Hi. I create and edit closed captions for broadcast on UK televisions channels. Sometimes I do them from scratch, sometimes I use a script and sometimes I edit other people's caption files so that they match the version of the programme being transmitted (like when they're cut for daytime transmission).

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/tf4Nw9l

Here are a few answers to common questions before we begin:

  1. I have nothing to do with Netflix. I don't know why their subtitles are so terrible. It's nothing to with me. Please don't shout at me about them.

  2. I don't do live subtitling, the type you see on the news and on live programming. That is very different and difficult process, using re-speaking and voice recognition software. Here is a useful article that explains how that process works and how difficult it is, and why there are often many errors: http://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-05-16/how-do-tv-subtitles-work/

  3. There is no set route into this work. My parents are both profoundly Deaf and I am fluent in British Sign Language. I used to work in the sign language department directing the interpreter signing in the bottom corner of the screen, and then I moved over to the subtitling department. If it's something you're interested in, and your spelling and grammar are excellent, go for it. I will warn you that the pay isn't great.

  4. The job involves a lot more than simply transcribing dialogue. You have to make sure timings are frame-accurate, that character colour is consistent (or in the US, that subtitle placement accurately conveys who is speaking), that the subtitles accurately reflect the character's speech patterns, the programme's soundscape and important sound effects without being intrusive or ridiculous, ensure that the hearing-impaired viewer is getting all the same information that the hearing viewer is getting at exactly the same time, ensure that subtitles are both on the screen for long enough to be read comfortably but also reflect the speed of the dialogue, never spoil a quiz answer, never make a spelling mistake, use grammar to convey the feel of the speech without being confusing, do your research on show-specific language, and never, EVER give away spoilers before broadcast.

Ok, AMA!

Comments: 1309 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

delarye12433 karma

As someone that puts on subtitles for everything I watch, I want to thank you!

What is a funny story involving having to decipher speach that made you chuckle?

CCSubsThrowaway2095 karma

I was editing someone else's subtitles once and the character was talking about how how they'd done everything they'd been asked to do.

The subtitler apparently thought the phrase used was "The whole kitten caboodle".

Phoneredditting201 karma

I love BBC subtitles, they reposition themselves If they’re in the way and are colour coded to who’s speaking too, do you do anything like that?

CCSubsThrowaway178 karma


nathanweisser1265 karma

Have you ever watched your work live during a big premiere, only to see a mistake you didn't catch before?

CCSubsThrowaway1854 karma

No, but I have sat at home making notes on an important programme that someone else captioned badly so that I could go in and fix it the next day.

CowBully765 karma

How does that work when you fix it? Do you upload a file that updates it and everyone uses that file from now on?

CCSubsThrowaway681 karma


gasolinewaltz387 karma

Do you guys you source control?

CCSubsThrowaway409 karma

If you mean can we tell who fucked up? Yes, we can.

nerdblue401 karma

As someone who simply watches everything with the captions on, thank you for doing this. It hugely increases my enjoyment of many shows.

The one question I do have is about comedy. How do you convey, for example, the delivery of a joke where the emphasis or speaking style is crucial to the humour, for example a very dry punchline to a darker joke? The same applies to puns where the key is a rhyme or similar sound that isn't obvious from the spelling.

CCSubsThrowaway498 karma

It can be difficult. Sarcasm/dry wit is generally conveyed by using an exclamation mark in brackets. "Oh I just LOVE your hair (!)", for example.

You can use caps for emphasis of certain words, or creative grammar. But sometimes, eh, you just have to write what they say. There are limits to what captioning can convey unfortunately.

What IS important, is never to spoil the punchline of a joke. Set up in one subtitle, punchline in another, not on screen at the same time.

ProfAcorn360 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this. I have many questions... 1. What software are you using? 2. What training might one do to be successful in your industry? 3. What sort of controversies to captioners argue amongst themselves? 4. For dialogue, viewers can deduce emotional content by watching actors facial expressions and body language. For non-human sounds (“alarm buzzes”), do you ever try to convey the effect of that sound beyond just its existence (“alarm buzzes furiously”)? 5. What’s something you’re very keen to see improved about captioning?

CCSubsThrowaway643 karma

Hey. Ok.

  1. I use WinCAPS software but have used others. Swift is the most popular.

  2. The best training is to watch closed captions at home. Pay attention to what makes a good subtitle. Look at what they describe and what they don't. Think about how you would subtitle a programme. Have a go at doing some YouTube videos.

  3. Reading speed v being dialogue-faithful. Is it better to have captions that accurately reflect the dialogue at all times but may be too quick for some to read comfortably, or to occasionally paraphrase in order to make for a more comfortable reading speed. I err on the side of trying to always be dialogue-faithful.

  4. Yes, I absolutely do try to describe a sound where necessary. "Door bell buzzes insistently", "liquid gurgles gloopily", that sort of thing. If a sound is important to the feel of the show, it's important to describe it.

  5. I'd like more captioning overall. On all channels, not just the ones that are Ofcom compliant. I'd like subtitles on all VOD content. All subtitles all the time, basically.

Hanzo-vs-Huntsman153 karma

How would you describe the sound of The Mountain crushing Oberyns head into oblivion?

CCSubsThrowaway490 karma


harpejjist29 karma

I suspect you encounter many of the same issues comic book writers have over the years. How to describe dramatic sounds but not use inappropriate words. What is your favourite onomatopoeia?

CCSubsThrowaway68 karma

I like it when creatures chitter.

VoilaVoilaWashington56 karma

I err on the side of trying to always be dialogue-faithful.

Can I go onto a vitriolic diatribe on how you're wrong for entirely arbitrary reasons that shows my tribalism?

CCSubsThrowaway104 karma

Sure, gatekeep away.

voxhumano328 karma

I'm an avid TV+subtitles watcher, despite being fully hearing. Your work is appreciated!

My question is this: I notice that fairly often on HBO the lines are textually attributed to the character speaking them. Even for characters that are off-screen. Not often, but reliably once or twice am episode, having that line attributed to an off screen source spoils a moment of suspense or tension as the viewer is not supposed to know who or what is speaking. Is there any consideration given to this? Or is it just an edge-Case in the grand scheme of things?

CCSubsThrowaway416 karma

Consider this: the viewer who can hear the person speaking off-screen can listen to the off-screen voice and make a guess. A viewer familiar with the show is probably familiar with the character's voices. A hearing-impaired viewer doesn't have that information, so that subtitle has to provide it.

But a good subtitler should recognise a scene wherein there is tension re: the speaker and rather than attributing the dialogue to a character, should simply say "DEEP MALE VOICE:" or whatever.

Monstera37263 karma

I ran into what I believe you would consider sloppy subtitling in Outlander (US). In a very tense scene a mystery character came onto screen, and before she spoke, the subtitles for her upcoming line were displayed with her name... completely ruining the big reveal! I think a lot of people, HoH or not, use subtitles on that show and that was a big gaff. In general on that show, they do an excellent job of transcribing the dialogue, including all the dialects. However, the subtitles come too early, before the lines are spoken. Should I contact Starz?

CCSubsThrowaway76 karma

Yes, contact them and let them know it's not good enough.

boboclock276 karma

How do you decide how when to notify viewers of background noises/music?

CCSubsThrowaway544 karma

I consider whether it's relevant to the plot and/or atmosphere of the show, and if it could potentially be missed by a hearing-impaired viewer.

Gunshot off-screen? Definitely goes in. A phone rings or door buzzes unseen? Goes in. A chaotic scene with children crying and alarms blaring? Important to the feel of the scene, it goes in.

But it's important to balance that with not being intrusive and obvious. If you can SEE the gun being fired, I don't need to describe the noise unless it's unusual.

There are programs where the soundscape is important to the feel of the program. Think of Twin Peaks or Legion. A hearing-impaired viewer is missing out if you don't describe the womb-like wooshing, or eerie teeth chattering.

Music is tricky. Sometimes it's important to the program, sometimes it's not. In a program like Westworld, for instance, the music is a feature. You have to include it. But in Hawaii 5-0, the viewer doesn't need to be informed every time some dramatic chase music plays. It's more immersive to simply watch the chase. You just have to use your judgement.

ancientdem243 karma

Does this mean you get seasons of shows ahead of time? Like GoT?

CCSubsThrowaway443 karma

Yep. Not whole seasons, but I do watch Game of Thrones episodes a couple of weeks before everyone else.

SpaceRasa236 karma

Is it ever frustrating to get to see something ahead of everyone else but have no one to talk to about it?

CCSubsThrowaway480 karma


thebeefytaco176 karma

Do you actually have to sign an NDA of some sort?

CCSubsThrowaway253 karma


nabrok83 karma

Do you get every episode, or is it like you're working on episode 5 but somebody else got episode 4?

CCSubsThrowaway150 karma

If I'm lucky, I get every episode. It doesn't always work out that way though.

dexter31173 karma

Have you ever had your job spoil your watching of the show? As in, you caption the first 2 eps of a season, someone does episode 3, and then you have to caption episode 4 long before you've had a chance to see episode 3?

CCSubsThrowaway138 karma

Yes, that does happen and it's annoying.

scottchiefbaker13 karma

How do they get the video to you? Obviously there is a serious threat of it leaking online. I imagine they lock down that content pretty severly?

CCSubsThrowaway26 karma

Yep. I can't reveal the process for obvious reasons.

JoNightshade9 karma

What's your process like? Do you watch the entire episode once through and then go back and start subtitling? Or do you just dive in?

CCSubsThrowaway19 karma

I just dive in. No time to sir and watch it all twice.

undoubtedlynotaNazi239 karma

Have you ever purposely changed a word as a joke? Something tiny that nobody would notice right away?

CCSubsThrowaway337 karma

Yes I have! I'm not telling you which program it was on though.

franchtoastplz236 karma

Why do they have to put [speaking Chinese] that covers the actual text of what they are saying? I had to turn off the subtitles during last weeks episode of Westworld because it kept covering what they were saying. It is mildly infuriating.

CCSubsThrowaway353 karma

That absolutely shouldn't happen. The subtitler should move the subtitles so they are elsewhere on the screen. That's just bad subtitling, feel free to email and complain and they'll fix it.

TalkForeignToMe84 karma

Who does one email in that case?

CCSubsThrowaway123 karma

The channel or platform the show was broadcast on.

hurrrrrmione97 karma

I also hate when they say [speaking foreign language] when the language is easily identifiable from information given by the movie, like location titles

CCSubsThrowaway76 karma

Yes, that's just lazy subtitling.

celluloidandroid114 karma

Was it you that came up with "ethereal whooshing" for Twin Peaks? Was that your most interesting job with all of the crazy sound effects?

CCSubsThrowaway164 karma

No, that was an American subtitle. I do the UK subtitles.

My current favourite for sound effects is Legion, which is where "glugging gloopily" comes from.

aalevelthree112 karma

1) How do you decide how to describe the music? Like in The Offices opening intro the music is described as “uplifting”.

2) In some shows music just says “instrumental music” why is that?

3) How much time does it take to put together captions for a whole show?

4) Is your name listed on the credits of the shows you work on?

5) Are you contracted out to a show for the whole season or is it on an episode by episode basis?

CCSubsThrowaway156 karma

  1. That is really down to individual subtitlers. If music sounds uplifting then yeah, sure, I'll describe it as such. I'm trying to give the hearing-impaired viewer the same experience as the hearing viewer.
  2. Sometimes we don't have information on what the music is. The script doesn't always say, and it can be difficult to find out that information. So "instrumental music" it is. I try to avoid doing that though. It's rare that it's important to the programme that random background instrumental music is described.
  3. I'm quite quick, so a 1-hour programme from scratch would take me maybe 5 hours if I don't get distracted by Reddit.
  4. Sadly not.
  5. Episode by episode basis. It is good practice for one subtitler to be assigned a whole series because then you can create consistently with character colours and speech pattern indicators, but in reality it can't always work that way.

123rufus104 karma

How tempted are you to write ‘my cocaine’ anytime Michael Caine is mentioned?

CCSubsThrowaway130 karma

I will be now.

Flesh_Wound_feast101 karma

My husband and I were watching a show once that had ended, it was rolling the silent title screen but the subs kept going, telling a cautionary tale about a rabbit. It was strange and comical, but I wondered if other subtitle-ers have done something similar: wrote their own, free hand, nonsensical subtitles just to have a bit of fun? Props to you and your kind for making a lot of my media content enjoyable :)

CCSubsThrowaway110 karma

Heh. What probably happened there is that a different version of the program had that cautionary tail (SWIDT?) at the end but it got cut for the version you watched and the subtitler didn't check all the way to the end of the program before signing off on the new version. I always tell my trainees to look all the way the end.

grandtheftbonsai89 karma

What is the difference between closed captioning and subtitles?

CCSubsThrowaway150 karma

It's not 100% cut and dried but "subtitles" can refer to captions that contain only the dialogue, such as for foreign-language films. Closed captions will include relevant sound effects specifically for hearing-impaired viewers.

JamesMccloud36086 karma

Whats the pay like and how did you end up doing something like this?

CCSubsThrowaway98 karma

The pay is not great.

I am fluent in British Sign language and started out in the sign language department, then I moved over to subtitles.

crapwittyname57 karma

Hi! Thanks for the AMA. I usually turn subtitles on when somebody says something unintelligible, or I'm not sure which of two or three things it was they said. I always assumed that for these moments, the subtitler would have access to the script, or a way to contact the writers. Is this true? Or do you just have to listen to the same sound over and over again until you're sure?

CCSubsThrowaway80 karma

We like to have a script but it's not always available. Sometimes, yes, we do just have to listen to it over and over to get what's being said. Or consult with colleagues to see what they think is being said. Mistakes do get made.

Dante47254 karma

So how do you understand what they are saying on GoT? I definitely need subtitles for that series.

CCSubsThrowaway73 karma

I have a script, and good headphones.

sudifirjfhfjvicodke43 karma

How do you know to accurately spell unusual names, locations, or other words (particularly for fantasy or sci-fi shows)? Is it usually just pulled from an episode script?

ReginaBlitz70 karma

Not OP, but I did the same job and SO.MANY.HOURS.GOOGLING. For some shows we'd also have PDF scans of various release forms and such which we would often have to trawl through just to find the right spelling of someone's name or whatever. If we still weren't sure we'd spell something the best / most likely way we could think of.

CCSubsThrowaway49 karma

Please feel free to answer everything with me!

CCSubsThrowaway39 karma

The script if we have it. Google and wikis if not.

Darthspud40 karma

How did you decide how to translate Twin Peaks' amazing soundwork to subtitles? For example, the [ominous wooshing] subtitle became a lil meme for a bit, but how do you decide how to describe these noises?

Also, do you feel like you get a chance to enjoy the shows you subtitle, or is it just work?

CCSubsThrowaway52 karma

Personally, I really enjoy trying to come up with the best way to convey a soundscape. You just have to... come up with it really. It helps to enjoy language.

I totally do enjoy lots of the shows I subtitle. I love doing Game of Thrones, especially because I get to see it before everyone else.

ineffiable36 karma

What's your favorite subtitle phrase you created for a sound effect?

On the Blu-ray for the Roar film, around 75% through the film there's a tiny lion cub that roars, and the subtitles are:

[roars a tiny roar]

CCSubsThrowaway56 karma

I wrote "tiny shrieks" yesterday. I liked that.

browster35 karma

never spoil a quiz answer

Yes. Or a punch line to a joke. I use subtitles often when I'm exercising and can't always hear over the equipment. I hate when I read the end of a funny comment before the character says it.

Generally if a character speaks a sentence, it takes time, and there's a choice to make about when to put that full sentence on the screen. If it is shown as the character begins to speak the sentence, I'm going to finish reading it before it is fully spoken. That's often not good.

Also, in most cases I turn to the caption as a back-up for things I missed hearing. Again, if the caption appears when the character begins the sentence, it is often gone by the time I realized I missed what was said. Again, not good.

So can't captions be delayed just a bit more, so that these things are less likely to happen? Or alternatively, could it be possible to make caption delay a setup option on the viewer?

CCSubsThrowaway52 karma

You're right, a good subtitler will not give the punchline to a joke away either.

We can't delay a subtitle in case you missed it though. It's got to be onscreen at the same time as it's being said. They must reflect the reality of the program. Bu the caption should not disappear before the person has finished speaking the sentence either.

HadHerses12 karma

Whoever sometimes does HIGNFY is always a bit trigger happy!

It also sometimes comes up in "blocks" as well rather than matching the speech. I know it's a quick paced show!

My mum is legally deaf and I've grown up with subtitles, the improvements in it year in year our are amazing. Thank you for your work!

CCSubsThrowaway14 karma

My parents are deaf too! Hey fellow CODA.

I don't do HIGNFY though I'm afraid.

Viperstings31 karma

Do you have any insight into why some streaming services like NOW TV don't offer subtitles in this day and age when most of the stuff they have would have already been subbed?

CCSubsThrowaway23 karma

I'm not an engineer so I can't describe why it's difficult, but I know there are some technical problems that are difficult to overcome. I know they are working on it.

tunit00024 karma

I just want to thank you profusely for what you do. I am HoH and the attention to detail and considerations you are putting in your work make ALL the difference in the world when it comes to being able to fully enjoy a show! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! I guess I have to ask a question now...

I’ve often read subtitles that were not actually said in the scene. Does this mean it was in the script but was cut out or the actor decided not to say it?

CCSubsThrowaway19 karma

You're welcome!

It was probably in the script or a different version of the program and didn't get cut in the subtitles.

cataveteran23 karma

  1. I tried creating subtitles once. It was awful. I managed to get the timing or the duration right only rarely, and had to tweak the timings constantly. How do you guys, the pros, manage to time the text so accurately?

  2. What has been the most challenging TV-show or subtitling task for you? What was the absolute worst TV episode or portion?

CCSubsThrowaway48 karma

  1. You just have to do it, sentence by sentence sometimes. The software I use has shortcuts that sync the current subtitle timecode to the media timecode but it's still a time consuming process. You get quick at it with practice.
  2. Legion and Twin Peaks are/were both challenging. Anything where lots of people talk over each other or it's not clear whether someone's talking out loud or being possessed by a different character. Scenes with both internal and external dialogue. They're all hard. But the worst ones are the boring ones. Game shows.

Lenny_Cravatz22 karma

Sometimes I see captions that don't match the speech - they miss a few words out to shorten the sentence, for example. Are there any rules around when / why you would do this?

CCSubsThrowaway25 karma

No hard and fast rules. Paraphrasing used to be much more common but nowadays subtitlers do generally try to stay as faithful to the dialogue as possible. Sometimes if there are lots of people talking at once and lots of fast dialogue, it is necessary to paraphrase a bit, otherwise long subtitles would simply flash up on screen and be gone before anyone could read them properly.

Macluawn21 karma

For big show premiers, how early you get the audio&video before its first aired? Is there ever any secrecy to what you’re subbing?

CCSubsThrowaway30 karma

It varies from show to show. A big premier like GoT we may only get the video a day or two in advance. Yes, we absolutely do have to keep spoilers secret, I'd lose my job if I told.

Macluawn20 karma

By secrecy, I mean do you ever not know what you’re subbing? Like, cut up into parts for different creators.

CCSubsThrowaway29 karma

Oh. No. That would make the job impossible.

xSpiralStatic20 karma

Hi, this is going to sound rather bitter, but I feel the need to say/ask it anyway: I studied subtitling during my MA and produced an intralingual SDH project using Aegisub software (we also learned WinCAPS), and enjoyed it immensely. The accompanying essay was on the challenges of conveying comic dialogue to deaf and hard of hearing audiences (I used 'Allo 'Allo! to illustrate them). I received a Distinction grade for the module and was certain it was the right job for me. Just after I finished the course, I applied for a subtitling position with a major subtitling company and was subsequently invited to come in for a test and interview. I was horrified to find that pretty much all their work was produced using re-speaking, even pre-recorded TV, and that the test was exactly that. Suffice to say, although I did well in the interview, I BOMBED the test. I cocked up so badly that they just couldn't justify offering me the position (understandably so, all throughout the test I was mortified in front of the woman examining me). Years later, I still feel aggrieved that a master's course at a respected UK university did not teach me current/standard practice (re-speaking was only mentioned in passing), and therefore caused me to make a complete fool of myself and waste both mine and the company's time. If I'd been taught re-speaking, I would never have even applied for jobs in subtitling.

Anyway, after all that... if you're able to share the info, who is your employer? I'd still love to work in subtitling, as long as it didn't involve any re-speaking (which is apparently rare these days).

Sorry if I sound overly self-concerned, and good luck with the AMA!

CCSubsThrowaway29 karma

I can guess which company you applied to. That was poor on their behalf - they should be willing to provide complete training on re-speaking, it's not exactly a skill one can study for at university.

PM me if you like.

SCX-Kill20 karma

Do they give you a whole season right away or do you do one episode at a time? Basically just curious if you know any westworld spoils

CCSubsThrowaway47 karma

One episode at a time. And yes I do.

SCX-Kill16 karma

I've actually been curious about this for a while, so thanks for answering

Some follow up. What kinda punishments are there if you leak something? And do you still watch any of the shows that you sub, or do they get ruined?

CCSubsThrowaway30 karma

I'd lose my job.

I do still watch them, yes! Mainly because my partner wants to.

rentar4217 karma

I guess this is not strictly related to your work, as it's related to subtitle in "foreign languages".

I've been watching various lower-budget shows on German Netflix that were originally English. They are all dubbed to German and have German subtitles available.

However I often notice that the subtitles seem to be translated independently of the actually dubbing (up to and including choosing very different idioms to translate the same sentence). I've only ever noticed that on "smaller" productions (tv series, kids programs) and never on high-budget productions (movies that ran in cinemas).

Do you have any insight into what could cause that?

CCSubsThrowaway13 karma

I don;t know about that I'm afraid, Sorry.

RufusTruthfist16 karma

Game of Thrones - the scene where Grand Maester Pycelle gets caught saying The Mountain is a beast and should be destroyed. That awesome fear fart he let out would have gone completely unnoticed by me if I didn't have captions on. Thank you.

Is there a sort of central agency people can contact when they run into captions that are completely wrong?

CCSubsThrowaway15 karma

You just contact the channel or platform that they're on and they'll pass it on to the subtitling agency.

AlastarYaboy14 karma

I saw your post over on the Legion board! Super excited this is getting full traction, it was a great read over there.

Do you take any precautions to guard your hearing since it is so precious to your line of work? Have you ever had to call off for an extended period of time due to an illness that robbed you of your hearing in some way?

Do you watch the full episode in order to do your work or do you skip to certain parts? Do you caption for script improvisations or leave it as the script had it?

CCSubsThrowaway23 karma

I actually have a significant hearing loss in my right ear, unrelated to work. But I have good headphones and have never had problems related to that.

I watch the program and subtitle as I go along, unless I need to skip forward to check who a character is. I always subtitle what is actually said when it differs from the script.

CarthaginianSalt14 karma

is there any subtitles you have done that have got turned into memes? like [visible confusion] from the prequels.

CCSubsThrowaway8 karma

Not that I know of.

Zackhario13 karma

As a fellow Brit who's Hard of Hearing. Thank you for your work, couldn't have watched Got without subtitles.

In your opinion, what makes subtitles fit for purpose? I watch a lot of YouTube and people just throw in everything in their captions and it's hard to follow sometimes (emotes, all caps, symbols, etc). Not that I don't appreciate them, just wish people would take subtitling job a little more seriously.

CCSubsThrowaway15 karma

That's the big difference between amateur and professional subtitles. None of that nonsense, just put what the HoH viewer needs to enjoy the program on a par with the hearing viewer.

torashireSam9811 karma

Your work must really require a lot of patience and a lot of time. How long does it take to subtitled an episode?

CCSubsThrowaway14 karma

It does! I work quickly so a whole 1-hour episode from scratch would take me about 5 hours.

HotPocketDisaster11 karma

Hi thabks for the Ama! I've heard of David Lynch giving special instructions to projector operators for his movies. Did you ever receive special instruction for Twin peaks?

CCSubsThrowaway16 karma

No, directors tend to forget subtitles exist despite the huge difference they can make to viewing. I've never had any directions from any of them.

shobble10 karma

How do you handle foreign languages, especially ones you don't speak? (My personal favourite was an interview with a north korean defector, which helpfully brought up a [speaks foreign language] sub every time he spoke, usually in an awkward spot)

What sort of control do you have over placement, and do you have to consider how it'll work on different size/aspect screens?

What's the hardest thing to get right, or that takes the most creativity/judgement? Watching comedies, especially stand-up demonstrates a huge range in subtitler effort and ability, especially in choosing exactly when to show a punchline.

Any idea how multi-language subbing is produced? Does it get a native subtitle and have that textually translated, or is each produced from the audio by a speaker of the source and target?

What does '888' mean? :-)

CCSubsThrowaway12 karma

I can decide if the subtitle should appear at the top, middle or bottom of the screen. Line length is limited to a certain number of characters so that they don't exceed the width of a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Comedy is difficult, yes.

I have done multi-language programmes. Usually I receive it when all the non-English subtitles have been embedded into the programme, and then I add in the English subtitles where needed.

888 is the number people used to have to put in back when subtitles ran using teletext/Ceefax.

qtheconquerer10 karma

Do you get invested in the shows when watching them? Have you ever had to stop working and pause the show because of something that happened in the show?

CCSubsThrowaway30 karma

YES. When Tommen jumped, I let out an audible gasp and had to walk away from my desk for a bit.

DennisNedrey9 karma

So do you know anything abbot the US CC system? Because every time i'm in a waiting room somewhere watching the TV it has the closed captioning on and it's delayed for like 30 seconds. Is that because someone is typing it out as it's broadcast or because it's just not synced up right?

CCSubsThrowaway19 karma

That's because that's live subtitling. have a look at the link in my OP for an explanation as to the delay.

Adam_Ch9 karma

I was watching Scrubs and found it funny that when they said "ass" it was subtitled as "arse". What's your general rule for subtitling American English for a British audience?

CCSubsThrowaway30 karma

If an American says "ass" I write ass. If a British person says "arse" I write arse. But I do change color to colour
and so on, otherwise it's jarring for a UK audience.

Trekky06239 karma

What are your priorities when captioning a film or show? Are you going for accuracy, or is there some creative license allowed in changing the subtitled text so that it differs from what is spoken?

Is formatting like italics or colouring common? When would they be used?

Do you have a preferred font for subtitles? A preferred colour?

CCSubsThrowaway18 karma

Always accuracy. I try not to fuck around with the dialogue.

There are no italics in UK subtitling but yes, we do use colouring. Characters are assigned a certain colour (white, blue, green or yellow) and that is used to show who is speaking at any given time.

Coconuttus8 karma

Ever make an embarrassing typo that got past the keeper?

CCSubsThrowaway30 karma

No, but I did once accidentally attached a censored version of subtitles to a program that was going out uncensored. I got a furious email from a deaf viewer asking if we thought deaf people were stupid and couldn't handle seeing swear words. It was just a human mistake.

JumboShock7 karma

Have the producers that hire you ever considered jazzing the subtitles up a bit? Maybe use some of the r/HighQualityGIF techniques so text tracks with a characters head or otherwise is more immersive with the viewing experience? (see this masterpiece by u/lukabob for subtle use of tracking text: https://i.imgur.com/MxWcYgo.gifv) Could make for a more dynamic experience instead of the consumer just looking back and forth trying to keep up with both the text and image.

CCSubsThrowaway28 karma

As pretty as it looks, it's really distracting. One of the goals of good TV captioning is that you should forget that you're reading captions. You should just be immersed in the show. Having subtitles move all round the screen is both adding to and distracting from the show itself.

People who use subtitles regularly are very used to the captions being at the bottom of the screen and have no difficulty assimilating that into their viewing experience.

Tielur6 karma

The biggest thing I wonder is the source to result... do you have a script how often does it not match up? How does timing work, is it handled separately and then added and time stamped to the video by another team or do you handle that?

Also if I’m not too annoying by now what are your thoughts on the non dialogue ques such a “music playing” how do you deicide what’s needed and do you have the input of someone hearing impaired on context?

CCSubsThrowaway4 karma

It varies from show to show. Some scripts match the dialogue 100%, some the actors have obviously ad-libbed or made changes. So you have to be on the ball to make sure the subs do not always blindly parrot the script.

daemsel4 karma

I'm hard of hearing and rely on subtitles. I love that you emphasize accuracy over paraphrasing, and that you want all subtitles all the time. Thank you so much for the work you do, and for doing it so well!

Two (groups of) questions: 1. You mentioned that live captioning uses voice recognition software. Are there any parts of your job that you wish were automated? If so, what parts, and if not, why not? 2. What show is that about astrolabes?? I recently became fascinated with astrolabes and was shocked to see a reference to them.

CCSubsThrowaway5 karma

I wish the timecode synchronization with the media was automated.

It's Warehouse 13, a fun show!

hnglmkrnglbrry4 karma

Why do subtitles sometimes say stuff like "eerie music" or "upbeat pop song?" I get that not only deaf people use subtitles, but those that aren't deaf don't need that info do they?

CCSubsThrowaway3 karma

Subtitles are there not only to convey the words but also the feeling of the show's soundscape. If a sound or song makes the scene feel a certain way, it should be included.

CletusVanDamnit4 karma

Bless your heart and all those that do the job you do. Although my hearing is on point, I still have the captions on almost 100% of the time. I just like it.

Who chooses the font size and style of captions? The program or the network? It seems that sometimes different shows on the same network will have drastically different caption styles. Some have the stupidly large black background with large white text, the next will have a completely different style all together. Is one style preferred over another, or does it have to do with regulations in some way?

Frankly, I prefer the smaller yellow or white captions, no black behind it.

CCSubsThrowaway5 karma

It sounds like you're watching US subtitles, which i can't speak about. In the UK, subtitles are standardised across all networks and shows.

noob_tech3 karma

1) Apologies, I'm not sure I've seen this outside of Netflix but possibly you can explain something that bothers me a bit. When an off-screen character speaks but is revealed by the camera whilst speaking, that character is often named in the subtitles. I'm like, c'mon don't tell me who it is before I see them, I'm supposed to make the connection in my head before it happens. I realize that if I'm deaf I wouldn't be able to hear the voice to place it, but I still think it kind of runs contrary to the original goal.

I call it 'micro-spoilers' and its the bane of my existence.

2) Is there any method to handling super-dense speaking stuff, like Sorkin comes to mind? Is it just about preserving intent, case-by-case type of thing?

CCSubsThrowaway5 karma

I answered 1 upthread.

  1. Yep, just case by case, you work through it. You make judgements and try to do your best, that's all.

TheUsher3 karma

For something like Game of Thrones, how early do you see the episodes? I assume in a secure facility?

CCSubsThrowaway7 karma

Up to two weeks before, but often much less. No secure facility, just at my desk. It's a TV company, we've all signed NDAs.

purplism3 karma

How many WPM do you type? What do you do when you simply can't understand what's said and no script is provided?

CCSubsThrowaway13 karma

I don't actually know my WPM. It's not crazy high. You don't have to be able to type incredibly fast as we're often provided with a script that we can convert to subtitles. But you do have to be accurate.

If I can't understand and we have no script, I'll consult with a colleague or two. If none of us can understand, then it is reasonable for the subtitles to say something like "indistinct" because it accurately reflects the experience of the listening viewer.

ulmenkind2 karma

I'm training to be a translator and subtitles are part of my job. What sort of formal training do you have? And, since this is something I've been think a lot about, would you consider your work to be 'translation'?

CCSubsThrowaway3 karma

I never had any formal training. I have a degree in philosophy!

I consider my work to be a mixture of translation and interpretation.

Zentaurion2 karma

Did you have anything to do with this?

CCSubsThrowaway3 karma

Heh. No.

Ag0r2 karma

Do people in your profession do things just for kicks? The best example I can think of is the classic "Laughs in Spanish" thing. Is that someone just messing around, or is it just someone who's really bad at the job?

CCSubsThrowaway3 karma

It could be either, tbh. "Cries in Spanish" is just silly subtitling really.

princessofpromise1 karma

Do you get a laugh if/when the show’s characters go self-aware and start making fun of the subtitles? There’s gotta be at least one

CCSubsThrowaway1 karma

Weirdly, it's never happened. I would like it though.

just-a-traveler1 karma


CCSubsThrowaway2 karma

Yes I do. It comes from me, the subtitler. I'm experienced and trusted to use my judgement to decide what does and doesn't need to be captioned. I always try to keep my deaf family and friends in mind and think about what the viewing experience is like for them - are they missing out if I don't mention this sound? Is it too obvious and annoying to mention that sound? I use my judgement.

slowriot051 karma

Do you get to choose which shows or programs you would transcribe? What’s the most boring show you’ve been assigned?

CCSubsThrowaway2 karma

No, I don't get to choose, but I can request.

The most boring are game shows.

SoThenISays1 karma

I find watching shows with captions on is really helpful, so I don't miss any of the quieter conversational dialogue. I turn it off for nearly every comedy I watch however, because I find that the captions often appear earlier than necessary, spoiling the upcoming joke. You mentioned you caption to never spoil a quiz answer, do you also caption comedies any differently for this reason?

CCSubsThrowaway3 karma

Yes, I try to never spoil a punchline. It is difficult though. If it's a one-liner, splitting it into two subtitles may make in unreadable speed-wise. I appreciate it's troublesome.

Ditches1011 karma

Which English accent has been the hardest to decipher?.. I'm guessing Scottish or Irish!!

CCSubsThrowaway2 karma

Scottish and Irish aren't English and you'd better hide before any Scots or Irish people see you said that.

lukeb241 karma

My friend was wondering how you type so fast?

CCSubsThrowaway1 karma

I don't really, not crazy fast.

[deleted]1 karma


CCSubsThrowaway6 karma

Ripped subtitles are widely available to download if you know where to look.

The BBC outsources its subtitles to a private company, as do almost all broadcasters. They're not about to give them away for free I'm afraid.