Sometimes Dubbing Is Not the Best Way to Tell Your Story

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If costs, time constraints, preserving authenticity and manpower involved do not concern your clients, then, by all means, select a suitable recording studio and start hiring actors for your project. Alternatively, subtitling is the perfect substitute for dubbing by professionals.

At times, keeping the audio unchanged is in fact the best solution. The use of original sound helps to immerse one in the plot, to fully understand it and to feel emotions the creators intended you to feel.

In addition, subtitles enable you to:

  • Easily enter a foreign market
  • Break down language barriers between buyers and sellers
  • Save costs

The TransLink team have substantial experience in working with video materials, and its members have put together a set of essential guidelines that can help create high-quality subtitles from the get-go.

Understand the Goal of the Assignment

At first glance, doing so seems like a simple task. However, at times, customers do not fully understand what end product they want. There are different types of subtitles, i.e. open and closed ones. In addition, they serve different purposes, for instance, there are standard captions or those for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Closed subtitles are not visible until activated by a viewer, i.e. they are optional. For example, they are available when viewing YouTube content and can be turned on by clicking on an icon.

Open subtitles, on the other hand, are part of the video itself. Therefore, they cannot be turned on and off. There are also more options when it comes to the appearance of closed vs open captions. One can change the type, size and color of the font, and the background color as well as use the contouring option.

Subtitles that serve various purposes either include or omit important non-speech audio, sound effects and speaker identification. After all, a person with no hearing difficulties, who is simply not proficient in the language in question, can easily understand what is happening on screen with the aid of standard subtitles without additional information about, for instance, a radio playing in the background, a baby crying or the fact that words are being whispered. On the other hand, subtitles meant for the deaf and hard of hearing have to include the aforementioned information.

Understand the Goal of the Assignment

While open subtitles are limited to two lines per screen with no more than 42 characters per line, closed ones can include up to 3 lines (perhaps even four, as an exception to the rule) with up to 32 character on each line.

It is also important to remember that a caption should remain on the screen for no less than 1 second and no more than 7 seconds so that a viewer could comfortably read it.

Avoid Subtitle Lag

In order to make sure captions do not appear to lag behind, each subtitle should appear no later than 0.5 seconds after the corresponding sounds. Ideally, a caption remains on the screen until the information it is conveying is no longer shown. However, in certain situations short delays are permissible unless the scenery changes, in which case a caption cannot extend into the next shot.

Use Appropriate Symbols

If needed, only " " double quotation marks are used in captions. Certain software cannot recognize other types of quotation marks, hence the rule. In addition, the ellipsis cannot be replaced by other symbols. It should always consist of three evenly spaced dots (periods).

When using text editors along with professional subtitling software, you should not encounter the aforementioned problems. Still, make sure to turn off autocorrect. Also remember to use hyphens and em dashes appropriately. You may need to use ALT + WIN + 0151 in Windows or Command + Option + 0151 on a Mac to insert an em dash.

Leave Room for Translation

If a client has also requested that subtitles are added in another language, keep the needs of a translator in mind and ensure the translated caption can easily substitute the original. Remember that the translated text may be longer, hence, make sure open captions per screen are no longer than 65 characters in length while closed ones are no more than 56 characters long.

Use Professional Subtitling Software

Although captions can generally be created using various applications, it is best to use professional subtitling software. As a rule, the latter have a user-friendly interface. In addition, one can use glossaries and integrate such software with CAT (computer-assisted translation) programs or even with tools capable of machine translation and post-editing. We believe that one of the most advanced solutions available is the good old CaptionHub, still the choice is yours, of course.

Include Only Coherent Speech in Subtitles

It is not your job to include absolutely everything that is said in the shot. During trainings, seminars and meetings, speakers often lose track of what they are saying or make language mistakes. If these are unintentional errors that do not change the message, it is not necessary to include all the “hmms” and “ehems” in the captions. If these guidelines are not adhered to, viewers may have trouble understanding the information. Remember that subtitles are meant to convey what is happening on screen but not necessarily include every sound made.

At this point, it is important to note that captions for the deaf and hard of hearing may need to include additional information, often displayed in brackets, e.g. (whispering), (incoherent speech), etc.

Use International English

If your product is intended for use in one country only, you need to use the language variety common to that nation. Alternatively, international standards ought to be adhered to. For instance, the verb “learnt” is primarily used in British English, while “learned” is employed more broadly in various nations. Since the target audience will most likely include people from different countries, please keep this in mind.


By focusing on the present, it becomes readily apparent that, in our fast-paced world, publishing materials here and now with accompanying text for a lower price is, at times, more beneficial than using the process of dubbing, which requires a bigger budget. Your rivals may turn out to be more agile than you and could, for instance, launch their advertising campaigns in a desirable market first. Delays may cause important decisions to be taken before insights are gleaned from a potentially useful training or the topic of a seminar to seem less relevant.

It is up to clients to decide whether to dub their materials or to use subtitles instead. Our team at TransLink can help you understand which option suits your needs best.