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What does a subtitler do?

Subtitlers make it possible for films to be enjoyed by audiences all over the world and by the deaf and hard of hearing. They translate all the dialogue, music and sound effects of a film into two-line written captions that appear on the screen, either in the language in which the film is made or in a foreign language.

After carefully watching and listening to the whole film, they write captions with accurate time codes that describe music and sound effects as well as the dialogue and voice-overs. The captions have to be punctuated and spelt correctly and should be on the screen long enough to be read easily. Translating subtitlers translate the dialogue and write subtitles in the language for a particular audience.

Once they’ve done that and checked that all spelling is correct and that captions don’t obscure characters’ faces, the files are sent to the mastering house (transferring the final soundtrack onto the film in all the various formats). It can then be distributed to cinemas offering subtitled screenings or to cinemas around the world.

Subtitlers are usually employed by specialist post-production companies but sometimes work on a freelance basis.

What's a subtitler good at?

  • Grammar: spell, punctuate and use grammar accurately
  • Languages: translate the dialogue into the required language sensitively (for translator subtitlers)
  • Screen spatial awareness: understand how captions will appear on a screen and their impact on the viewing
  • Attention to detail: work precisely to tight deadlines with text and timing
  • Interest in deaf audiences: care about the experiences of the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Use of software: be adept in using the subtitling software

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