

subtitleinsider
United States
Hollywood studio rates Apr 14

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
I did some extensive translation work on feature films and TV series for a subtitling firm that was working directly for a major Hollywood studio. Pay was quite acceptable. Last news I had from them was that TV networks are now offering to pay less per minute for the entire subtitling job than they usually pay translators alone.

Re: Hollywood studios

Rates have come down from $20 per program minute about two decades ago all the way to:
-Fox (2016): $8.20 per minute ($7.98 for most languages, $7.00 for LAS and BPO, $9.00 for western and northern European languages)
-Sony (2016): $5.88 per minute (for programs over 150 minutes; flat rates for shorter programs; for example, $636 for 90-105 minutes)
-Universal (2017): $4.74 per minute (with a low of $2.10 per minute for Portuguese Iberian, and a high of $8.40 per minute for German)

Japanese is an outlier, as that language alone has been able to somewhat hold out against the constant rate cuts. For example, for Japanese Fox pays $24.00 per minute, Universal $12.00 per minute, and Sony $7.00 per minute (over 150 minutes, with $735 for 90-105 minutes).

All rates include the creation of an English spotting template file, which for multi-language orders typically adds a cost of $0.50 to $1.00 per minute per language on top of the translator and reviewer cost.

A good estimate is that a subtitle translator, using a proper spotting template file (text, timing, formatting) as a base, can create quality translation for 30 to 60 minutes of programming per 8-hour day.

Assuming a subtitle vendor pays 2/3 of what the studios pay them to the translator and reviewer pair, at a ratio of about 3:1 (50% to the translator and 16.6% to the reviewer), a Portuguese Iberian translator could make $31.50 to $63.00 per day translating a Universal movie for a subtitle vendor, or $4 to $8 per labor hour.

Not sure what rate you were paid by the subtitle vendor, but those studio rates seem pretty low for the creation of a product that will allow them to expand their market to many more millions of individuals.


hikarumm
 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:52
Member (2013)
English to Russian
- Apr 15

subtitleinsider wrote:
A good estimate is that a subtitle translator, using a proper spotting template file (text, timing, formatting) as a base, can create quality translation for 30 to 60 minutes of programming per 8-hour day.


Some interesting info in your post, but this is definitely not a good estimate.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
On estimates Apr 15

Max Deryagin wrote:

subtitleinsider wrote:
A good estimate is that a subtitle translator, using a proper spotting template file (text, timing, formatting) as a base, can create quality translation for 30 to 60 minutes of programming per 8-hour day.


Some interesting info in your post, but this is definitely not a good estimate.


In my days working on feature films, translating EN>PT with pre-timed templates, a couple of years ago, I was making close to $5 per minute, COD. No breach here, as the - high-quality demanding - client ever since has admitted that they can't offer such rates any more.

The time it took me to do it varied significantly. One 90-min movie took me less than a day, though its dialogue load was absolutely normal. Another one, 130 minutes long, took me three entire days.

The fact that we charge per minute of playing time is a matter of using an average for convenience. It's the only way to enable the client to safely budget their project, and it disregards the translator's efficiency (which is of no concern to the client).


hikarumm
 

jbjb  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 07:52
Member (2005)
Estonian to English
+ ...
pretty much Apr 15

Pretty much the same nowadays, Sony still pays per film (set price for 3 different lengths), others by the minute.
And they get back much of the cost when they sell the translations for use in Netflix, Amazon etc.
In fact the studios might make a profit on the translations after they manage to sell one film to several VOD services.

Not so sure about the English template cost, as the studios order 40-55 languages from one vendor, so the per language cost of the master template should just be a few cents.


 

subtitleinsider
United States
Titles per minute Apr 16

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
The time it took me to do it varied significantly. One 90-min movie took me less than a day, though its dialogue load was absolutely normal. Another one, 130 minutes long, took me three entire days.

The fact that we charge per minute of playing time is a matter of using an average for convenience. It's the only way to enable the client to safely budget their project, and it disregards the translator's efficiency (which is of no concern to the client).

There are two main elements that go into how long the subtitle translation process takes: volume and difficulty. For example, drama content has an average of 10 titles per minute, documentary content 14, and comedy content 16. For documentary content additional time is required to do proper research, where for comedy content additional time is required to to translate humor. The two elements combined can make translating a documentary or comedy require double the amount of time a drama of similar length would take. (Often not taken into account: shorter programming has a higher overhead-per-minute ratio for non-translation activities like e-mail correspondence, billing, etc.)

I understand the need of clients to set budgets based on runtime rather than the hours spent per individual translator, but that rate structure ought to take genre into account.


hikarumm
 

subtitleinsider
United States
commodity vs craft Apr 16

Max Deryagin wrote:

subtitleinsider wrote:
A good estimate is that a subtitle translator, using a proper spotting template file (text, timing, formatting) as a base, can create quality translation for 30 to 60 minutes of programming per 8-hour day.


Some interesting info in your post, but this is definitely not a good estimate.

I should have written "must be able to create in order to at least try and make a living" rather than "can create".

In the past, when subtitling was still treated as a craft rather than a commodity, translators were both given the time and compensation to allow them to watch the movie, discuss double entendres with their family at the dinner table, and carefully review their own work before finally sending the file as a finished product. With the rates and turnaround requirements of today, I think subtitle translators can barely type out the content fast enough to meet the client's deadline and their own financial needs.


 

Jocelin M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:52
English to French
+ ...
I've tried it Apr 19

dorthe pedersen wrote:

I was wondering if any of you have tried to negotiate rates with success?


...but not with success. So far, I've been refused by three agencies when I tried to negotiate my rates. What they offered was between 2 and 4 dollars each time, and I wanted a bare minimum of 5€, which is roughly 6.20$. Every single one of them told me that it wasn't the "standard" rate and that they wouldn't accept to pay more, not even a cent.
Some people here say that there are good companies that pay decently, even as much as 10$/€ per minute of video. In a bit more than three years of looking for new clients every day, I've never come across one of those good agencies. And when you ask for the name of those agencies, people suddenly go quiet so... I'm not even sure they exist, to be honest.

[Modifié le 2018-04-19 03:53 GMT]

[Modifié le 2018-04-19 03:54 GMT]


 

Wojciech_
Poland
Local time: 06:52
English to Polish
+ ...
Indeed Apr 19

Jocelin M wrote:

dorthe pedersen wrote:

I was wondering if any of you have tried to negotiate rates with success?


...but not with success. So far, I've been refused by three agencies when I tried to negotiate my rates. What they offered was between 2 and 4 dollars each time, and I wanted a bare minimum of 5€, which is roughly 6.20$. Every single one of them told me that it wasn't the "standard" rate and that they wouldn't accept to pay more, not even a cent.
Some people here say that there are good companies that pay decently, even as much as 10$/€ per minute of video. In a bit more than three years of looking for new clients every day, I've never come across one of those good agencies. And when you ask for the name of those agencies, people suddenly go quiet so... I'm not even sure they exist, to be honest.

[Modifié le 2018-04-19 03:53 GMT]

[Modifié le 2018-04-19 03:54 GMT]


Dear Jocelin,

I came to thinking the same a long time ago. It seems like a perfect way to undermine the competition. Those people tell you "don't accept anything under 6 dollars/euro!" and when you follow their advice, the companies think you're crazy, stop talking to you... and then those "good advisors" have more jobs for themselves.

Now the facts. All the major subtitle providers are also Netflix vendors and their rates in my language vary from 2 to 4.5 USD. NO EXCEPTIONS. Perhaps it's different for your language pair, but I doubt it. If, in addition to Hermes test you sign up with one of the vendors who are Netflix paymasters (the names have been mentioned here before), you may apply for taking Netflix Backlot QC test, which consists of translation of subtitles and detailed QC, including technical aspects, such as correcting subtitles on shot changes. If you pass it, you will be offered a good rate and, presumably lots of work on their own titles. That's it.

So, my word of good advice: if someone offers you 4 dollars per minute, accept it and in the meantime try finding another provider that pays more. But don't be lured by the arguments that you should negotiate hard and not go below, say, 6 dollars.

[Edited at 2018-04-19 08:58 GMT]


 

Jocelin M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:52
English to French
+ ...
Thnaks for the tip Apr 19

[quote]Wojciech_ wrote:

[quote]Jocelin M wrote:

dorthe pedersen wrote:

SNIP


Hello Wojciech_ !

Thanks for your advice, I'll try to find this Backlot QC test, although I hope it's handled better than their subtitling test, which was a mess (and I even recognized the nonsense of the test from a test done some time before that for another agency).
As for negotiation, I'll still try to negotiate whenever a rate doesn't seem fare (so, pretty much always). Like everyone here, I have a -lot- of passion for my work, but it's insane to not even make minimum wage for a job where people studied for years. Sometimes I wonder what subtitlers' associations do.


 

Jeannette Issa  Identity Verified
Lebanon
Member (2016)
English to French
+ ...
Mixed rates Apr 22

I have been active in the subtitling business for about 18 months for the English to French (France) pair, and I can say that there are various offered rates, between USD 4.00 - 12.00 per video minute, without counting the India-based companies who are offering peanuts. I usually work on the basis of an English template, so no changes or very few time changes are necessary to adapt the language.

But we should take into consideration that I work on videos that are not necessarily feature films, therefore there is a lot of text sometimes in case of conferences or other tutorials, for which the average rate is USD 8.00 per minute.

The volume that is possible to subtitle also depends on the subject and type of video, but it is possible to reach 60 minutes per day after having acquired enough experience.


 
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