The Perils Of Subtitling: Four Candles and Julio Geordio
TV subtitles - a transcription of the programme's soundtrack appearing in time with the dialogue. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
Well, not necessarily. Some of TV's most entertaining shows cause all sorts of problems for the intrepid subtitler.
Just write what you hear.
But what have you heard? Think of the Two Ronnies' Fork Handles sketch. Sorry, I mean the Four Candles sketch. If we subtitle Ronnie B asking for “four candles”, it would be illogical for him to subsequently say, "No, I meant handles for forks." And if he is subtitled just asking for “fork handles” in the first place, why doesn't Ronnie C just go and get them?
Sunday afternoon, cup of tea, episode of 'Allo 'Allo. Oh, the hilarity of characters having a French accent to indicate that they are speaking in French! And then Michelle's Bertie Wooster accent when she switches to English! Genius. The accents carry so much meaning and comedy, so how can that be communicated in subtitles? Check this out from five minutes in.
Never Mind the Buzzcocks
Martin Freeman and I have something in common - we’re both terrible at the Intros Round on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. But how best to subtitle human voices impersonating instruments? Especially voices as skilled as this!
Subtitling live TV is even harder. Voice recognition software can only produce the words it knows already, so if your local MP is convinced 'anti-islamisationist' is a word, then the subtitler has some clever paraphrasing to do.
Live subtitlers prepare by teaching the software the words and names that they think will come up, but spare a thought for those prepping the Olympics this Summer. For the 100m sprint alone there could be six heats, with eight competitors each. That's 48 people, all with difficult names like Olusoji Fasuba, and each race only takes up 9 seconds of TV!
So you think you're hard enough?
How would you subtitle the following British classics? Give it a go - but remember you have to be faithful, understandable, and above all funny!
Do you have any questions about how subtitlers address these challenges? Leave me a note in the comments below.
Rachel Thorn, Subtitler
This post is part of our on-going blog series on access services