Subtitling – Why should you do it?

When it comes to subtitling and closed captioning, most people think it’s mainly for foreign language, or for the deaf or hard-of-hearing audience. However, with the rise of social media, we see subtitles used more frequently. In a study from 2006, Ofcom found that 7.5 million people in the UK use closed captions, but only 1.5 million people are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The 80% of viewers who use subtitles without being hearing impaired find that these are the benefits: 

  • Comprehension: subtitles help the understanding of dialogue. Speech that is fast, has a strong accent, or is difficult to hear because of mumbling is easier to discern.
  • Clarity: they help the viewer retain information. Deciphering abbreviations, names and jargon is easier, especially if the viewer is not familiar with industry lingo.
  • Watching in sound-sensitive environments: subtitles allow viewers to watch videos in libraries, trains and offices, where sound on full blast is frowned upon.

Subtitling for the internet

By 2022, 82% of all consumer internet traffic will be video. A study by Verizon Media shows that 69% of people watch video without sound in public spaces. It also highlights that 80% consumers are more likely to watch a video to completion if they have subtitles. So ensuring your online content is optimised with subtitles will guarantee you don’t miss out on valuable audiences. Using subtitles online is a great way to tactically improve ad recall and communicate information when sound is off. 

Subtitles are therefore an important tool in your SEO strategy. Google cannot decipher your video content alone. However, the search engine uses information from the text included in your video to rank you in the results. Normally only your video title and description is used to gather information. Adding subtitles gives an extra layer of keyword depth which will increase your ranking. With Instagram’s new feature which allows automatic translation of foreign language text in stories, subtitles are here to stay.

Not only for foreign language films

As we discovered earlier, subtitles aren’t only for foreign language films. Through closed captions they support the hearing impaireds’ viewing experience. In the past few years, we have seen many campaigns to normalise subtitles and closed captions. Closed captioning isn’t a requirement in the UK and there is a significant lack of accessibility and quality. To highlight the deaf and hard-of-hearing’s difficulties, enormous examples of closed captions were displayed on key landmarks at the Manchester International Festival. American artist, Christine Sun Kim, showed how providing better descriptions of audio can enrich viewing experiences. 

As well as adults, children can benefit from having subtitles turned on while watching their favourite tv shows. Research shows that children can experience improved reading speed and fluency, word knowledge and recognition, vocabulary acquisition as well as reading comprehension. The campaign, Turn on the Subtitles, raises awareness about the benefits of subtitles. It gained support from major names in British entertainment such as Stephen Fry, Cressida Cowell, and Martha Lane Fox. 

If you want to read more about the benefits of subtitles for children, read our blog ‘Should Kids watch TV With Subtitles?


The art of subtitling

Now that you’ve decided to create subtitles for your project, where do you get started? Is it something you can do yourself? Making subtitles isn’t as easy as you might think. Typically, you have 70 characters across roughly 12 words. This has to fit on two lines which have to be shown at the time the dialogue is happening. The art of the subtitler is to translate and recount the right message. So, it’s crucial that the right words are chosen and the limited characters means there is little wiggle room.

There are many new technologies that can automate the subtitle production process. And they are great if your audio is clear and simple without too much mumbling or too many peculiar phrases. As the automatic subtitles rely on voice recognition technology it is bound to make some hilarious mistakes. Check out our Instagram post for the funniest subtitle errors we’ve spotted.

The benefits of using humans to create your subtitles are clear from an accuracy point of view – especially if the audio quality is poor, or if your speakers have strong accents, mumble or deviate from regular pronunciation patterns. Automated speech recognition also often makes mistakes with small function words which can change the meaning of a sentence. There is certainly a big difference between I don’t want to exercise and I do want to exercise. Technology still doesn’t have the same capabilities as humans. To ensure your subtitles or captions get the right message across, opting for professional linguists is the obvious choice.


Subtitles – yes you should! 

There are so many benefits when you provide subtitles, that it seems like a no-brainer. Consider how the video will be used and whether the audience will benefit from subtitles or if closed captions is a better solution. As we touched on earlier, subtitles will also help SEO rankings. So, if you plan to use your video online, you may want to consider providing subtitles to help your message come across even when videos are on mute. Subtitles are certainly becoming the norm, and this year’s Scottish Love Island contestants have made viewers cry for subtitles to help understand their accent. 

Did you know that we’ve recently launched a new in-house subtitling division for both English and foreign language work? This means we can offer faster turnaround times and higher accuracy. So, reach out to our subtitling team, to see how we can help your video be heard!
Alternatively, for more exclusive news and industry tips from The Voiceover Gallery, visit our blog page.

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