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Why add subtitles to your videos?

For some years now, with the expansion of streaming and the success of VOD platforms, the need for subtitling has increased. This phenomenon has been amplified with the recent pandemic. Subtitles are useful for entertainment, but also essential for marketing communication and business meetings. What is the benefit of subtitling videos for a company or institution?

What to do if you need to translate an audiovisual document? In this article, Cultures Connections exposes for you three essential points about subtitling:

– The industries that use subtitles

– The advantages of subtitling your multimedia content

– The particularities of the audiovisual translator’s work

For a start, the audiovisual translator’s role is still poorly known. How do you create quality subtitles? Do you know what services are included in subtitling? There are several steps involved in creating subtitles:

  • Transcription: The words heard in the multimedia content copied in written form;
  • Adaptation of the subtitles: This step can be carried out at the same time as the transcription, and implies a synthetic reformulation since everything that is said orally cannot be displayed on a screen in the subtitles;
  • Timing: The input and output times of the subtitles must be synchronized with the images and the sound, so that the result is reliable and there is no lag with the people speaking;
  • Subtitle translation: This is the most important step, since it’s the final translated and adapted message;
  • Embedding and checking: In the end, the subtitles are embedded in the video and the synchronization with the video is checked.

Audiovisual translators use professional software for accurate subtitling.

1. The industries that use subtitles

To begin with, many industries use audiovisual translation. Among them are:

  • Marketing/Advertising: To increase their visibility and audience, more and more companies are deciding to subtitle the videos on their websites or social networks;
  • Video games: All video games are subtitled, allowing players to understand the story and the instructions of the game;
  • Cinema and Television: For films, series, documentaries, programs or festivals;
  • Tourism: Tourism boards, tour operators and travel agencies have their presentation videos adapted into several languages to draw in and entice tourists from all over the world;
  • Education: Universities and international schools have audiovisual translators adding subtitles to courses, training sessions and websites.

2. The advantages of subtitling your multimedia content

Subtitling gives you the freedom to view audiovisual content at any time. For example, with subtitles you can:

  • Create versions in foreign languages of your media as faithfully as possible;
  • Make your multimedia content accessible to the largest possible audience;
  • Give access to your video content on your website or on YouTube in all circumstances, without the need to put the sound on (transportation, library). Users can automatically read what they see on the screen. Most videos on social networks work with automatic playback;
  • Strengthen your referencing on the internet: Google captures the essential keywords of your video, which ensures a better ranking in the search engine;
  • Help your audience memorizing your content with the addition of subtitles, reading contributing to a better learning;
  • Save money, because it’s a service that costs less than dubbing —a practice that consists in replacing the original language of a video by another language by hiring an actor;
  • Support the inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing people: It means providing specific subtitles which indicate not only the spoken words but also information on the music played and the background noises (a fire alarm, a door slamming, the horn of a car, fireworks…).

Don’t hesitate to have your videos translated!

3. The particularities of the audiovisual translator’s work

However,  it is a necessity to call upon a translator who is an expert in audiovisual translation —a subtitler— because this is a specialized skill. A translation agency will provide you with a professional trained in audiovisual translation. So, what are the particularities of the subtitler’s job?

The audiovisual translator must pay attention to several aspects when subtitling a video:

  • Time and space constraints on the screen. The translator must necessarily know how to mark time, so as to introduce the subtitles synchronously and avoid any discrepancy;
  • Some expressions must be localized, i.e. adapted in the target language, so that the meaning is not lost. Any cultural differences must be adapted;
  • Subtitles must be short, understandable, and read like natural sentences;
  • Every gesture and word must be analyzed to remain true to the context of the video.

Now you understand that subtitling cannot be improvised. If companies are sometimes tempted to use amateur subtitlers or automatic subtitling to save money, they often lose out. Videos with poor translation or badly done subtitles give a bad brand image and are quickly ridiculed on social networks. Since the goal is to be understood by your current or potential customers, it is best to avoid the temptation of a cheap but sloppy translation. It is crucial to use an experienced translator who is a subtitle specialist, and has the necessary background to create good subtitles.

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This article has been written by Laura Le Galliot

A Master's student in Translation and Interpretation, Laura is doing her apprenticeship in translation, writing and vendor management at Cultures Connection.