Everybody’s clamoring for authenticity in media these days. Even though dubbing reigns supreme (you lazy oafs!), subtitles are slowly catching up. In a truly globalized market, a growing number of people want to experience the true flavor of foreign productions. If you’re a part of this growing movement — and want to make a buck to boot — you may want to consider subtitling jobs.
And hey, regardless of whether you’re into video games, film, or animation, this trend still applies. Sure, many will prefer to hear their own language due to the immediacy and familiarity. Yet, many others still will prefer the original performances. Nowadays, any production worth its salt will provide a variety of subtitling/caption options.
If you think this is just about language, though, don’t rush to conclusions! In fact, subtitles do much more than just provide easy-to-read translations for audiovisual media. Their magic doesn’t quite end there; they also create accessibility for people with disabilities. But we’ll go into more detail later.
Let’s take it from the top!
What Are Subtitles?
Subtitles are text transcriptions — displayed onscreen — of what the characters are saying, in sync with the original audio. While the character speaks, the subtitles appear below with a perfect transcription. These types of subtitles are usually known as closed captions.
But, subtitles are often part of the world of audiovisual translation. Let’s say you’re watching a TV show in Danish, but you only speak English. If your cable or streaming provider has done their homework, you’ll have the option to switch on subtitles in your language. These subtitles actually have a few advantages over a total dub effort.
- They preserve the original cultural identity of the product.
- They’re easy, cheap, and quick to produce. You could conceivably have a full episode of a show subtitled in less than a day.
Subtitles also have some inherent limitations. I’ll let our article “Swimming Through the Sea of Subtitling Services” take it from here:
This is a form of translation is also constrained by time and space. With a maximum limit of 70 characters, subtitles are known as a subordinate translation. That means that achieving a perfect translation may sometimes come second to displaying readable amounts of text. Subtitles can appear from one to six seconds on screen, depending on the total word count. The average reading speed is 3 words per second; that means that 2 lines and 70 characters allow for a maximum of 12 words.
This is definitely stuff to keep in mind if you’re thinking about applying for subtitling jobs. If your thing is language perfection over function, then subtitles are going to cause you a few headaches.
Some More Subbing Facts
Subtitling jobs aim to be as unintrusive as possible. The common operating procedure is to center them at the bottom of the screen. The other factor is to choose the correct typography (something clear and not flashy) and color. Yeah, we’ve had the same issue with white subtitles on white backgrounds and cursed at our TVs too. During some sections, letters with borders or black backgrounds may be necessary.
There’s also the matter of synchronizing subtitles with scene and shot changes. Sometimes, if a subtitle persists between shots, it could lead to the viewer being distracted. Subtitles typically get over this hurdle by having the subtitle appear a few milliseconds later.
Parts of Subtitling Jobs
Now, subtitling is not just about writing down a translation and calling it a day. A good subtitle needs to follow a standardized process. This could be done by as little as one very qualified person or a whole team.
- Spotting. The subtitling expert needs to correctly identify the audio entrance and exit times. Then, there are timing issues with camera shots to keep in mind as well.
- Translation (localization and adaptation). This means translating the original script and adapting it to the target culture. Not all cultures are equal, and idiomatic phrases and references that are common in one may be weird in another. Perfectly appropriate jokes in one context may be super offensive in another, so a good translator has to always be on the lookout. This part of subtitling entails adapting the subbed content to the time constraints and limits of the format.
- Correction. As much as we all love to do a perfect job on the first go, we often have to proofread and extensively correct everything. Subtitling is no different.
- Simulation. Having a great translation is all fine and dandy. But then, one has to run tests to make sure the subtitles look good and are readable by the average person. Remember: the average reading speed is only 3 words per second.
Subtitles and Accessibility
Now, above we talked about captions. As you now know, not all subtitles are created the same. Captions, transcription, and subtitles are all part of the same family, but they don’t serve the same function. When looking for subtitling jobs, you should know which is which.
One of the benefits I mentioned above is that subtitles can bring in a much wider crowd in social media and other online platforms. Why? Let’s take a look at this paragraph from our article “How Subbing Gets You Views”:
Did you know that 85% of videos on Facebook are watched on mute? And only two-thirds of videos on Snapchat are played with sound. Having subtitles in place is also a way for people to watch your content all the way through when they can’t have sound on.
What’s more, subtitling is not just about a translation video strategy. It’s also about providing access to hard-of-hearing or hearing-impaired viewers who could not enjoy your content otherwise.
Also, reading and auditory stimuli can often be combined. That means that subtitles can enhance comprehension. Whether the subtitles are in the reader’s original language or not, they’ll probably have an easier time following the plot, or the gist of the video, if they can reinforce their understanding by reading. This can be a blessing with mumbly dialogue, scenes with heavy background noise, or with a lot of technical jargon.
So, now you know that subtitling jobs are not just about one thing. They actually cover several bases, and all are important. You can either focus on one of them or all of them. Of course, you have to be a capable translator as well as a transcriptionist.
Where Do You Go For Subtitling Jobs?
There’s plenty of work out there on the internet. What’s more, right now there are plenty of dedicated freelancing platforms for the enterprising subtitler. Of course, not everyone is at the same level, right? Whenever there’s an excess of offers, there’s an excess of bad vendors. How do you stand out from the pack?
Freelancing platforms are great in that they allow your customers to do the talking. Sure, at first you may have no actual way to differentiate yourself from the plethora of other guys and gals offering “Premium subtitling services.” But, as you go along, and if you’re an enterprising professional, you’ll find that all those five-star reviews start adding up. But still, that’s not the only thing that’s going to get you noticed.
One thing that many freelancers struggle with is finding quality jobs. I always advise them to try holding off on applying to every job posting they see on Upwork or PeoplePerHour. You could also try working with a subtitling-only agency if you’ve got experience.
What’s the big idea? Well, sometimes it’s not just about there being too many freelancers, but too many buyers looking for low prices instead of quality. That’s no patch on people trying to get services online at a good price. But what it comes down to is that not every buyer is discerning, as the myriad of bad subtitles, translations, dubs, and copywriting online is certainly a testament to.
That means that it’ll fall on you, the brave freelancer, to choose customers you think are worth it. Once you make a name for yourself working subtitling jobs that actually advance your career, you’ll find both the quality and quantity of your work ratcheting up. The benefits? You’ll also avoid stretching yourself thin and get to keep your peace of mind.
The Easy Way
The easy way, though, and the ideal mix between an agency and freelancing platform, is going with Bunny Studio. Not only do we have subtitling jobs up the wazoo, but we’ve also got something few platforms can claim: quality clients. Gone are the days of having to hustle endlessly for a job. In a way, it’s like that bit in the Mission Impossible movies:
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”
We provide the jobs, and you work with us if, and when you’re available. There’s just so much stuff to do in the world of subtitling and transcription, though, that you’ll be hard-pressed to pass on a job. Other benefits of being one of the Bunnies include:
- We screen our clients and our freelancers. Nothing gets by us, so there are no surprises. Only the cream of the crop may enter.
- We focus on turnaround and we liaise with a capable QA team around the clock. We’ll make sure you only deliver your best work.
- We offer very competitive, but fair rates. That means that you won’t have to go around panhandling. You get paid a sizable chunk of what the client pays.
- Great clients mean you get good reviews that matter. What’s the use of getting 300 reviews from people who are barely literate and wouldn’t be able to tell a good translation/subtitle from a broken-down carburetor? We make sure that our jobs are fulfilling, rewarding, and worth it.
So, if you want to sidestep all of the annoying stuff about freelancing, consider giving the subtitling jobs at Bunny Studio a try. We’ll make sure you feel right at home.