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Subtitling Guidelines - Voquent

Subtitling Guidelines

Clear guidelines to provide accurate, intelligible subtitles.

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Consistent results every time.

Voquent's translation team all follow the same subtitling guidelines ensuring equilibrium across all media content in any language version. This article outlines our standard specifications.

These are the basic guidelines for our professional subtitling services. They apply to all subtitles in any language and all subtitle formats unless otherwise specified.

1. Duration

Each subtitle will display on-screen for a

  • minimum of 1 second
  • maximum of 6 seconds

2. Line Formatting

The most common subtitling style is option 1 or 2, using two lines of subtitles. 

  • Roman languages: Two lines of subtitles = 36-42 characters per line
  • Asian Languages: Two lines of subtitles = 15-20 characters per line
  • Cyrillic languages: Two lines of subtitles = 36-42 characters per line

Depending on content and translation we may sometimes have to exceed the character line limits.

3. Placement

All subtitles are centre-justified and placed at the bottom area of the screen by default. 

We may move the subtitles to the top of the screen to avoid on-screen text such as lower-thirds.

Rarely in cases where there are lots of on-screen text or graphics, such as in webinars or presentations, we may have to move the subtitles to the left or right of the screen. Our translators will use their best judgement to ensure an optimum viewer experience.

If subtitle placement has to be moved more than a few times in one piece of content, some additional budget may be required.

4. Open Caption (burnt-in) default styling

Unless a custom style is preferred, the default style for burnt-in open captions is Style Option 2:

  • Arial Narrow font
  • 40–60px size (resolution dependant)
  • black box set to 80% opacity

5. Consistency

All translators will work from an approved source language transcriptions to retain the same subtitling formatting unless language expansion makes it necessary to combine or divide subtitles.

6. On-Screen Text

We will subtitle on-screen text capital letters inside square brackets, e.g. 

[ON-SCREEN TEXT]

7. Sound effects, songs and music

Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) may include subtitles to describe significant sounds.  This isn't standard for open captions/subtitles so if you require it, please let us know. It's more common to include sound descriptions in closed captioning

We write sound descriptions as lower-case text inside circle brackets, e.g. 

(loud bang)

Subtitles for songs or music are placed inside the ♫ character, e.g. 

♫ Happy Birthday to you! ♫ 

8. Multiple speakers

Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing speaker changes are made clear by putting the name inside square brackets, e.g.

[Tom] Let's Make it!

If there is more than one speaker in the same subtitle, we label the speakers using a -, e.g.

-[Delia] Tom!

-[Tom] What a buzz!

We use double hyphens, or an em dash for interrupted speech, e.g.

I was walking down—

9. Punctuation summary

In addition to the above, we always ensure subtitle lines end at natural pauses in speech, ideally at clause or phrase boundaries. Similar to Netlflix timed-text guidelines. 

  • The line should be broken:
    • after punctuation marks
    • before conjunctions
    • before prepositions
  • The line break will not separate
    • a noun from an article
    • a noun from an adjective
    • first name from the surname
    • the verb from a subject pronoun
    • the prepositional verb from its preposition
    • or a verb from an auxiliary, reflexive pronoun or negation.

We never use commas at the end of a subtitle line unless specifically requested to do so. The subtitle acts as a natural pause itself.

To learn more about subtitling guidelines, don't hesitate to speak to one of our team.

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