5. More subtle things that make good subs….

These are just personal opinions…^^;;;  But before I was a subber, I watched a lot of subbed things from Chinese movies to anime…  And certain things just make subs more legible.   I think the goal should be to make the subs easy to read so that the viewer almost forgets that he’s reading subs….

Here are some of my pet peeves that I try to avoid…

1.  Illegible fonts.  Either fonts that are too fancy to read quickly… or too small fonts.  Also, there was a time when all these Chinese movies had white subtitles… and they would be invisible if there were white background.   x___x   If I hadn’t loved “Once Upon a Time in China” so much, my eyes wouldn’t have been so strained watching them… x____x

Generally prefer fonts that are 18-24 point font… (18 for 4:3 screen and 22-24 for widescreen).   Simple fonts like Tahoma or Ariel are good.   Actually, some simple fonts with serifs are good too;  the serifs actually makes it easier to read quickly.  I find Serifa BT to be quite good…

And the subs should have a colour that stands out clearly with a contrasting colour for a border, so that it’s always legible.

2.  Long lines of subs.   I think the length of each line should be…usually less than 2 lines if possible.  Of course, I’m not able to do this all the time.  Some people just use really long sentences.  x___x  And I don’t like breaking up the sentences, especially because Korean has a different grammatical order than English and it feels funny if I break up the sentence.  But I do try.  I don’t want to really cover up half the screen with subs… and also, short lines give you a sense that you’re getting the translations more in real-time.

3.  Too short timing..   You need to give readers enough time to read the subs…   This is really an issue when translating Korean to English.   Korean dialogue will have more incomplete sentences and things taken in context than English..which means that 1 second of dialogue can take two lines to translate.  -_-;;;  Obviously, most people have trouble reading the 2 lines in 1 second.  If I am able to, I try to make the subs as short as possible while getting the message across…  Also, if someone else isn’t saying something right away afterwards, I try to leave the subs on a little longer if possible.   Even if it’s 1 second of dialogue, if it takes 2 seconds for the next person to talk, I’ll leave the subs on for 2 seconds…  It’s not always possible…but really, pausing the video every 2 seconds to finish reading the subtitles is not fun.  -_-;;;

4.   Translating all the captions…   This is somewhat related to above topic about timing.   Korean variety shows have a LOT of captions.  Some of these captions are completely….useless, I find.   Or just repeats what’s said for those hard of hearing (or if there’s a lot of background noise).

Since people reading subs are reading, they shouldn’t need captions to repeat what’s said on top of that.  I don’t translate all the captions.   I only translate the ones that I think is funny/adds to the show… and also only if there’s enough time to read them.   If I have two seconds of sub, I want viewers to be reading what’s said by the people on the show, not being distracted by caption put on by some techie using a computer.   So if there’s a caption on at the same time as a dialogue, usually, I’ll just sub the dialogue unless the caption was really short or funny or helpful in understanding the situation.

5. Too much adaptation vs too literal.  This is really difficult.   I don’t know how to find the balance…x___x  I try, but sometimes, I’ll watch my own subs and go… “uh… I was a bit off.”  Or I’ll go, “I put in too much explanation, trying to be too literal.”–>and thus broke my rule about giving viewers enough time to read subs without pausing.   x___x  But when you’re translating a language that’s so….  different…from English…  I guess, it’s just something I have to keep working on…

6.  Putting in the effort.  People don’t always talk clearly…and it’s sometimes hard to make out.  If I can’t make out something, I’ll try to listen to it at least 5 times…x_x and if I still don’t know, I’ll either write (can’t make out this part) or just omit it.  -_-;;;;  Not very professional, I know.   Sometimes, I think I heard it and sub it..and later listen to it again and realize it was off.  -_-;;; Ah, well.  What do you expect of amateur subs?   Actually, getting it wrong and realizing it afterwards only happens occasionally.   Maybe once every few thousand lines of subs.  ^^;;;;  Not being able to hear it and just omitting it probably happens more often.  But I do put in the effort.   And a lot of the times, you can tell what they’re saying if you turn up the volume and listen to it about 5 times.    So…I think doing the best you can is always good.

In relation to that, I do make an effort to use Korean-English dictionary.  A lot.  -_-;;   Many times, I would know what the Korean means…but when you’re going back and forth between languages, sometimes, your brain just gets stuck and you can’t find the right expression.   Thesauruses are useful too.    I also use Wikipedia a lot…to find out how to spell peoples’ names, etc.

7.  Bad grammar and spelling.   I’m totally guilty of this one.  Usually, I’m in such a hurry to get the subs out, I only watch it once and fix only the obvious errors.  -_-;;;  English is my second language and I still get confused with some things…like, “If I were” vs. “If I was.”   I think the first version is right but why does the second version feel more natural? -_-;;;

I still think my grammar and spelling is decent compared to an average American…so I’m kinda like… well… maybe if I were a professional and getting paid, I’ll put in the effort to get a beta.   At least, I put in enough effort to watch what I’ve subbed at least once before releasing it.  But if you’re really passionate about subbing, you should really get a beta to check your spelling and grammar over before releasing subs.  ^^


2 thoughts on “5. More subtle things that make good subs….

  1. Amazing tips that U have here
    Your tips is really perfect. Some times I read subs that use unique font so its hard to be read.
    Put effort. Thats great. But so sad for subber like me who only subbing my favorite show which no one want to subbing it for me T__T So I work alone with my sister as Quality Control (Check my Timing).
    And about number 7. Ahahh My English is horrible. I think Ur English is good. I still need time to translating my current subs into English. English is hard. lol

    Thx for this great blog. Hope U success with Ur subbing project

    Btw can U give Karaoke subbing tips too? I got trouble with that –;

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