by Jorge Díaz Cintas & Aline Remael
Subtitling has been around since the first half of the 20th century and has taken on many shapes and forms since then. With online activity increasing in virtually all domains of our preeminently audiovisual globalized cultures, its importance is growing exponentially.
Subtitling: Concepts and Practices provides students, researchers, practitioners and anyone with an interest in media, language, audiovisual translation, language technology and intercultural communication with an introduction to the theory and practice of subtitling informed by the latest research. The core concepts and exercises it supplies will allow its users to acquaint themselves with subtitles’ technical, linguistic and cultural features. The book offers concrete subtitling strategies for dealing with specific translation problems and contains a wealth of examples in numerous languages. It also explores state-of-the art translation technologies, their impact on the profession and discusses how these technologies meet the current sociopolitical, multicultural and multilingual challenges of audiovisual productions.
The book is a truly multimedia package. It comes with a companion website that contains additional resources, including video clips, dialogue lists, a glossary of concepts and terminology used in the industry, a wide range of exercises with answer keys and much more. It also provides complimentary access to a major desktop subtitle editor, Wincaps Q4, and a leading cloud-based subtitling platform, OOONA.
Wincaps Q4 is a professional subtitling software program developed by Screen Subtitling Systems and widely used in the broadcast market worldwide. OOONA, a cloud-based ecosystem, allows users to create subtitles from scratch, translate from templates, review subtitles created by someone else, and burn subtitles into video without having to download any software. It is thanks to the authors’ long-standing experience in subtitling research and practice, as well as their collaboration in numerous AVT projects, that both companies have agreed to become an integral part of this new Routledge subtitling package. Having access to two professional and complementary subtitling technologies will give practitioners-to-be a head start in the industry and supply researchers with the technological know-how that must inform contemporary AVT research.
Although English is the vehicular language of the monograph, examples taken from subtitled films and TV series are provided in a wide range of languages, with back translations.
Because subtitling traditions vary from country to country and even from company to company, writing about subtitling for an international audience is certainly ambitious and means that some generalization is inevitable. Yet, the degree of variation is relative and professional practices are beginning to converge due to globalization and technological advancements. Most differences in professional practice do not really affect the fundamentals of subtitling, and learners who have acquired an insight into these specific issues will be armed with transferable skills that can be applied in many different contexts.
We explore the most relevant academic challenges of this very specific form of translation and raise a number of fundamental research questions. Despite its reliance on technology, subtitling also requires flexible and creative linguistic skills as well as a solid background in intercultural communication.
The book is divided into nine chapters that start with questions or issues for preliminary discussion or reflection and end with graded exercises that reflect on subtitling theory and offer a first inroad into subtitling practice. To ensure easy navigation, the book and website are intimately interconnected and follow the same structure.
Chapter 1, Reconceptualizing subtitling, offers an introduction to the fast-changing global world of audiovisual translation (AVT) and its increased importance as a research domain within Translation Studies. It conceptualizes what subtitling is today, distinguishes it from other forms of AVT, surveys the different types of subtitles that commonly appear on viewers’ screens and includes a classification on the basis of different parameters.
Chapter 2, Professional ecosystem, aims to present the reader with an outline of the typical steps that are followed when subtitling an audiovisual production, contrasting old and new practices when appropriate.
Chapter 3, The semiotics of subtitling, provides essential information about film as a complex multimedia text, combining the semiotics of the moving image and sound as well as the multimodality of language. Subtitles must be designed and timed to interact with all these sign systems in a coherent manner. Within this context, the chapter discusses why and how multimediality not only constitutes a challenge but also holds opportunities that subtitlers must learn to use to their advantage.
Chapter 4, Spatial and temporal features, highlights the importance of subtitling conventions to ensure consistency, and explores the key spatial and temporal limitations that define this professional practice. It examines spatial issues related to the layout and positioning of subtitles, their font type and size, the number of lines per subtitle and the maximum number of characters per line. As for the temporal dimension, the focus is placed on the task of spotting, the function of timecodes, the various subtitle display rates and reading speeds, the significance of shot changes and other features.
Chapter 5, Formal and textual features, focuses on the main lexical, syntactical, and typographical characteristics that define the formal presentation of subtitles on screen and separate, highlight and clarify written text. It also offers advice on the formal rendering of songs, letters and other written documents, as well as numbers, abbreviations, symbols, measures and weights.
Chapter 6 is devoted to The linguistics of subtitling in a broader sense and discusses the different options available to carry out text condensation; a typical occurrence in subtitling that will depend on the film genre, the dialogical features of character interaction and the specific context of the scene. The concepts of cohesion and coherence are also explored in the field of subtitling and advice is provided on how to carry out line breaks within and across subtitles.
Chapter 7, Subtitling language variation and change, is the first chapter of two centering on specific translation issues. It begins by defining language variation, the most common forms it can take, the narrative purposes it may serve and how subtitling can deal with these. It then discusses the subtitling of songs, which hold a challenge of their own as texts written to be sung have additional parameters, often involving playful linguistic features.
Chapter 8, Subtitling cultural references, humor and ideology, discusses these three interconnected but unstable concepts in the sense that they evolve with time, can be considered from many angles and appear to have dissimilar meanings for different people and communities. Like marked language more generally, these features are common traits of audiovisual productions and present contextdependent challenges for subtitlers.
Chapter 9, Technology in motion, explores the rapid evolution of specialist software, machine translation and cloud-based platforms in the audiovisual translation industry, drawing attention to the impact these technological advances are having in new AVT ecosystems and translators’ workstations.
And here the brief journey through the book and the website ends, though we hope it also signals the start of your subtitling adventure. We trust you’ll enjoy it.