Subtitling or captioning


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This page is for Subtitling or captioning; adding single-language or bi-lingual sub-titles to videos.


The terms 'Sub-titles' and 'Captions'

The public tends to use the term 'Sub-titles' for the text version of the on-screen dialog. In the United States, television subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing is usually called 'closed captioning'. In the video/movie/TV industries, they use the term 'Captions'. The process of adding them is called 'Captioning'. Captioning is different from subtitling in that 1) all dialog is verbatim, 2) some paralanguage is included 3) background sounds and music information are included.

Overview of sub-titles or captions

See Wikipedia: Captioning and Wikipedia: Closed captioning.

Uses for sub-titles or captions

  • Single language (original language) - For the hard of hearing.
  • Single language (original language) - To help people who speak English as a second language.
  • Single language (original language) - For interviews with people with strong accents.
  • Single language (different language) - For people who don't speak the original language (instead of dubbing the speech).
  • Dual-language - For people learning a second language, such as English, French, etc.

Adding sub-titles or captions

This is done by a language expert on a computer using specialized captioning software. See Wikipedia: Captioning

Open-source software

All the software used to add captions must be open-source. Some software applications currently available are:

If you know of any others, please add them.

When to add sub-titles

Sub-titles can be added at the time the video is made or later. The person doing the sub-titles needs all the help and information they can get. For OLPC, it would be good to have a website where scripts are stored, for those videos that are scripted. It could also store pre-production notes for both scripted and non-scripted videos.

Translating the sub-titles into another language

It would be useful to find/write some software to extract the original-language sub-titles from a video (or seperate file), together with the time-code giving the time-position and frame-number in the video where each sentence occurs. The software could also create an auto-translated version of each sentence, which can then be added to the video pictures and checked and corrected manually.

Notes to aid translators

The translator may not be fluent in the original-language of the video, or it may use a lot of colloquialisms, slang and cultural references that they are not familiar with. For this reason, there should be a guide-book for video producers, asking them to write some notes to aid translators and overseas viewers and add them to the script/notes website. The viewers may also wish to read any cultural notes. If a producer didn't write notes at the time the video was produced, then someone from the same country and language could write some later. It may be useful to have a section of the website to request someone to do it.

Schools without internet-access

These schools won't have access to the script/notes website. When videos are distributed, the sub-titles or captions should ideally be embedded in the video-file, so they don't get seperated. If not, then a seperate captions-file should be included. Any notes for viewers and translators should also be included. The whole lot could be in a self-extracting ZIP file to keep them together.

Video-list with sub-title status

The script/notes website should have a list/database of all videos produced and their sub-title/caption status (any sub-titles at all Yes/No, languages, embedded or seperate, list of caption files, note files, etc).

The same information would be sent out to schools without internet-access on every CD/DVD-ROM/Video DVD containing videos or separately, perhaps once a month.

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