5 Tips for a Successful Video Subtitling Project

Subtitles can be an effective and less expensive alternative to traditional voiceovers

How’s your budget looking for your next video project? If you’ve got an audience that speaks a different language, then you may be wondering how to keep costs down while translating your video. Instead of producing two (or more) different versions of a project, why not subtitle your video instead? Subtitling allows the same video to provide value to multiple audiences, while adding accessibility for the hearing-impaired.

Sold on subtitles? Don’t dive right in without learning the best practices of producing a successful subtitling project. Here are 6 tips to help your next video subtitle translation run smoothly!

1. Establish a Style Guide Up Front

If you’re working with an established translation service, then it’s likely they will have suggestions for how the subtitles should be punctuated and placed in the video. This should all be established up front, for consistency. That way, when you’re looking at the finished video, you won’t be irritated by inconsistent punctuation, capitalization, spacing, or timing.

2. Think About Timing and Space

Translations often take up more space in a video, since foreign languages use up to 30% more words than English to convey the same information. Consider this when making your video, and try to limit the length of the script to allow for translation. If possible, make sure your actors speak a little more slowly than normal to allow for subtitling to sync up with the speakers’ words.

3. Keep an Eye on Colloquialisms

Here’s the thing: direct translations aren’t always possible. Translating meaning is more important than duplicating the actual words, but it’s harder to make the meaning of colloquial expressions come across in subtitles. When writing your script, try to make the language as clear and simple as possible—it will help your translator convey your original meaning to your non-English speaking audience.

4. Don’t Overload the Screen

One of the challenges of completing a subtitling project successfully is finding room for the text without blocking important visual elements on the screen. Solution? Don’t put anything that matters where you’re planning to put the subtitles—typically at the bottom of the frame.

The same goes with lengthy subtitle text. Ideally, your subtitles will match up with the speakers’ voice, but regardless, they should not take up too much space. One line at a time is ideal, but you should never have more than two lines of text visible at a time.

5. Choose the Right Translation Partner

Subtitling doesn’t just require literal translations of the words themselves. It requires a translator who captures the meaning and message of the script, and can fit it into the required frames. Relying on a translation program or software results in confusing, unclear or even incorrect translations that won’t carry your message across to your audience.

You could hire a freelance translator, but it’s usually better to choose a translation service that offers turnkey solutions for subtitling in the languages you need. These services work with translators who have the experience, knowledge, and resources to bring you professional, high-quality subtitles for your video. To make the most of your video budget, don’t skimp on the quality of your subtitling translation—it could mean the difference between connecting with your non-English speaking audience and a missed opportunity.

Want more good advice regarding your next subtitling project?


Get a Free Consultation