Silence speaks for itself: the rise of subtitling

Silence speaks for itself: the rise of subtitling

Once reserved for foreign art-house films, subtitles now reach a much wider audience thanks to their ability to adapt to a range of contexts, audiences and media:

  • closed-captioning and audio-description for the deaf and hard-of hearing, who make up 10% of the world’s population
  • targeting a growing international consumer market with ease
  • allowing you to sneakily watch videos on your commute, or even at work (don’t worry, your secret’s safe with us!)

Cisco, a world leader in digital transformation, estimates that video content will account for 82% of internet traffic by 2021.

In addition to increasing Google search traffic, videos with subtitles record much higher views on social media than any other content. But it’s not only on social media that we find subtitles rising in popularity; businesses have also jumped on the bandwagon, increasingly opting for “silent” communication with their customers as well as their employees.

Simpler to share, subtitles are also less costly since they can be integrated into a single video.

In practice, subtitling a video is not quite the same as “standard” translation, requiring technical rather than stylistic skills in order to meet a set of specific constraints. To communicate effectively, specialised translators have to take into account the following factors:

  • time-coding: providing a “start” and “end” time for the subtitle to appear on screen, corresponding to the audio
  • summarising: adapting the translation to fit the character limit specific to each language
  • rhythm: ensuring the subtitles appear on screen long enough for the brain to register them, according to average reading speeds calculated by characters per second (CPS)

For example, for the same sequence of audio, English will be shorter to read than Russian. The translator will therefore have to readjust the reading speed by simplifying, redistributing or repositioning the lines of subtitles.

Contact the team at Alto International and we will be happy to provide a quote for your subtitling needs!

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