Tips for movie and documentary producersThose interested in producing a movie or documentary or any other audio-visual production for television, DVD or cinema would be well advised to take the subject of subtitling into consideration.
Movie and documentary producers spare no cost or effort to produce a high quality product, but wind up ruining it by overlooking some of the basic principles of subtitling.
A little basic knowledge can prevent spoken dialogue from being excluded from subtitles at the end of a scene, fragments of subtitles disappearing at chapter breaks and, even worse, subtitles appearing across people's faces.
- Place graphic titles (names of interviewees, information like 'Atlanta, August 1956' or 'ten years later') at the very top right or left hand side of the screen.
Why? To prevent subtitles clashing with graphic titles. Moving the subtitles a little to avoid clashing with graphic titles is not a solution, as they may show up on the chin, nose, or even eyes of a talking head, like above. Anybody watching Discovery or National Geographic channels in a subtitling country can ill witness this horrible phenomenon.
- Give the subtitle enough time, especially if an important line is spoken just before a scene change or fade-out. Too often subtitlers are forced either to bring in the subtitle too early or leave it too long (into the fade-out or even the next scene), both alternatives to avoid the subtitle disappearing before it's been read properly.
- Take chapter breaks into consideration. No subtitles are allowed during the four frames before and after chapter breaks, as this will cause them to disappear on DVD's. A movie maker ignoring this rule partly ruins his own work. One of the few producers who seem to take this into consideration is Joss Whedon, creator and producer of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayers'. In his DVD liner notes he reminds his colleagues not to use dialogue in fade-outs, and his own dialogue is always completed in time.