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Want your business to stand out? Invest in video subtitling!

The boom of streaming platforms, social media, and e-learning platforms have caused an increase of subtitles. According to YouGov, 38% Americans prefer to have the subtitles on when watching TV in a language they know. Yet, this number nearly doubles when looking at people under 30. What does it mean for your company? If you use video content – be it for marketing campaigns, employee training modules or webinars for clients – you’d better be sure to commission work from a professional subtitler.

Scrabble board with the word 'Caption'

Is video subtitling a legal requirement?

Until recently, subtitling use in English-speaking countries seemed to be rather uncommon. Watching foreign-language films and shows was not very wide-spread. And althought some people relied on closed captions (or subtitles for Deaf and hard of hearing, SDH for short), these were not widely available.

The British parliament first took a closer look at the subject in 1990, but a lot has changed since then. The Broadcasting Act required public broadcasting stations to “provide minimum amounts of subtitling for deaf and hard-of-hearing people (…)”. The Act was replaced in 2003 by the Communications Act which provided the legal framework for the use of subtitles on broadcast television.

Does this mean that on-demand platforms are off the hook? Well, not for much longer. In 2017, after a fierce campaign by Subtitle It!, the Government amended the Digital Economy Act. This means that Ofcom, the regulator for the communications services, would now be able to regulate the level of accessibility of on-demand services. Sadly, the new legislation still hasn’t been enacted. However, with the scale of on-demand content we can imagine this will have to happen sooner rather than later.

With the raising awareness of accessibility, diversity and inclusion, other services, such as ads, marketing content or museum attractions’ content, may very well follow.

Why do people use subtitling when they know the spoken language?

When we think of same-language subtitles users we might first imagine it's people with hearing difficulties. But Deaf people are not the sole users of captions.

Others might also want to watch a film, tutorial or a social media campaign with subtitles on. Why? They could be learning the language or have issues with understanding the accent. Or they might have simply forgotten their headphones and would like to watch something on mute on public transport!

Have you ever visited a busy museum and wished the video featured on the display had subtitles on? Have you ever lounged on your sofa eating nachos so crunchy you had to switch the subtitles on to follow your favourite show? There you have it: subtitles really do make our lives easier (and for some people are a must!).

Two women sittig on a museum bench watching a video with subtitles

What type of business would benefit from subtitling services?

The short answer is: any!

Nowadays, many companies use video content for their client-facing or internal materials, or both. For instance, your beauty business may post YouTube tutorials featuring your products. Or perhaps your institution has recently organised a conference and is going to distribute the panel recordings. There is no limit when it comes to businesses needing subtitling help!

Want more examples? Here is a short list of types of content my clients commissioned me to subtitle recently:

  • interview with an international artist

  • visitor guides for a museum

  • promotional video aimed at investors

  • advertising for screens in shops

  • training video for people working with asylum seekers

  • public health information campaign

Black woman applying make up in front of a camera

Can’t I just use AI to create my subtitles?

Of course you can, but why would you? Right now we’re experiencing an inflated hype of AI and machine translation. But these tools are far from being perfect, especially the subtitling ones. Having worked on both machine translation post-editing and AI generated subtitling editing jobs I can assure you that the first one is still much more developed.

AI-generated subtitles are often full of mistakes caused by the speakers’ accents or muffled speech. They are either way too short or way too long. I’ve seen AI subtitles ranging from each word put into a separate subtitle to subtitles that don’t seem to end. And don’t get me started on the incorrect segmentation!

If you’ve never worked as a subtitler, you might think that producing your own subtitling file is as easy as pie. Well, it’s really not. There are plenty of rules when it comes to subtitling: the number of characters allowed per seconds, the length of each line, the number of lines in each subtitle, the correct way to break each line… And they are all here for a reason.

Subtitling conventions support a smooth viewing experience. When these rules are not applied, many viewers will know that something's not right. They won't necessarily realise what caused their discomfort, but it'll be enough to be put off from watching the rest of the video. After all, you don’t need to know how to subtitle to be able to tell that things seem off!

It could be that the subtitles go between shot changes causing the viewers to re-read the text. Or that the lines are divided without any consideration for grammar which makes for unclear message. Or perhaps the subtitles don’t stay on the screen long enough and it’s impossible to process them.

That’s why if your professional image

and your audience’s comfort are important to you,

it’s always advisable to hire a professional subtitler.

Ready to start your company’s subtitling journey? Let’s talk!



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