Everything you need to know about subtitling | Stillman Translations
Everything you need to know about subtitling

Most video content these days is captioned or has subtitles. Close captions were originated to assist the deaf and the hearing impaired, but that’s not the main objective anymore.

Subtitling is one of the two most common modes of audiovisual translation. In general, subtitling is part of the multimedia localization process. This area of the translation industry is expanding tremendously, as audiovisual products are constantly being developed in different parts of the world. Also, users now have their own devices to create audiovisual content, which is why the need for adapted content has also increased. 

Thanks to subtitles we can recreate and express people’s voices as well as the communicative contexts. The audiovisual industry is changing the way people communicate, educate themselves and shares knowledge, so it has a large impact on our society. In this new context, subtitles are making it possible to access different sources of entertainment, such as movies, music videos, games, series, documentaries, and much more. In this way, it is also changing how we behave as consumers. 

The time we spend watching screens is higher than ever before. For this reason, the demand for subtitling audiovisual content is growing. Most of the video content we see on social media and entertainment platforms is captioned. The reason for that is because several studies show that around 85% of people that view videos on Facebook view them with the sound off. Captions are popping all over the place.  

Why is subtitling important? 

Most video content these days is captioned or has subtitles. Close captions were originated to assist the deaf and the hearing impaired, but that’s not the main objective anymore. According to Zenith’s Online Video Forecasts 2019 report, the average person will spend 100 minutes each day watching online video in 2021, up from 84 minutes in 2019. 

The amount of time people spend viewing online video has grown at an average rate of 32% a year between 2013 and 2018. This situation is boosted by improvements in display sizes and quality of mobile devices, faster mobile data connections, and the spread of connected TV sets. Zenith forecasts that advertising expenditure on online video will rise from US$45 billion to US$61 billion by 2021, at an average rate of 18% a year, compared to 10% a year for internet advertising as a whole. 

For this reason, subtitling is becoming more demanded than ever before, and it will continue to expand. To achieve the best results in subtitling, it is key to work with professional translators who are also specialists in subtitling. 

Most common mistakes in subtitling 

Many times when subtitling, we see or read some common mistakes that are extremely important to take into account to avoid any sort of misinterpretation: 

Wrong Timing 

There is no bigger error than when a character is saying something and the subtitles say something else. The timing mistake in subtitling is actually very common. To avoid making a useless subtitle, it is key to meticulously analyze your content to make sure that subtitles are correctly timed and placed for their effective and desired results. 

Literal translation 

Every content needs to be translated taking into account the uses of the language and the cultural background of the target audience. For this reason, it is best to work with translators who are also native speakers. It is not only translating the words, but making sure that the intention of the message is well-received. 

Illegible Texts 

Proper subtitling aims to make the user’s understanding of what is being viewed not only possible, but also gratifying. Viewers won’t be able to read a text that is too small, goes extremely fast, or made in a color that isn’t easy to watch. It is also important to consider improving user’s experience adapting the subtitles to mobile devices. 


Punctuation is important to convey what the characters are trying to express. Viewers need to be able to accompany the pauses or to interpret when something is said as a question or an exclamation. Proper punctuation is a good practice that enhances the quality a greatly. 

Using machine translation 

Machines aren’t able to identify idiomatic expressions or intertextual references. No software can understand humor, sarcasm, irony or emotions, so human translation is key when subtitling.  

Multimedia localization and subtitling at Stillman Translations 

At Stillman Translations, we work with audiovisual experts that localize any multimedia content, as well as subtitle it, making voiceovers and dubbing. This type of localization makes it possible for videos and audios to become available and comprehensive for any target market. 

Nowadays, multimedia content is becoming more and more consumed. We live in a technological world that is changing the way we interact with information. Many studies indicate that people pay much more attention and are more eager to watch multimedia content. 

We can adapt any of your multimedia content and localize it so you can provide your audience with interactive and attractive materials. 


Subtitling Basics