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New subtitle rules?

Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:52 am

Hi everybody,

From the moment i started seriously on making subs with good program and OS rules i see a lot.
on television, like the news here in The Netherlands professional subcreators make very long lines up to 60 ch/line.

Are there new standards now for subs or is it still like i learned from the lessons and rules here?

Haha, it is like i criticly look at every title i see, news, Netflix, talkshow, etc. etc..

I see so many different styles and ways of titles, it is confusing.

Personally, i did setup Subtitle Edit for maximum with 20 cps now and building down.

But maybe the rules changed in the meantime?

Let me know your standing in this!



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Re: New subtitle rules?

Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:57 pm

SmallBrother wrote:
Very basic rules are (more or less)
- Line length not more than let's say 45 characters.
- Maximum two lines.
- Minimum duration 1,2 seconds
- Maximum duration 6 seconds

Then a very important one, but often 'forgotten':
CPS (Characters Per Second), referring to the amount of time you have to read the subtitled text. Talking goes faster than reading, so often there is not enough time to translate everything literally. Then you have to 'compress' what is said. For example:
- Excuse me, do you maybe know what time it is?
- What time is it?

They both mean the same, but the second is much shorter. The trick is to compress when needed and keeping the essence of the meaning.
If you keep CPS lower than 20, you are on a good track. Higher than 24 should be avoided.

A very easy, but very important one:
Use subtitling software. DO NOT use notepad or so, you are guaranteed to fail.
Subtitle Edit is great (and free), you can easily keep track of line length, durations and CPS.

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Re: New subtitle rules?

Sat Jan 12, 2019 7:40 pm

Dutch subtitling styles differ very much from other countries'. We summarize more, making it possible for the viewer to also pay close attention to what's happening on screen, whereas other countries just ram everything in subtitles integrally.

Professional Dutch subtitlers (not fansubbers) generally follow these guidelines:
- Maximum 2 lines
- Maximum line length is not measured in character count, but in the actual width of the text ("twips"). if there is a character limit, it's generally 42 characters (37 characters for certain TV channels, due to the character limit of Teletext, used to transmit subtitles)
- Minimum duration: 1:10 (= 1 second, 10 frames -- 1,4 seconds for 25 FPS). Sometimes shorter is okay when syncing to shot cuts.
- Maximum duration: 7 seconds in general, but not a hard limit. I.e. don't split perfect subtitles if they're 7,1 seconds.
- CPS: target should be around 11 CPS. The limit is usually 15 à 17 CPS. Of course it's variable due to complexity of the sentence (long words read more easily, difficult wording, etc.). For CPS above 14, it will start to cost the viewer noticeably more effort to keep up with the subtitles ánd follow what's happening on screen, while subtitles should be 'invisible'.
- Gap: 3 frames (120 ms for 25 FPS, 125 ms for 23.976/24 FPS)
- If there's a less than 1 second gap between two subtitles, the first subtitle should be extended until the second one (of course with a 3 frames gap). I.e., the time between two subtitles is either 3 frames ór ≥ 1 second. This leads to consistent 'flashes' of the subtitles. There are exceptions when syncing to shot cuts.
- Use continuation dots (...) for continuing sentences.
- Do not use exclamation marks.
- Try to 'spot' on shot cuts.

See also (Dutch): ... de_nl.html ... /leestijd/ ... 46-a843623

And this is the software that most professional Dutch subtitlers use:

Way too expensive for fansubbers, of course, but you can learn from it in terms of guidelines, style, technique etc.
There are ways to configure or extend Subtitle Edit to follow the more specific guidelines, such as the line length based on actual text width, detecting shot cuts, maintaining the gap rules, etc. Let me know if you want more details on that.

Hope this helps.

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Re: New subtitle rules?

Sat Jan 12, 2019 9:01 pm

Portuguese PT/Pt :

The translation for subtitles requires an adaptation, which is due to:

- number of characters per line (variable);
- maximum number of lines (two);
- subtitle exposure time (minimum 1, maximum 5/7 seconds);
- rhythm of entry and exit of the same.
- maximum characters per second: 15

The subtitles consist of one or two lines centered on the screen. The number of characters per line varies between 34 and 39, for the sake of easier legibility of the subtitles. But the number normally applied is 42 because it is the number that is supported by most room DVD players. However, we should try to reduce this same number for the reason given above, even if this implies more work and the division of a line into two.
If the subtitles are made up of two lines, the first one will, if possible, be smaller than the second one ("trapeze storage") and both should constitute, as far as possible, a logical unit or a syntactic unit. That is, the translator should avoid dividing the lines between two words that form a unit, both logically and grammatically (avoid using the midpoint of a subtitle).

The software that we use :
Subtitle Workshop


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Re: New subtitle rules?

Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:01 am

Thanks both!

I stick to the info as provided in OS then and working on Subtitle Edit.

Have nice weekend!


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Re: New subtitle rules?

Sun Jan 13, 2019 1:25 pm

Hanzee wrote:But maybe the rules changed in the meantime?

Actually this was your question, right?

Actually, no, the rules (guidelines) have not changed. As Flitskikker has stated, the professionals have (slightly) different rules which are generally more tight and more 'difficult'. Different languages have different rules, partly because of the nature of that language, see for example the CPS-ratio Funchalnese mentions for Portuguese. English subs for English spoken movies and tv shows is a story of it's own (and the reason of so many bad subtitles in Dutch, and probably also in other languages).

But anyway, you are comparing different sources.
Netflix subs vary from okay to simply horrible, sometimes getting close to (or maybe even being) machine translations, with MAYBE a good translation, but disregarding any technical aspect like CPS or durations. A couple of other online streaming services suffer the same problem. Do not take those as example...
Subtitles for the news are made 'on he spot' for hearing impaired people. The subtitler doing that needs all the focus on translating well and fast and simply cannot spend too much time on 'minor details' like line length or where/how lines are truncated. Same here: not an example how to it, just a way to serve a certain purpose.

And yeah, now that you are a subtitler, you have an incureable desease: you will be much more aware of subtitles and notice mistakes or imperfections. Maybe we should have warned you about that :)

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