7th CTS Professionalisation Talk 2019-20

Charlotte Barton and Rob Hollinshead from Deluxe Media gave a talk and masterclass on live subtitling/respeaking.

Charlotte Barton was once employed as an editorial assistant at a publishing company and as a transcriber. Rob Hollinshead worked in translation, translation co-ordination, off-line subtitling and subtitling QC project management. They presented to students about Deluxe Media, a company providing services in video creation to distribution where they both currently work as a Live Unit Subtitler and a Live Unit Supervisor, respectively.

Live subtitling consists of made in real-time subtitles created primarily for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The subtitles appear during TV programmes as a scrolling text on the screen. The live subtitler transcribes the speaker’s words using voice recognition tools such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This software can be updated with new vocabulary and phrases, and tailored to the way you speak as you gradually build up your profile. It is integrated into the subtitling software: WinCAPS Q-Live. The subtitles are sent as a live broadcast via a transmission ‘channel’, with a time lag. This technology is widely used for sports, entertainment and news programmes for channels such as Sky News, Sky Sports News, RTE News and Virgin Media One.

A live subtitler's day revolves around two main tasks: preparation and live subtitling. Dragon will be trained to recognise specific terminology or names relating to the programmes the subtitler is assigned to that day. When available, headlines and scripts are imported into the software. These are then edited, in keeping with a house style, and prepared to a high standard of English grammar, punctuation and spelling - ready for transmission - then live subtitling begins. Once connected to the correct gateway (transmission channel), the live subtitler listens to the speakers’ voices and re-speaks their words, making sure to keep a steady flow of coherent and almost verbatim sentencing. Dragon will pick up the words and automatically display them on the computer’s screen. They have a few seconds to edit or correct some words on the screen before they are transmitted to the channel. It’s a multitasking job: listening, re-speaking, editing, altering colours per different speaker and positioning the subtitles at the same time. One programme is often handled by several live subtitlers, with allocations rotating every 30 minutes on average. Quick communication with colleagues and clients is key.

Being a subtitler is never an easy task. The speakers, Charlotte and Rob, talked about challenges and difficulties they face at work. Sometimes, having no script and limited information online can lead to more pressure which means a subtitler then relies on their own knowledge of particular topics. Technical problems with software, sound issues such as loud background noises, overlapping speech or arguments all need to be carefully tackled. Accents, speed of speech and number of speakers should also be considered. They finished by providing students with possible solutions and suggestions, including training the software as much as possible, getting used to multitasking, honing English language skills and listening to feedback given during quality checks. 

With a clear and vivid overview of the industry, Charlotte and Rob guided the students through what it means to be a live subtitler. They shed light on tough challenges faced by subtitlers in their daily work and explained what skills and abilities they are expected to master. Their talk will be greatly helpful for CTS students wishing to explore potential careers and may even launch a few careers in the subtitling industry.

Text authored by the following CTS students: Elea Roger, Qiannan Liu, Yiqing Wang.