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Call Me A Cab (2)

Subtitling, A New Year and A New Skill!

It feels great to start the New Year with a new skill! In October 2021 I started the Basic Subtitling course at University College London and since then I have learnt a great deal.

I have learnt to:

  • set in and out times of dialogue, also known as time-cueing,
  • transcribe English dialogue (intralingual transcription) and translate English dialogue into Spanish or Spanish dialogue into English (interlingual subtitling),
  • use ten different condensation techniques,
  • keep to the 17 characters per second limit (which is very hard),
  • set pauses between subtitles to 80 milliseconds,
  • subtitle within one to six second(s) duration,
  • segment text,
  • respect shot changes (again very hard),
  • synchronise,
  • match frame rates and resolution between software programmes and
  • deal with register, dialect and culture-bound terms, especially extralinguistic ones.

One of our assignments was to take a clip of no more than five minutes and subtitle it into a foreign languge, Spanish in my case. I chose a sequence from ‘Singing In The Rain’ which You Tube described as ‘A Noble Profession’. It was quite challenging because there was so much fast and overlapping dialogue. Moreover, there were cultural references to Shakespeare, Ibsen and Ethel Barrymore. The jokes and puns were difficult too. At the beginning of the sequence Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is mobbed by adoring fans and he shouts to his lifelong friend, Cosmo Brown, “Call me a cab!” Cosmo replies in English, “Okay, you’re a cab”. Above is how I subtitled Cosmo’s reply in Spanish.

I received a variety of other clips to subtitle, all much harder than the previous one to subtitle. It was fun trying to resolve the problems, even if it did take a long time! Hopefully, as I subtitle more I will get faster. At the moment I am using Subtitle Workshop and Subtitle Edit to work on. I need to familiarise myself with professional subtitling software.  I have still to learn how to convert videos into different formats and how to transfer srt files into formats other than Notepad. Although this basic course has been demanding I intend to study the Advanced Subtitling course at UCL later this year.

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