A Simple Guide to Choosing a Subtitling and Captioning Service

Subtitling and captioning are not quite the same thing but are related when in the context of being used in videos. It is important to choose a professional subtitling service when your video is to be released in places where people do not speak the same language as those in the film script or are deaf.

What is a subtitle?

Subtitles are short summaries of what someone is saying which are displayed clearly at the bottom of a video. Ideally, they appear just when needed, i.e. not too early and not too late, and are long enough for viewers to get the message, i.e. follow the speech or utterances of the characters in the video. Subtitles may be in the same language as the language used by the characters in the video or different. Subtitles that are composed in the same language help to provide an overview or précis of each person’s speech. This is basically to cater to those people who find it hard to hear or are deaf. They may also be turned on (if available) in certain circumstances when an audio version of the video is not suitable, e.g. if used in a library or educational institution and earphones are not available.

When a video is released outside of the country where the video was made and an audience who does not speak that language is targeted, then subtitles are typically translated into the relevant language. Very popular films and documentaries, for example, may have dozens of different versions of subtitles, each available for a different audience.

What is captioning?

Captions are typically very short words or phrases used to highlight a part of a video or documentary. Like subtitles, they may be used whenever someone who is hard of hearing or deaf is watching the video or when it is not acceptable for there to be sound. Captions, like subtitles, are typically translated when the video is intended for audiences who don’t speak the language of the characters in it.

Why is there a need for professional subtitling services?

There are two major challenges faced by subtitling services. The first is making the subtitle fit the actual speech or sounds heard in the video. The second is when the subtitle is translated. The second challenge is then added to the first challenge!

The first challenge involves knowing how to simplify what is being said without leaving out the main message. By simplification, it is common for a subtitle not to occupy more than a single sentence; otherwise, by the time someone has read the subtitle, the video has already progressed further, leaving the person watching well behind. Also, the subtitle has to appear on the screen in a suitable place and be of the font, color, and size that is required by the video maker. The subtitle also has to appear on the screen just at the right time and be replaced by another subtitle or disappear just at the right time. 

The fact that subtitles are frequently translated means that all of the challenges listed above also have to be taken into consideration when the translated version is devised. Text used in some languages, for example, may be of different lengths when translated, so the translator has to work with the subtitler so that the length of the subtitle, its appearance, and timing still fit in with the video.

How to choose the right subtitling and captioning services for your objectives

When you choose a professional subtitling and captioning service, you will want to know which languages they are familiar with and how much experience they have with the genre of video you need subtitled or captioned. Most videos, for example, use a lot of colloquial terms and slang, so the subtitler must be able to understand all of the nuances of these words and phrases and be able to convert them into equivalent subtitles in the target language without creating confusion or offense.

The Role of Audio Visual Translations for Localising TV Shows and Movies

What is audiovisual translation?

Streaming movies and shows from throughout the world are now more popular than ever before. The people who most often do the streaming don’t just seek out movies and TV shows from their own country and in their own language. There is an increase in demand for the streaming of audiovisual products from all around the world. However, the audience is seeking movies and TV shows that have been translated and localized to suit their own language and culture. It doesn’t necessarily have to be dubbed, but an accurate audiovisual translation (AVT) using subtitles will suit some audiences, especially if the content of the movie is compelling and interesting to view. AVT involves the process of transferring verbal communication of both video and audio footage into different languages.

Dubbing versus subtitling

There are many different types of audiovisual translation, but the commonest is dubbing and subtitling. Another word for dubbing is revoicing, which involves the audiovisual translation of all the spoken fragments found in a movie or a TV show into another language. The original audio is substituted by a supplementary recording which is mixed in with the original soundtrack. Generally, all of the background effects and noise remain intact.
One of the key challenges of dubbing is trying to get the translated revoicing to match the actors’ gestures and lip movements. This limits the translator’s freedom and requires more imagination and flexibility to try to get the actors’ mouth movements to match the new spoken language so that the audience feels the actors speaking are both natural and synchronized. Most movie watchers feel uncomfortable when the lip movements of the actors don’t fit in naturally with the words spoken.

Subtitling is often preferred

Instead of using dubbing as the audiovisual translation method, many companies decide to use subtitles for audiovisual localisations of movies and TV shows. Subtitling in countries such as Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands is preferred to dubbing. For the company responsible for translating the movie or TV show it is a lot cheaper to use subtitles than dubbing. Subtitling does require skills and the product marketer cannot afford to get the audiovisual translation of the subtitling wrong, as it would lead to reduced sales and viewing. This kind of audiovisual localization requires the translating of the audio component and putting written text into the targeted language. The subtitles often appear at the bottom of the screen while the original audio remains intact. Subtitling into another language is not an easy task as it involves the audiovisual translation of both expressions and colloquial and idiomatic language. There may be character restrictions to think about as some languages require more space than others.

Challenges for AVT

These are the following:

-fast turnaround;

-accurately translating colloquial language and dialogue;

-translating concepts and terms that are culturally accepted in the new language.

Audiences expect to be able to view Hollywood movies and ongoing episodes in TV shows in real-time. This means the translators have to provide a fast turnaround to meet these requirements. Audiovisual translation specializes in manipulating humor, puns, and colloquial language. This is because much of the spoken material in a movie or TV show involves informal dialogue. Jokes and nicknames are often a key part of movies, which gives translators quite a challenge to translate accurately.
Movies and TV series often involve specific environments so the audiovisual translator has to try to understand these environments in two languages. In the end, translators create an environment that mimics one of the viewers. This requires some localization of the language so that it fits well into the context.


Audiovisual translators are required to work with image subtitling, image processing, and audio software systems so they can perfect subtitling and dubbing.