On March 6, I presented a webinar about How to Transcribe and Translated Subtitles in DotSub, which is the online platform that I use to work with video files.
We covered the following basic steps
Uploading video files to DotSub
Transcribing the original audio
Using hotkeys to control video playback
Translating subtitles into different languages
Exporting the finished subtitle file into frequently used formats
Brainstorming negotiation techniques for subtitling projects
If you missed the live presentation,
the video is now available for purchase HERE
Below you'll find questions that were asked during the webinar, as well as some other comments from attendees that were sent to me by email. If you purchase access to the video, have questions after watching the material, and don't see your concern addressed here, feel free to contact me and contribute to this Q&A list.
Q: What is the difference between transcribing and translating?
A: In subtitling, transcription involves typing the original audio and synchronizing it, so you’d generate subtitles in the original language as a basis for your translation work. Once you have a transcription of the original, you can translate it into the target language, so subtitles would be available for the target audience that does not speak the language originally spoken on the video.
Q: How big can videos be when you’re uploading them to DotSub?
A: According to current specifications, videos can have up to 4 GB when you’re uploading them using a free account. You may be able to work on larger videos if you have a premium account. Check their How To page for more up-to-date information.
Q: Is the program available for Mac?
A: Since DotSub is a web-based platform, it is available for any operating system. There is no download and installation involved, so all you need to do is visit DotSub.com and create a free account to start using it.
Q: Is there a feature to avoid subtitle overlapping?
A: Yes! DotSub will prevent you from entering a subtitle before the previous one is off the screen. In other words, if you set one subtitle to begin before the previous subtitle ends, there will be an error and you'll have to enter start and end times again for those subtitles to be aligned correctly and shown in sequence.
Q: How much editing usually goes into subtitling projects?
A: It all depends on the video, really. How fast is the person speaking? How clear is the audio? It is a documentary with many transitions with soundtrack only, and no speaking? Sometimes you have someone who talks veeeery sloooowly, so you're able to type what you're hearing without going back and forth because you missed something. Other times, you have people who talk too fast, so it'll take you longer to type everything, or you'll have to edit the subtitles because you didn't catch a word or two the first time around. I personally like working on it from beginning to end to catch as much as I can the first time around, then I watch the video and read the subtitles to do some editing, not only in terms of words I may have missed or typos that pass me by, but also to make sure that everything fits nicely on the screen and I'm getting that "pyramid effect" that allows people to read it more comfortably while watching videos with subtitles.
Q: How fast can translators usually work on subtitles?
A: There's no magic number, but one thing that definitely works is practicing, so you can learn more about yourself. Of course you may work faster when subtitling a video about a subject you're familiar with. Other times, it may require some research during the editing process, which increases the amount of time that goes into completing the project. However, if you work on some samples, not only to become familiar with the subtitling platform you're using, but also to learn more about yourself (Are you typing too slow? Are you more comfortable typing everything and correcting it later? Would you rather correct each subtitle as you go, so once you're done it's all ready?) I'm sure you'll be able to find an average number of minutes of video you can work with in one hour, and use that average as an estimate when quoting on future projects. That way, you can give yourself enough time to complete the project by the proposed deadline.
Q: Is it possible to import subtitles into CAT tools?
A: Absolutely. Once you're done with the transcription, you can export the text only and then use your favorite CAT tool. That will be extremely helpful if you're working with the same client on a regular basis and want to keep a translation memory. You'd also be able to use your glossary to assure terminology consistency, which is always helpful. Once you're done with the translation as you're used to while working with your CAT, you can import the material back into DotSub and synchronize the translated subtitles in order to complete the audiovisual project.
Q: How can I assure consistency? Is there a TM or glossary in DotSub?
A: No, DotSub does not help you manage your translation as a CAT tool would. If you’re working on a video for a client whose content you have already translated using a CAT, and you believe you can benefit from your legacy material (translation memory and specialized glossary), you can export the SRT with the original subtitles and translate it using your CAT.
Q: How can I “burn” subtitles into video files, as opposed to sending clients the subtitle file (i.e. SRT format)?
A: The process of “burning” subtitles into a video file is a little more complicated, since it involves video encoding. Basically, “burning subtitles” means that, once someone opens the video, the subtitles will be shown automatically, instead of giving viewers the option to either show subtitles or not. Here is some additional information about subtitle burning:
Q: What happens when you're not doing the transcription, only the translation to go directly into the subtitle?
A: That is tricky, because you're doing two things at once, as in hearing one language and typing another. If your client refuses to pay for transcription and requests translation only, meaning that they want only the subtitles in the target language synchronized with the video, try to estimate the time it'll take you to complete the project as being 1.5 or 2 times longer than it would have taken you to do the transcription and then the translation. So, let's say that you can work on 10 minutes of video in one hour, estimate that you'd be able to finish those 10 minutes in 1.5 to 2 hours instead, just to give yourself enough time.
Q: Could you suggest other tools, online or offline, that I could move on to once I’m very comfortable with DotSub and need more advanced options?
A: Once I started working with subtitles on a more regular basis, I started learning about other tools that could complement DotSub or go beyond the basic options it offers. So, because I’m a Linux user, I’ve started using Gnome Subtitles and then Subtitle Composer, which has many more options that one of my clients requested, such as changing the location of the subtitles (i.e. from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen). If you’re not a Linux user, you can look through these options that are available in other operating systems and check which software will address your more advanced needs/
Q: Can you share some ideas on how I could charge for subtitling projects?
A: As mentioned in the presentation, the main thing you must do―as in all types of translation projects, but especially in subtitling assignments―is make sure you're on the same page with your client. Some clients may think a 5-minute video will take 5 minutes to translate, subtitle, and synchronize. Others don't really want to know exactly what you're doing, as long as you get it done. And a few want all possible details of the work process, so they can understand what services you're providing. Having said that, you may quote a flat fee after you weigh in all your variables (video length and the time it'll take to finish the project, considering transcription of original audio, translation, and synchronization of both subtitles.) You may quote a per-minute rate, depending on the length of the video (keeping in mind all the aforementioned steps.) And, if your clients don't expect a final price beforehand, you can show them the breakdown of each task that went into completing the process, thus charging a per-word rate for transcription (usually half your translation rate), a per-word rate for translation, and a per-minute rate for synchronization after the job is done.
Q: How do I find the going rates for subtitling projects?
A: As in regular translation rates, you can always ask more established professionals if they feel comfortable telling you what they charge. You can also contact companies and inquire about their services. A good idea is to keep an eye on surveys with language professionals and see if they mention subtitling rates as well. That kind of research should give you a good idea of what the average rate is for your language pairs. Here’s a page where DotSub talks about their own subtitling services offered to large companies seeking subtitles for their content.