Subtitles are one of the most common types of translated texts for an average person to see every day. Errors made in translations for films and TV shows are also a common subject of conversation at social gatherings and internet forums, when the critical know-it-alls never fail to be amazed by how dumb a translator can be.

What can we say; translators also make mistakes. Then again translating subtitles is both substantively and technically a very complicated assignment. For example, even in a very ordinary TV series, there may be scenes that require very specific professional expertise in medicine, criminalistics, etc. Also, there may be very figurative sayings, slang, hints or other culture-specific expressions that can be correctly translated by a person who is thoroughly familiar with the cultural space or subculture in question.

Technically, the best option for the translator would be to have both the film and the correct manuscript (subtitle file) as the base for translation, but sometimes it happens that the film can only be translated by hearing, or the translator must do the work based solely on the subtitle file, and is not able to view the film itself. In both cases, certain “mistranslations” are almost inevitable, even with a great translator.

A very important part (and a total headache for the translator) is fitting the subtitles within the prescribed limit, so that everything important is still said. There are two important limitations: space and time. Space limit decides how many rows and characters appear on the screen at one time. There are usually two rows, but the number of characters may vary, for example from 30 to 60. This means that the written text in the subtitles is mostly a short summary of oral text presented in the film.

Besides that, the subtitle translator must be able to work with special computer programs. If the correct original content is missing, it is very time consuming to time the subtitles or set certain time codes for the appearing text. It can even take several times longer than the translation process itself. Converting file formats from one to another can also be a lot of extra work.

Unicom Translation Agency offers translation and subtitling service for films and other audiovisual material (promotional clips, training videos, etc.) to its clients. Before the translating can begin, a few aspects must be set: what format does the original material come in, what file format is preferred by the client for the text and what format is desired for the final project and so on. Also, the volume of subtitles must be agreed upon (limitations for time and space). We also offer audio translations such as voice-overs or dubbing for films and other audiovisual material.

Voice-over means that the translation or commentary thread is read upon the film/video and the original voices can be heard silently in the background. The voice-over is usually done by one actor or speaker.

Dubbing is a more complicated and more expensive form of audio translation, where the voices of actors or commentators are completely replaced by an oral text in a different language. There are usually several voice actors doing the dubbing, with at least one male and one female voice. It requires great acting skills in addition to perfect language skills to perform well.