How to make a start in subtitling?
Thread poster: Rene Kottke (X)

Rene Kottke (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:01
German to English
+ ...
Oct 15, 2007

Hi everybody,

I'm a translator in Germany and I'd like to do some subtitling wrk. Only problem, I don't, know how to do get some ork in this field. Oh, it's actually not the only problem, I also don't know whether or not there are special requirements you don't automatically comply to just becaue you're a freelance tanslator. Could someone help me get some insights on that topic.

Thans a lot in advance



simona dachille  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:01
Italian to English
look in past forums... there's plenty of info Oct 15, 2007

look in past forums... there's plenty of info


Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:01
French to Spanish
+ ...
Beware. Oct 15, 2007

Subtitling or translation FOR subtitling?
Two very different things people not always understand.
Translation FOR subtitling has it's requierements, of course. Please see the ad hoc forum right here.
Subtitling itself has almost nothing to do with translation: it's a technical process.
Good luck.

[Editado a las 2007-10-15 22:40]

[Editado a las 2007-10-15 22:46]


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:01
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Three successive steps Oct 16, 2007

The subtitling process involves three sucessive steps, which may be carried out by one, two, or three people.

1. Translation

The key variable in the process (I'm not discussing the language pair involved, not the type of film, viz. epic, technical, etc.) for some translators is whether the original script is provided or not. Some translators simply won't touch it unless the script is provided. Others will charge a lot more if it isn't. And there are those (my case) who simply don't care.

As I specialize in business/technical/training films, I usually get a script in one out of every ten films I have to translate. And among these that come with a script, only on one out of five it actually matches the final edit.

2. Spotting / cueing / time-coding / marking in&out

This requires a sesquilingual operator. One has to at least understand what's being said in the soundtrack, and what has been translated, to mark (using specialized software - formerly it was hardware) when each subtitle should pop onscreen, and when it should go off.

3. Burning the subtitles

There are two basic ways of doing this, depending on the desired output.

One is burning the subtitles on the frames themselves, which produces a result identical to what we used to get with film or VHS (and all other tape formats). The only way then to watch the film withOUT subtitles will be by covering the lower part of the screen.

The other, that came to be with DVD is to have an overlay video with the subtitles, which is shown in sync with the main movie. This allows a DVD to have one film and up to AFAIK 32 different subtitle files from which one can be selected at a time.

As long as one operator can set it up properly, this is done mostly by unattended hardware running specialized software. Depending on the machinery 'muscle', this can take a lot of time.

Finally, taking the original question, this market has one of the widest price ranges one can think of.

The operations required from the outsourced vendor may vary. My corporate end-clients want a finished DVD. Those who are video producers as well just want the translation - they'll take on from there.

In any case, the wide price gamut runs from Disney-like companies for whom perfection is the minimum required, to distributors of low-end films whose only requirement is rock-bottom rates.

So, if you do any or all of the three steps above quick 'n cheap, you'll have a lot of work, often with somewhat disgusting, boring, or at least disappointing content. As your rates go up, you'll get progressively better stuff. If your rates are high, you'll find yourself working on a masterpiece now and then.


Rene Kottke (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:01
German to English
+ ...
Many thanks!!! Oct 16, 2007

Thanks for all your comments. Naturally enough, I wuld only be able to do the translation step of subtitling, but how to approach whome? Well, I'll giv it a try somehow, but I was pretty uch taken to the grund by comments tha the rates for transating subtitles is as low as it can be.


United Kingdom
Local time: 03:01
English to German
+ ...
Don't bother Oct 16, 2007

My advice... Just enjoy films in your free time and you'll have twice the fun laughing at the subtitles.


simona dachille  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:01
Italian to English
get work experience Oct 16, 2007

I started off by going to work as an in house translator for a subtitling company. I was on a low wage but then once I'd learnt how to use the translation programmes, my wages increased. I am now freelance and earn my living by translating films, nothing else...I wouldn't touch a technical translation with a barge-pole!!I suggest you do the same. Good luck.
PS An interest in films is required!


juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:01
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Requirements Oct 19, 2007

Feature films, TV films and programmes are usually subtitled and translated into several languages at once.

The subtitling company (hint) provides the translators with proper subtitles in the original language, spotted, time cued, etc. and they translate them into their languages.

You still have to learn the rules and conform to the constraints of subtitling, which may vary in accordance with the requirements of the client.

For this kind of work your understanding of slang, colloquialism and idioms has to be considerable, otherwise you end up the butt of the jokes about subtitles, as Olaf hinted. You may even find your mistakes ridiculed on the internet.

Your spelling has to be impeccable, or you have to spend the time to correct your work to aim at 100% precision. You cannot deliver files with such mistakes. Everybody is human, and mistakes happen, but you will not last if you are not highly reliable on that score. Nobody has the time and money to sit by a spellchecker to do the corrections for you, and spelling mistakes are horrendously obvious on the screen.

Do not think that you can do it at your leisure. To make a reasonable living, I don't think you can afford to spend more than two days on a feature film.

I should have started with the warning: even if you are translating blockbusters, it is still relatively badly paid.


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