Today, if a company wants to have good international communication, its audiovisual communication should not be neglected. Audiovisual translation includes a multitude of media: from motion design, to web-series, movies and video games. You should have understood it; the diversity of formats necessarily implies a wide range of trades in the translation process, of which one of the most important is of course the translator.

What is audiovisual translation?

Audiovisual translation involves three sub-parts:

  • Subtitling: a translation practice which consists of presenting, generally on the bottom part of the screen, a written text which aims to  emulate the original dialogue of the speakers and the discursive elements that appear on the image;
  • Dubbing: replacing the original language of shooting by the language of the geographical area in which the film will be broadcasted;
  • Voice-over: the superposition of the voice of the target language over the one of the original language.

Subtitling in practice.

When it comes to audiovisual translation, the category that includes the most standards is of course the subtitling. Indeed, it obeys several constraints such as the brevity of the text, the text should match with the image and the action, and be readable so that the reader has time to read the text displayed on the screen.

The translator must therefore respect several rules:

  • Limit the text to two lines on the screen, except for video games;
  • Use only 15 characters per second or one line for 2 seconds;
  • Limit the number of  characters. For example, a 35mm film is only allowed to display  two lines of 40 signs each at one time;
  • Build pyramid subtitles, with the first line shorter than the second;
  • Respect the segmentation of phrases, which should never be cut off.

As you can well imagine, translators play a primordial role in this process. First, they must be concise and clear, but their subtitles must also respect the level of language and, above all, not be ahead of the plot.

Cultural differences in audiovisual translation.

Audiovisual translation does not escape the laws of localization. Thus, you will quickly realize that it is impossible to establish a universal rule for determining when to use subtitling, dubbing or a voice-over when it comes to audiovisual work.

In Europe alone, cultural differences in audiovisual translation are widespread. In Germany, Italy or Spain, dubbing is almost considered compulsory. In France, dubbing also dominates the audiovisual market, but subtitling is increasingly common.

In other countries, such as Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Greece, subtitling is preferred, except for children’s films. However, other countries like Poland, Estonia or Russia use the same voice-over artist for all the roles of the film. Surprising, isn’t it?

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