I’ve been working as a freelance subtitler for two years now, here’s what I’ve learnt in that time...
2. I have had very little success in blindly emailing subtitling agencies. By all means try it, but keep a list of all the agencies and people you write to.
3. Trial all the premium subtitling software. You can normally get a free trial period. I tried WinCaps, Spot, EZTitles and Swift before settling on EZTitles. You can also rent most of these on a monthly basis. I finished my Master’s summer subtitling project by renting one, which meant I didn’t have to physically be in university. Just because your university course tends to use one software more than others doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to that one.
4. Try the free subtitling software too. Chances are you don’t have a few grand in the bank to buy one of the above professional software programs. And when you leave uni, you will no longer have free access to premium software. You can, however, do most jobs fairly well with the free ones. I’ve successfully completed many subtitling projects using Subtitle Workshop and Subtitle Edit.
5. Get a widescreen laptop or computer screen. I find this useful for both subtitling and written translation. I can have the subtitling software open and to one side the transcript of the video. Or if I’m doing a written translation, I can have the source text and translation open side by side in two separate documents, no problem. I found it was quite difficult to do on a normal ratio screen.
6. Show your talent! Okay so you studied subtitling and you worked on various videos in uni, but how can you show your talent? Find a short video you like on YouTube, subtitle it, then send the subtitle file to the video owner and ask them to add it to their video. I like to send this link whenever I am talking to a new client or agency, even if it is a bit rude! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU6-MWBK8n4
7. Be organised! Establish an efficient system to record all the jobs you receive and complete. It’s your responsibility to invoice clients. If you let one slip by, it’s money down the drain.
8. Watch films and TV! Sounds obvious but the guidelines for subtitling and closed captions vary between different TV stations, film companies and countries. Make sure you know what they are in your working languages. Some subtitling agencies have very vague, confusing or contradictory guidelines, therefore it’s good to know the general industry guidelines. Get hold of a copy of the excellent book “Audiovisual Translation, Subtitling” by Jorge Díaz-Cintas and Aline Remael http://goo.gl/AuwwN3
9. Make friends. Although I have been studying Spanish for 16 years, it is far from perfect. When subtitling, you come across a LOT of idioms and colloquialisms whose meaning you may not find in a dictionary or even on google. Example: I subtitled a Spanish TV series set in the 1600s which was full of antiquated expressions and some Mexican soap operas. I often call on friends here in Colombia and round the Hispanic-speaking world to clarify any problems in understanding the source video or the meaning of unusual words and phrases.
10. Social networking! There are some great groups for subtitlers on both LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s a good way to discuss issues with other colleagues and also vent off a bit of steam when needed!
Do you have any tips for newbie subtitlers? Share your wisdom and experience in the comments below!