The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020 - 34

GEEKSPEAK

BY DAMIÁN SANTILLI

Guest Column: What's New in Subtitling Translation Tools?
A few weeks ago, I asked Damián Santilli
to write an article about the current
state of audiovisual translation tools
for my own Tool Box Journal (www.
internationalwriters.com/toolkit). He did,
and my readers and I were very impressed
by the depth of his knowledge and his vision
for a field that's growing very rapidly.
So, in a slight departure from my usual
column, Damián will take over from here
with a slightly modified version of his
original article. Enjoy!
-Jost Zetzsche (Chair, ATA Translation
and Interpreting Resources Committee)

T

ranslation environment tools
are steadily improving. The
overwhelming presence of neural
machine translation (NMT) in every
translation suite, plus the constant
improvement of technologies (e.g.,
upLIFT from SDL Trados Studio)
are changing the way we approach
translation with almost every project. In
audiovisual translation (AVT), however,
despite technical improvements and
innovations in apps from streaming
services, it sometimes feels like we
subtitlers are still working in much the
same way we did back in 2000.
Back then, we faced a huge leap in
methodology and tool availability. We
rapidly went from receiving physical
materials to subtitle to logging into
our clients' servers to download media
and then email back the subtitles.
Although some things have changed
in the past few years, professional
subtitlers working for direct clients like
production companies, or even film
directors themselves, have been using
the same resources for a while now:
free software and software that's too
expensive for some freelancers. So, what
have we been missing in between? Well,
features like the ones found in tools
technical translators use (e.g., memoQ,
Wordfast, and Trados Studio)-
although we also have our own
options, kind of. Let's dive into some

possible software options to help us
in our work and see what's new for
subtitlers. (Please refer to the sidebar for
links to the tools mentioned.)

CAN WE STILL RELY ON FREE SOFTWARE
FOR PROFESSIONAL SUBTITLERS?
The short answer is yes. If you're the
type of subtitler who prefers working
mainly for direct clients instead of
large streaming services via vendors
who don't always offer the best rates,
then you might be in a sweet spot in
the AVT world. I don't mean this just
because you get to charge higher rates.
You can actually use many free software
alternatives, like our old friends Subtitle
Workshop and VisualSubSync, or the
more frequently updated and flashy
Aegisub and Subtitle Edit. They all allow
you to deal with large media files in a
variety of formats-yes, they're powerful
enough to do that. You don't really need
to pay if you're also trained on spotting
with these tools. (Spotting refers to
determining the "in time"-the time at
which the subtitle appears on-screen-
and "out time"-the time at which the
subtitle disappears.) However, you might
be interested in investing (a lot) in more
professional tools.

I HAVE THE MONEY AND WANT TO
INVEST IN SOMETHING BETTER.
There's no doubt that despite their
elevated price, both WINCAPS Q4
Subtitling Software and EZ Titles offer
great improvements with things like
recognizing some of the subtitles from
the audio and letting you save time on
spotting and creating subtitles from
DVD or Blu-ray, for instance, if that's
something you're looking for. They also
have a more powerful interface, which is
something you would expect from more
expensive tools. But when it comes to
technical translation, for instance, can't
you do pretty much the same thing with
a free, open source tool like OmegaT
instead of spending the money on a
more professional tool? Yes, you can.
And in the case of subtitle editors, that
same logic applies, although with a
big difference. If you want to invest in
professional software, you'll have to pay
around $1,700 for the EZ Titles basic
edition and $300 a year for WINCAPS.
Is it worth the investment? It certainly is
if you can afford it.

WHAT ABOUT THE CLOUD?
Here we can find some new alternatives:
some of them free and some expensive
(but not outrageously so).

Figure 1: Ooona's subtitling interface

This column has two goals: to inform the community about technological advances and encourage the use and appreciation of technology among translation professionals.

34

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