Subtitles are one of the most popular solutions for video translation, but they are not always the best approach for every type of footage. As with any language service, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of subtitles, as well as the alternative approaches to translating video content.
In this article, we explore the pros and cons of video subtitling services as a translation solution, as well as improving accessibility and the viewing experience for same-language audiences.
Subtitling services generally involve one of two solutions. Either you add translated subtitles for foreign-language viewers or same-language subtitles to make videos accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences or to improve the viewing experience for same-language audiences.
Here are the key advantages of adding subtitles to video content:
- Accessibility: Subtitles improve accessibility by helping deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences understand the dialogue in the video content. Although, closed captions (CC) are more suitable for this purpose.
- Translation: Subtitles are one of the most effective ways to translate video content.
- Multilingual videos: Subtitles are an affordable and also the easiest option for translating one video into multiple languages.
- Reach: By improving accessibility and supporting multiple languages, your video content becomes capable of reaching wider audiences.
- Improved comprehension: Watching video content with same-language subtitles has been found to improve comprehension.
- Improved retention: Likewise, same-language subtitles have also been found to enhance the retention of on-screen information.
- SEO: Search engines like Google and platforms like YouTube prefer videos with subtitles and they can crawl the text in your subs files to understand the content of the relevant video more effectively.
- Silent viewing: Subtitles also provide a better experience for viewers who want to watch videos with the sound turned off.
- Viewer preference: Several surveys have found users prefer watching videos with subtitles turned on, even in the same language.
- Original audio: Subtitles preserve the original audio of your video content, which can be beneficial for authenticity or for retaining the performance of actors, interviewees, etc.
- A fast solution: Subtitles are relatively quick to create compared to other video translation solutions.
- Affordable: Subtitles are also more affordable than alternative video translation options, such as voice-overs and dubbing.
- ROI: The speed and affordability of subtitles allow you to optimise for multiple languages on a smaller budget, enhance the viewing experience – even with same-language subs – and maximise ROI from your video production budget.
If you are looking for an affordable approach to video translation, subtitling services are a good cost-effective option – especially if you need to cover multiple languages. However, translation isn’t the only reason to add subtitles to your video content, as they can enhance the viewing experience in several ways for same-language viewers, as briefly discussed above.
While subtitles have plenty of benefits, every language solution has its pros and cons. So let’s take a moment to discuss the disadvantages of subtitling compared to alternative solutions, such as captions and voice-overs.
- Synchronisation: Synchronising subtitles with dialogue can be a challenge if footage includes a lot of fast dialogue, multiple speakers or rapid edits.
- Potential distractions: Viewers have to read on-screen text, which could take their attention away from events or information in your footage.
- Text expansion: This is common, making translated text take up more on-screen space than the original language.
- Screen space: Fast speech, long sentences or multiple speakers can make footage challenging to subtitle.
- Text length: If subtitles are too long or change too quickly, audiences may have a hard time keeping up.
- Reading pace: It is generally faster to say a sentence than it is to read one, which can put viewers at a disadvantage.
- Omissions: To keep up with the pace of footage, subtitlers often have to make some tough choices and exclude unnecessary words, rephrase sentences or also quite often, cut sentences short.
If any of these issues mean subtitles are not a great option for you, you could look into alternative solutions, such as closed captions, voice-overs and dubbing. Like subtitles, none of these solutions is perfect, so it is a case of weighing up the pros and cons based on what your footage and audience needs.
If you need video subtitling services or want to learn more about other approaches to video translation, get in touch with us by filling out the form on our contact page.