THE RISE OF ONLINE VIDEO STREAMING SERVICES: Best Practices of How to Craft Better Online Film and Video Subtitles | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

THE RISE OF ONLINE VIDEO STREAMING SERVICES: Best Practices of How to Craft Better Online Film and Video Subtitles

15 May 2018

The rise of online video streaming services like Netflix has made it easier than ever for film fans to see movies in languages other than their own. This has triggered increased demand for subtitling services. Studios and independent filmmakers want their movies to reach as many viewers as possible. That means making sure they’re properly subtitled.

Many organisations adapt to different audiences by generating text-based caption files. Transcreation services are vital here, as translators rewrite copy and dialogue to ensure it ‘fits in’ with a multilingual target audience.

These files are unique in the sense that viewers can also edit as necessary. In other words, while the subtitles of an older foreign language film may appear in one unchangeable size, text files allow viewers to adjust the size of the characters according to individual preference. This is beneficial to users who may have difficulty reading smaller subtitles.

However, it’s important to understand certain essential best practices regarding the use of these files. The following tips will help ensure your subtitles appear clearly and communicate your film’s content effectively, regardless of a viewer’s language.

Limit Line Breaks
There are some instances when including line breaks just makes sense. For example, song lyrics, poetry, or dialogue featuring multiple speakers at once (which is relatively common in narrative films) all come across much more clearly when the relevant line breaks are added to the text file.

That being said, in most cases, it’s best to limit them. When viewers alter the text size, it can result in awkward subtitles. If a file already included a line break, instead of simply allowing text to flow from one line to the next naturally, a viewer might increase the text size until it was so large that only one or two words could appear on a given line.

The large size will force text to spill over onto the next line, but the break is still enforced, causing a lot of blank space. Without a line break, the text will simply continue along the same line, instead of being broken up awkwardly.

Save the File in Unicode
Unicode is an encoding standard designed to make sure text appears consistent across a range of platforms, devices, and (most importantly for you) languages. Ever try to read text on a new device or platform, only to find it doesn’t recognize certain characters? That’s exactly the type of problem Unicode solves.

For subtitles, it guarantees that your text can be translated into a wide range of languages properly, as it encompasses the various unique characters that can appear in world languages.

Saving a file as Unicode is simple with most PCs and Macs. While using your text editing software, choose “Save As,” and select the Unicode file encoding.

Choose a Simple Text Format
These types of files can be saved in several different formats. While formats like TTML and DFPX allow developers to adjust formatting, remember that most systems will let viewers make those adjustments anyway.

Instead, opt for SRT. This format is visually simple, making it easy to identify blocks of text that need to be translated.

Keep in mind that, while these tips will help, you should always watch a subtitled video on your own computer after it’s been created. Errors can still happen. Noticing and addressing them is key to effective content localisation, an increasingly important part of any business strategy.

When you launch a properly-subtitled film on a popular streaming platform, you can reach more people than ever before. Just make sure you’ve taken the necessary steps to optimise it first.

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