One of my suggestion to beginner translator is to contribute time by volunteering, especially when someone will look at your translation and improve the quality. In fact, volunteering was how I landed on a very interesting job offer. But that’s a story for another day.
I joined TED talks subtitling community a few years ago, but failed to set aside enough time to contribute and I feel bad about it, as these talks are some of the best talks I’ve seen being spread for free. Over time, they moved their subtitling platform to amara.org, naturally I moved with them to the new platform.
Today, I got to spend the afternoon creating a new subtitle for a video and editing an old subtitle, but not for TED. When I peruse amara.org volunteer section, I noticed that Tastemade is on the list for several of their videos. A couple of days ago, I was so in love with their Thai Iced Tea video, so I decided to join and check their list of what they need to be subtitled via amara.
Naturally, it consist of only their Pro Tips so far. If you check the Thai Iced Tea video below, you’ll see why it will be hard to create a one-size-fit-all subtitle for their videos.
Creating subtitle for these Pro Tips videos are not time consuming, because it’s very short, but since it relies on community, I immediately encountered two problems:
2. In the “Tips on talking to restaurant managers and staff” video, the available subtitle for Indonesian is quite bad, with inconsistent terminology used for ‘food fans’, using English words for ‘restaurants’, misspellings, usage of casual abbreviation, and some meaning was lost in translation. The old subtitle is on the left, and the improved one is on the right.
If you look closely, I also added additional subtitles, because the speaker talks very fast and to show everything to match the English version will result in a crowded subtitle per line. The blue lines on the right is to show that there’s actually the start of a new line in the subtitle, but amara interface on this particular page did not show it.
Adding a subtitle
Amara interface is very easy to learn. First, pick a video to add your subtitle from the list. And you’ll arrive in a page similar to the following. Click on the red-circled triangle, and continue by clicking on the place shown by the red arrow.
A dialogue will appear that will let you to pick which language you would like to subtitle into. I picked Indonesian and the following screen will appear.
This screen shows that there are no subtitle in the Indonesian section, because originally this video doesn’t have it. On the left, there’s the English version 2. You can select other version too. It helps you because you can see what the speaker is telling you without seeing the video, especially if your connection is really slow, but I still suggest you to playback the video, as the English text may missed out a word or more.
On the middle top, you’ll see a pencil icon, you can click on it to translate the title and description of the video. But this can also be done after you finish with the subtitle, it’s the second step as shown in the right hand sidebar.
Communication voice or style
Right above the “Version 2″ section, you’ll see a link to the Tastemade Guidelines, for every project, I suggest you read them. Every client/party/company has some sort of “voice” or “style” of communication and if you understand this, you’ll be able to deliver better quality of translation/subtitle.
Tastemade is made of young at heart people, this is why I choose “teman-teman” (friends) for “you guys” and “kamu” for “you” when addressing their target audience. But in the “Tips on talking to restaurant managers and staff” video, the speaker is talking about how to address managers and staff, for the portion of her talking to the manager and staff, “you” is translated as “Anda”, a more formal version.
Now you are ready to enter subtitle, you should play the video too, to see when your subtitle shows up or how it takes up the screen. Normally there should only be two lines of text per subtitle, each 30-40 characters, and Channel 4 suggest that we allow 2 seconds per line. To make new line in the same subtitle, use Ctrl+Enter. If you only use Enter, your cursor will move to the next subtitle.
Because the English version already have the time encoded, I can use this in the Indonesian version too. But when the subtitle becoming too crowded, and it will for Indonesian, just hover in any subtitle segment, the grey half circled plus sign will appear. Click on that to add subtitle segment just above the current one you clicked.
IMHO, this is the best interface to review the subtitle, when you click play, that area where you see red circles in the below screenshot will scroll to indicate the time of when the subtitle will appear, to adjust when a subtitle should appear, you just need to slide it, no need to write down the exact time or click at the exact moment.
When the subtitle is too long (Indonesian translation will be longer at some point), I added a new subtitle and adjust the time cue as well. You can see that in the below screen shot, the new subtitle segment did not match the English segment immediately on its left-hand side. We’re adapting the subtitle to the Indonesian audience, this is okay.
You’ll see a hollow on the left of the slider in the screenshot, don’t worry, just slide your subtitles to adjust when it will appear. If the speaker has interval in between sentences, it’s okay to left it hollow.
Amara needs to have a link to alert the project owner about problems in their videos, like the Korean subtitle for English above and the incorrect description for “Tips for shooting in low lighting settings”, the description was copied from “How to creatively shoot your 3 seconds montage clips” video.
There it is, how I spent my afternoon today. This is not meant to be a step-by-step guide, but more like a highlight on how easy it is to use amara to subtitle videos. Maybe some will not be comfortable to use it in the professional setting, but some will consider it a good alternative.