Subtitling Guidelines

Closed Captioning vs Subtitling

Closed Captioning Closed captioning is required by law for North-America broadcasters (FCC and CRTC). The captions are meant to display the program audio content through text and symbols. Typically, television captions will consist of voice information (writing what is being said) and non-verbal audio cues important to the story like : “strong wind blowing” ¬†or “door slams shut”. Viewer have the option to activate or de-activate the closed caption display. The captioning information is either directly embedded into the video […]

Subtitle Content & Translation

Great subtitle translations use natural language to translate the ideas communicated on-screen, in as few words as possible. Natural Language Novice subtitle translators tend to translate verbatim everything said on-screen. This leads to awkward phrasing and hard-to-read subtitles that are often too long. An experienced subtitle translator will distill the essence of on-screen communication into translated natural language. This means re-interpreting expressions, grammar, structure, phrasing , cultural references and word-play into the viewers everyday language. Don’t subtitle everything Often audio […]

Subtitle On-Screen Positioning

FOR TELEVISION BROADCAST: – HDTV title-safe is set at 90% of screen area, and my preference is to set subtitles just above this 90% title safe line. – Subtitles should be centered-justified and centered on-screen at all times. – Horizontally, subtitles should stay within the 11:9 screen area to allow for side-graphics – Line spacing should be as close as possible without touching or feeling too close – 2 subtitle line maximum, if you can’t fit it in, make a […]

Subtitle On-Screen Timing

The basic rule is… enough time to read, but not too much to distract! LENGTH Minimum length: for a short one-word subtitle like “Yes”, “What?”, etc. the timing should not be less than 1/2 second on-screen. If the audience hasn’t seen on-screen subtitles for some time and you start with a very short subtitle, you’ll want to leave the subtitle on-screen 2-seconds so that they can get their bearings and actually look to the bottom of the screen and read […]

Subtitle Fonts

In considering the right font for your subtitles, you should prioritize: Legibility The font will be display small. Only choose a sans-serif font (no little lines on the ends of characters). Computer compatibility When considering operating system & editing system compatibility, choose a font that is compatible across with both Windows and Mac operating systems and can be read properly by your editing software. One of my favorite fonts for subtitling was Open Sans, but I had to stop using […]

Subtitles for Cinema – Coming soon