Subtitles are everywhere in the age of global cinema and online video content, but how much do people really know about the text that appears on their screens? Well, hopefully, not too much, because the best subtitles should enhance the viewing experience and allow audiences to almost forget they are reading text at all.
To achieve this level of immersion, you have to understand the different types of subtitling services available and when to use them. This depends on the nature of your video, the platforms you publish it on and the intended target audiences.
Subtitles vs closed captions
The first distinction you need to make is the difference between subtitles and closed captions. With subtitles, you are providing text for the speech or dialogue in your footage, whereas closed captions also provide descriptions for important sounds that are relevant to the narrative – e.g. a phone ringing or someone knocking at the door.
So closed captions are a more effective option, if your goal is to make your footage accessible for a hard of hearing audience or people who simply want to watch with the volume turned down. This is especially important for films or creative productions where audio elements are an important part of the story.
If your aim is to simply provide text for spoken words (or your video simply doesn’t include important sounds), then subtitles will be perfectly effective and, in many cases, easier to comprehend than closed captions.
Monolingual subs vs translated subtitles
For the accessibility purposes described in the previous section, it is always a good practice to provide subtitles or closed captions for every audience. If you are only releasing your footage in the UK, then you may decide to only include English subtitles and launch your campaign.
Just keep in mind that 7.7% of the population in England and Wales don’t use English as their primary language.
If you are translating video for foreign-speaking audiences, then you are going to need a more comprehensive subtitling service.
First of all, you are going to need to think about video localisation to make sure that your footage is suitable for translation. Next, you need quality translators for every target language you want to provide subtitles for and, finally, the subtitlers themselves who are responsible for creating and adding the subs to your footage.
Unlike monolingual subs, creating effective multilingual subtitles is significantly more complex. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most challenging aspects of translation is that the length of words and sentences changes dramatically between languages. English is a relatively concise language and text can be 30% longer in other languages, which can result in lengthy text, longer reading times and syncing problems.
Unless you have got the right expertise on board, it is easy to end up with a mess of text on the screen that viewers will never be able to follow.
Speak to the experts early
The best thing you can do for any video campaign is to speak to subtitling experts as early as possible. They will be able to advise you on which type of subtitling service you need and how to shoot your footage in the best possible way for subtitles and even translation, if necessary.
You can get this kind of advice by speaking to our language experts.