I wanna subtitle you
January 7, 2015 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get a job providing closed-captioning or subtitles for movies and television shows? How about translating subtitles? How would someone go about doing this? Or this type of thing always done in-house, by movie studios and television production companies?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Work & Money (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's definitely possible and many (most?) video production companies use contractors for this. Here's one example of such a company. I don't want to google "closed captioning jobs" for you, you can do that yourself, but it is definitely a thing.
posted by desjardins at 10:02 AM on January 7, 2015

not sure about how to land a job, but if you're asking how to get into the field/training, look into court reporting schools; i believe they can prepare you for this type of work.
posted by smokyjoe at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2015

I forget the name of the company, but as of the mid-2000s anyway, there's a shop in Washington, DC, that does this for many PBS shows. I worked as an intern at the production house that encoded the captions -- we'd have a 3.5" floppy with the caption file and the master tape couriered to our office, and we had a dedicated machine to burn the captions onto a dupe of the tape. I assume it's all digital now, but I'm sure the shop that generates the timed caption files is still around. No idea how you get a gig there, though.
posted by Alterscape at 10:40 AM on January 7, 2015

Several friends of mine do this for a living. They work through agencies and as a freelance contractors. All of them work with several different languages. All are native Danish speakers and have MAs in various languages. They work mostly with actual TV programme tapes, but occasionally they also work from manuscripts with time stamps etc. It is a very technical job, from what I understand, and they've all taken additional certificates to prepare them for working with the tech equipment, tech conventions etc.

How to get into the business? Start by calling agencies and prepare to grind through reality TV shows and awful soaps before getting anything juicy. Translation work (i.e. wroitten work for newspapers etc) may also be a way in, but afaik it's a different kettle of fish. My friends also specialise in different things: one is very good with science, another is good at culture etc.

And yes, close-captioning works along the same lines.
posted by kariebookish at 10:44 AM on January 7, 2015

Response by poster: Translation work (i.e. wroitten work for newspapers etc) may also be a way in, but afaik it's a different kettle of fish.

I just want to clarify that I do translation already for various organizations/individuals; I'm talking specifically translating subtitles.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 11:00 AM on January 7, 2015

An acquaintance of mine is doing something similar as a contractor right now for various US TV shows. I'm not sure how he got into it, but he's been working on mostly reality TV shows as part of their production pipeline. I think his work does eventually get incorporated into the closed captioning, but the actual problem he's solving for them is creating transcripts for the immense amount of footage they shoot, which the producers can then search by timestamp. Apparently it makes the editing process a good bit easier.

I also used to know people who got into subtitling for money after doing volunteer work (often fine timing, to start) in anime fansub communities, but that was 15 years ago and I don't know if that's really a thing anymore.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:21 AM on January 7, 2015

Best answer: Translator's Cafe has a forum on subtitling. Production companies don't hire people for this, but distribution companies do.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:22 AM on January 7, 2015

If it's definitely subtitles, then two friends (who are now 10-15 years into their careers) got started by simply calling the agencies with examples of their work. Another thought: if you live near a university with a journalist degree, call to see if they offer specialist subtitle courses you can snap up as a post-qualification certificate. Another friend of mine was "talent-spotted" taking an equivalent course.

Obvs this all depends upon where you live - Denmark's such a small country that it has, like, three people teaching all these courses. YMMV.
posted by kariebookish at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2015

Best answer: When you get your video source in advance, you can type your subtitles on a standard computer keyboard. Amara.org encourages the distributed subtitling of worthy endeavors this way. The site provides a web-based subtitle editor to support that goal, as well as a community of users.

In the USA, streaming content producers are finally beginning to live up to their responsibilities in providing visual language access under the ADA, so there should be English-language opportunities there.

When captioning/subtitling must happen live, a regular keyboard won't do. Steno captioning is the technique used for real-time transcription: the same skills and equipment are used by court reporters (who also work anywhere verbatim transcripts are needed) and RTC or CART captionists. Their captions appear with a few seconds lag on live broadcasts, on a screen during public events, and sometimes sent via Bluetooth to a tablet in the lap of a hearing impaired student or Deaf presenter. The steno-captioning keyboard (steno for short) and software that translates the abbreviations into full words is proprietary and costly: the open steno project lowers the cost drastically while providing o/s hardware, software, and training.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:47 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Deluxe Media is a company that hires people to subtitle and to edit subtitles. I had an interview/test with them for a freelance position in Montreal, but didn't wind up taking the job. The test I did focused on proofreading and transcription speed and accuracy. I understand that the company is international and hires folks in other locations too--might be worth looking into. But please note that because I didn't wind up working there, I don't know anything about what the company is like as an employer.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:13 PM on January 7, 2015

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