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Friday, 20 March 2015

How to become a Subtitler?

Long long ago, back in 2008 during a family get together in Gurgaon I met an aunt. She was wearing a salwars kameez  and it was a new thing for me to see aunts in their late 50s wearing something other than saree* (I do come from a conservative narrow minded family. I follow the same tradition, but my mind has opened up a bit over the years). She asked me 'are you working?' I said: 'no'. Then I asked her back ' are you working'. And she said 'yes. I work as a subtitler'.

Thanks to my brother who showed me how to watch movies with subtitles. Because of which, what she said made sense to me. But honestly, I wasn't sure about how could someone make a career out of writing subtitles.

When I started this blog, I had subtitle writer as a career option. So I started researching more about it.

I found Nandini Karky's explanation the most realistic. She herself is a subtitler in the Tamil movie industry. (Please go through it, as it explains in detail the beauty and intricacies of crafting a subtitle.)

Well, now let me share what all I found out about the subtitling industry.

What are subtitles?


I am sure that most of you have noticed the written text (in English) under each scene while watching movies. These are subtitles.Yes, it is such a simple stuff that explains movie dialogues in detail.

Subtitles are important because:

1) Subtitles explains the dialogue which would be missed or not interpreted otherwise,
2) Subtitles enables us to watch foreign language films, thus increasing the number of audience
3) Subtitles helps deaf people to enjoy movies better

And the person who adds it to the movie is called a subtitler. You too can be a subtitler, if you love watching movies and can follow the dialogues with out fail.

So, how to become a subtitler?


The most important prerequisite is the love for language. A true language lover can play with the nuances of the language. You need to be proficient in atleast any one of the Indian languages or any international language to be a subtitler. And of course, fluency in MS-Word and good typing skills!

What I found is that subtitling is a field that involves some learning before you get started, You can enroll for subtitling course at SubtitlingWorldWide. This subtitling course spans for 3 months - covers familiarising with the subtitling software, learning the basic subtitling skills and mastering the art of subtitlting. Please note that the course fee is approximately 20,000 INR. What I liked most about the course is that, the only skill required to complete it is proficiency in English language and the desire to learn subtitling.

Apart from Subtitling World Wide, that offer courses online, you can look for short term courses in your location. This you can attend in person, and allows you have a fairer approach on subtitling. This will introduce you to the real world of subtitling and get started with demo projects. To know about such courses in your city - internet Zindabad!

If you want to learn it on your own, that is also possible, I found the online tutorial at Miracle Tutorials also explaining how to create subtitles in detail.

How to create subtitles?


Subtitling is not all about transforming the spoken text to written one. But it actually summarises the spoken text without losing any of the expressions. Also song lyrics as well as other sounds played in the movie needs to be texted down.

But while doing all these one should let the viewer enjoy the movie or otherwise he will end up reading line after line. The director also has put in a lot of effort to put those images absolutely stunning. So a subtitle should not appear when the viewer has to enjoy the scene by itself.

I found the article at Proz very informative on what all need to be taken care of while creating subtitles. To create subtitles for a video file, you can use specific subtitling softwares like Visual SubSync, ELR studio, Subtitle Workshop or Spot.

To try out how to create subtitles for a sample video you can use DotSub

What I liked more about subtitling is that, the convenience of working on the language that I am comfortable with. It could very well be my mother tongue - Malayalam! I will be really proud to be the subtitler for  a Malayalam movie.


Different types of subtitling projects that you can do



I have seen most of the subtitles in movies. But nowadays all documentaries and some tv programmes also come with subtitles.  You can take up a subtitling project in any of the following:

1. Same Language Subtitling (SLS) - This involves writing subtitles in the same language as the program audio.

2. Voice over subtitling - This is for programmes like documentaries where there is no visible speaker, but audio is played as voice over the video .

3. Closed Captioning - Providing subtitles for deaf and people with low hearing capabilities is called closed captioning

4. Subtitling live speech - Yes this is done after becoming an expert subtitler. BBC live programmes usually come with live subtitles as well.


What is the earning potential of a subtitler?


As a subtitler you can earn from Rs.5000 to Rs.20000 per film depending on the project. Isn't that a good amount?

How to get subtitling jobs?


To get your first few sub jobs you can do the following:

1) Project yourself as a subtitler on social media - Create a Linked In profile that says that you are a subtitler. Also use Twitter effectively to publicise your newly learnt skill. Basically update and use up your social media profiles to get some work.
2) Look for freelance subtitling jobs offered individually
3) Look for subtitling jobs at companies like Red Bee Media
4) Email your resume to companies that offer subtitling job openings. And tell them you are interested to work on subtitling projects.

Everything takes time till you get started. Once you start off, you will find more jobs. So get started with that initial steps without waiting. Subtitling is a wonderful career option who wants to have a good work-life balance!

- yes I mean it -