20 August 2021

Our "Dos and Don'ts" for the translation of audiovisual works

Whether films, videos or other audiovisual works, they only acquire an intense message through language and multilingualism. In our blog, we provide tips for successful audiovisual translation. We explain the special features and summarise the most important dos and don'ts especially for our junior translator colleagues.

Ariana Blog Dos and Donts for the Translation of Audiovisual Works

What would films and videos be without words, without multilingualism and dubbing, or without subtitling. In our blog on the translation of audiovisual works, we do not deal with the details of audiovisual translation. There are numerous explanations and contributions here. We summarise the most important working rules for the creation of these translations in the hope of giving junior translators more encouragement and tips from our experienced colleagues?
We will first briefly explain what audiovisual translations are and then go on to name the dos and don'ts.
Audiovisual translations are all translations of video files. The primary goal is to harmonise each image with what is being said and to translate the content appropriately into the desired language. Subtitling is the most frequently requested service in our daily work, followed by dubbing. The challenge of dubbing is to render the content while taking into account the lip movements in the image, i.e. the translation must be constantly adapted. Protocols that document words and images and depict instructions support the translations.
Generally, there are no fixed protocols, instructions or guidelines for dubbing or subtitling in the conventional sense.
In public broadcasting, however, there are various regulations and guidelines for the subtitling of audiovisual contributions. For example, a maximum of 21 characters per second may be inserted. An entire subtitle may not contain more than 38 characters per line. In the so-called pyramid system, a maximum of 2 lines per subtitle are allowed. The upper line should not be longer than the lower line. In addition, the insertion time of each subtitle is limited. More technical guidelines, written by the IRT, the publisher of the technical guidelines and working group results of the public broadcasters in Germany (ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandradio), Austria (ORF) and Switzerland (SRG/SSR), can be found here

Let us now look at the three important aspects of audiovisual translation. Besides the content side, i.e. the translation must correspond to the content, intercultural and traditional backgrounds must be known and the technical aspects must be taken into account.

Dos: What must be taken into account?
1) First, look at the audiovisual work to be translated in its entirety. Immediately start creating the detailed dubbing protocol. A detailed script is fundamental for good dubbing. Of course, such a protocol improves with the increasing experience of a professional audiovisual translator and should always be the basis for the voice-over. Some readers may now wonder what is so important about the protocol and what exactly is documented in it. In this basic document, among other things, the visibility of the lip movement is recorded, non-verbal expressions such as LAUGHING or CRIING are taken into account, but also pauses for intervention or speaking are integrated.
2) There is the 1:1 translation and the voice-over translation, where the translated passages are spoken in the foreground and another voice is heard in the background. As a translator, free yourself as much as possible from the idea that you always want or have to translate what is said in full. Speech flows and volumes vary too much for that. The motto is: Concentrate and focus in the translation on the essence of what is being said.
3) When subtitling, it is imperative that you observe the number of characters and the time requirements in order to guarantee the readability of the subtitles in the context of the story.
4) No one is perfect and four eyes see more than two. Give both the subtitle translation and the dubbing, including the transcript, to another colleague, because the 4-eyes check ensures quality and usually a follow-up job.
5) Intensive terminology research in advance is essential for every audiovisual translation. Unfortunately, a quick Google search is not enough. Intercultural conditions, traditions, peculiarities and country-specific requirements must be taken into account in the translation in order to support and accompany the authenticity of the audiovisual work.
6) Make meaningful abbreviations of the interventions.

Don'ts: What should be avoided at all costs?
1) Never leave dubbing translations to a speaker. While the speaker concentrates on the rendering, he neglects the fit of text, image and non-verbal aspects.
2) Move away from the claim of wanting to translate everything completely and limit yourself to the most important content. Anything else can lead to unintentional mistakes.
3) Always check spelling and grammar, because tenses or spelling mistakes can cause distortions in the content.
4) Pay attention to the timing of subtitles. Avoid overlaps, place importance on the consistency of speech cues.
5) Important: Do not censor, i.e. vulgar language must also be retained or elevated language adopted.
6) Also, do not separate syntagms and sense units.

For each type of audiovisual translation, subtitling, dubbing or translation for the deaf, there are specific script recommendations and regulations. There is enough material to cover these topics in detail and in depth in further blog posts.
Here and now, we will leave it at the illustration of the 12 most important general tips for audiovisual translations from our experts. Of course, these tips only complement the professional training and further education in this field.
It was also important for us to share that a film translator has to deal with a variety of extra-linguistic elements from the socio-cultural context of the source culture, in addition to language pair-specific problems and language style.
Armed with these tips, you will be in a better position to handle your future assignments optimally and with great pleasure.