Monday, 1 September 2014

How To Add Subtitles To Your Video in 4 Easy Steps

As a bilingual member of the SWAGGER team, subtitling videos has become one of the many editing tasks I get to do, especially when our clients want to broaden their scope to other audiences, like the Hispanic one. Ever since I entered the world of subtitling, I've gathered tips, recommendations and generic, unspoken rules from the web in order to enhance my subtitling skills and, today, I'm ready to share these with you.

So, if you're looking all over the internet for a subtitling guide, you've come to the right place, my dear.

Is your video completely DONE? If your answer is YES, then you're ready for Step 1. Whether you're adding English, Spanish, Portuguese or any other subtitles to your video, the first thing I would recommend is to get a full transcript document. Make sure you transcribe all dialogue, voice overs, and any other audio/text elements involved that you will want to include in your subtitles.

What's the goal of your subtitles? Do you want to do a straight transcription or a translation? Disregard this step if you're adding subtitles using the same language of your video or if what you need to create are closed captions. (I will explain this further in a bit.)

Of course you will need to translate your transcript if the subtitles you're creating are meant to be in a different language, but, here's the catch: You need to be a smart translator. What do I mean by smart? Well, not only do I not recommend relying on Google Translator; but also, when you're translating, please pay attention to the length and timing of the speech in your video. You want to try to fit that exact information in the same or close to the same amount of characters as your transcript. - This will make a lot more sense once you get to it, I swear. 

NOTE: There's a slight difference between 'subtitles' and 'captions'. Subtitles refer to on-screen text, typically used to provide full transcriptions or translations of the dialogue, voice over or audio of an audio-visual piece. Captions are mostly created for hearing impaired viewers, which can be always visible (open captions) or may need to be activated, in order to appear on screen (closed captions). Captions can also include sound information and music symbols. - If you want to learn more about Closed Captioning, check out this great tutorial from Adobe Premiere users. 

I'm a Premier editor, so I would strongly recommend you design, test and create your subtitles using Adobe Premiere's title tools. This way you can test them over your video and adjust them without closing your editing software.

If you're creating your subtitles in Adobe Premiere, simply go to Title > New Title > Default Still.

Adjust your settings according to your video settings (size, frame rate, aspect ratio) and give your first subtitle a name. For example: Subtitle 1.

Then, in your Title Properties window, go to the left panel and grab the Text tool. Now you can start designing and creating your subtitles over the exact frame you're on in your video timeline.

When designing your subtitles, please keep in mind these are made to be easy to read. See my specific design recommendations below:
- Font: I recommend Helvetica (regular or bold), or any other generic font without serifs. Serifs can be hard to follow.
- Color: White subtitles looks classy and clean. But sometimes yellow or black can work well, depending on your background colors.
- Size: I recommend 50-55 pts max.
- Style: Please avoid italic or underlined font. If you want to make the text pop a bit more, you can add a slight drop shadow to it (15%-20%). You can also add an opaque bar behind the text, using the rectangle tool in your left panel. Remember: the simpler, the better.
- Location: Subtitles usually go on the bottom of the frame, but sometimes we can place them at the top to avoid covering important footage or graphics at the bottom. 
Use a couple of lines of your transcript or translated transcript to test your subtitle design over your video. Once you're happy with your design, proceed with creating the subtitles for the rest of your transcript.

TIP: Go to the subtitle file you just created (Subtitle 1) in your project window, right click on it, duplicate it and rename it Subtitle 2. Edit this subtitle with the next line(s) of your transcript and repeat until you finish. This will help you keep consistency throughout all of your subtitles.

Recommendation: Place each subtitle right after creating it, so you can adjust timing and content immediately before going into the next one.

- Break up lines or sentences per statement, not in the middle of a statement, in order to accomplish a smooth read. Look for clauses and use them as a guide. (Fuzzy on independent clauses? No worries. Refresh yourself here.) For example:
She was going to the supermarket
when her dad called her.

She was going to the
supermarket when her dad called her.

 - Time Subtitles according to the speech or audio timing of your video. This is why using almost the same amount of characters during the translation process is so important. 
- Add a 3-4 frame cross dissolve in between each subtitle to make them flow better. 

Once you're done placing and timing all the subtitles on your video, watch it, make sure the pace and timing is not rushed and that the text is perfectly readable. And... that's how you do it! 

Hope this guide was useful for all the editors or avid subtitle creators out there. Now tell me, how do you like to create your subtitles? What software do you use? Do you have any other tips or recommendations that we can add to this guide? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet to us at @Swagger_Media! 

¡Hasta la próxima!

1 comment:

  1. One thing that helps me go through the titles faster is by hitting the "New Title Based on Current Title" button in the Title Tools window (top left by the font selection). It lets you give a new name and edit your title without ever having to go back to your project library to duplicate.