Posted on 14th AUGUST 2018 by Natasha Moore
Subtitler is a legit job. Yes, really you can get paid to watch TV non-stop. And it's a job with a big social impact (bet you didn't see that one coming). They're essential to deaf and hard of hearing audience members. It's great that a job exists where you know that you are directly helping those in need by allowing them to gain the best possible TV experience they can.
How is subtitling actually done?
Spoiler alert - the subtitles aren't typed out. That image you had of a poor little Netflix junior locked in a room frantically bashing out 1000 words a minute while they watch the latest season of Stranger Things at high speed is totally wrong.
A lot of live TV shows and pre-recorded shows gain their subtitles through a technique known as 'respeaking'. It's where a designated Subtitler sitting in an audio-proof room, will repeat what's being said on air into a microphone, hooked up specialised audio recognition software which then generates captions on screen. The reason for the repetition is to ensure there is no background noise and that the voice is clear enough for the software to pick up the words accurately. So the myth that a lot of typing is involved can be debunked!
Subtitling for live shows can bring an additional level of difficulty in that the captioner, before going on air, must research all the words that the computer might not recognise and teach these to it. So it's all in the voice, and I must say watching this video of a subtitler, his voice really does have to sound robotic for the computer system to pick it up. This is because the system will struggle picking up any intonation in the voice. Also shocking is the number of words the Subtitler will have to go through per session. Normally, the average number of words spoken by a person will be approx 10,000 words a day, a captioner can reach this in merely a few hours. Someone pass them a lozenge for God's sake!
To do this role, you will need to:
Have excellent writing skills (obvi)
Have excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation (urgh)
Have good descriptive skills and sensitivity (u ok hun?)
Be computer literate (no quills and ink, please)
How to become a subtitler
Have a look at this BTI Studio's advice.
Royal National Institute for Deaf People has information on subtitling.
University of Surrey offers a post-graduate course in Audio Description and Subtitling.
Written by Natasha Moore
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