Toward Intelligent Subtitling
Part 2: ???
Our profession is a demanding one. Indeed, to be a part of it, we subtitlers have to wear many different hats — that of a translator, a transcriber, a spotter, an adaptor and even a software operator. And if you work freelance, you also have to take the roles of a business owner, a project manager, a marketer, an accountant, and so on. It's a whole company in just one person!
However, there's another crucial set of skills which we film translators must have and yet, frustratingly, no one seems to be talking about. Those skills are never mentioned in job descriptions, few universities teach them, and subtitling agencies don't require them either. It's bizarre — in other translation fields you're expected to have deep knowledge of the subject matter, whether it be medical, technical or legal, but when it comes to films, all of a sudden just watching them is enough, as if there was not much to know.
Well, as practice shows, it isn't, so
1. Film Buff
As a translator, you must have watched and be watching quite a lot of films.
this helps better understand films, for instance to connect the dots between heart piercing and Jody's percing fetish, so that you translate her word "trippy" correctly.
this helps understand references, homages, and find Easter eggs.
it also makes you understand and know many tropes like Wilhelm scream and Macguffin.
you also have knowledge of different famous filmmakers, so you know what to expect and how to approach translating their films ( go through the synchronization webinar. e.g. Tarantino and references, Nolan and timelines, Lynch and dreams, etc.) Example from What did jack do about Red rabbit in a dream, mention malholland drive and Lynch's notes.
2. Film Historian
if a film is stylized in a particular way, what is that for? what does that aim to achieve?
better understand a film's place in the grand scheme of things.
3. Film Critic
what they do is dissect films, each and every shot, to extract its symbolic meanings, motifs, and themes, but without overthinking it, to be able to understand what the film is really about. this is how you find out what's in the briefcase in pulp fiction, what the stone represents in parasite, and what idea fight club is trying to convey.
talk about film language, with gif examples - e.g. pulp fiction spinning camera for head spinning from excitement at 1:14, and dolly zoom for Vertigo.
In camerawork, example from The Dig — cavalier lifting.
In mis en scene, example from Joker, time at 11:11, which you will understand after having watched Jordan Peele's Us. also maybe something from homemade, why she's in the refrigerator. also something from Gravity.
answer the question of why
watch the synchronization webinar on filmmaking
Understanding how films are made helps making sense of when those conventions are broken, e.g. 180 rule broken in parasite
understand the aesthetics, to be able to respect the film's typographic identity and color design.
and how eye movement it should dictate your subtitling choices (e.g. jump scares)
also understanding shot composition will help you better segment and time your subtitles