We’ve looked to the BBC and WGBH to find some of the best practices for creating captions and subtitles. These should help you as you start captioning and translating.
7 Top Tips for Subtitling
Timing – captions should be timed to appear and disappear exactly when the words are spoken.
Translate meaning not words – sometimes it’s hard to get the meaning across when translating something from a different language. As noted in this fansubbing guide is that you don’t need to directly translate the words, just make sure to get the point across to the audience.
Maintain the speaker’s style of speech – taking into account register, nationality, era, etc. This will affect your choice of vocabulary.
e.g.register: mother vs mum; deceased vs dead; intercourse vs sex;
nationality: mom vs mum; trousers vs pants;
era: wireless vs radio; hackney cab vs taxi.
Inaudible speech – speech can be inaudible for different reasons, put up a label explaining the cause.
e.g. APPLAUSE DROWNS SPEECH
TRAIN DROWNS HIS WORDS
Sound effects – show sound effect captions in lowercase italics enclosed in parentheses. It’s important to to put sound effects in between parentheses, whether its background noise or the source of the sound.
e.g.(dog barking) (child screaming) (whispering) (giggling)
Don’t edit out words – like “but” “so” or “too”. They may be short but they are often essential for expressing meaning.
Direct quotes – direct quotes by public figures should be captioned verbatim whenever possible. Since what they’re saying is pivotal, try to get everything they’re saying, if unsure, have someone check over your work.
Hope these tips help as you’re creating captions and subtitles. If you have additional ideas, thoughts, or tips, we’d love to hear them in the comments.
Sources – WGBH – Media Access Group – Captioning FAQ, BBC Subtitling Editorial Guidelines, and a fansubbing guide.