Working with Subtitles

Posted on: June 27, 2019

I recently helped out a client with a Chinese subtitling project. The client had the video file in mp4 format and needed an English translation of the subtitles, to add. The problem was that there were no Chinese subtitles, so actually there were two steps:

  1. Transcribe the spoken Chinese into a Chinese transcript (which is not really something for a translator to do, although some will happily do that).
  2. Translate based on the transcript

Translators who are willing to write the transcript directly are effectively working as interpreters who type rather than say what they are hearing.

The transcript also needs to be correctly formatted and have the correct time codes. I always find the easiest way to do that is just manually writing the time codes in txt format, rather than using dedicated software. I find the software is too powerful for most of the jobs I do which are usually a few pages at most.

For me, I’m much more comfortable with written documents, so I always suggest the client does step 1 themselves. Quite often the client actually does have a transcript (or at least the original script, which may have been changed somewhat) available if you push them.