Four reasons why video subtitles matter – and how to make the most of them
If you want your video content to have greater impact and reach more people, it pays to build subtitling (subtitles or captions as relevant) into your video production process.
You don’t need me to tell you how powerful video is as a marketing tool. It increases engagement on social media platforms and has been shown to have a clear role in moving people to buy. But are you aware how frequently online videos are watched on mute?
1. Subtitles support ‘sound off’ preferences
A study by Verizon showed that 50% of respondents usually watched video without sound – rising to 69% when watching in public places – and that 80% were more likely to watch an entire video when captions were available.
And for years it has been widely reported that up to 85% of videos on Facebook are watched with the sound off.
In other words, there’s strong evidence that if you want to get your message across through video, it’s worth adding subtitles – even in the video’s own language.
This is just one good reason to make subtitling a standard part of your video production process. There are three more to consider as well.
2. Subtitles make your content more accessible
The second reason recognises that more than 5% of the world’s population have a disabling hearing loss. Any brand that takes accessibility seriously will acknowledge the importance of video subtitling in this context.
3. Subtitles improve video SEO
Then there’s the fact that search engine crawlers and algorithms can’t watch videos or analyse their content. But they can ‘see’ and analyse external subtitle files (these are subtitles not embedded directly into the video image – known as burnt-in – but available as an option for the viewer).
So if you want it to be easier for online searches to find your videos, subtitling is the way to go.
4. Subtitles simplify international engagement
Perhaps the best-recognised use of subtitles is to make video content available in different languages. Translated subtitles are usually faster and more cost-effective to create than recording a different soundtrack for each language you’re targeting.
This makes subtitling the easiest way to reach global audiences with your video content, although it’s important – as with all localisation – to remember that subtitles will be more effective if they’ve been adapted to each market and its nuances. American content may not work directly in the Australian market, for instance. The greatest impact will be made if you use a hybrid of translation and ‘transcreation’ to localise through subtitles.
How to make the most of subtitling
There are several things to consider if you want subtitling to become a smooth and natural part of your video production process.
Linguistic and technical expertise
When you’re using subtitles to localise video content, the most obvious thing to worry about is the quality of the translation (or localisation). But don’t forget the quality of the subtitling itself.
You want subtitles to be in sync with the audio and with scene changes, on screen for the right amount of time, always clearly legible, and never cut off. There are industry guidelines for maximum and minimum caption duration and maximum caption length, for example, and you’d want to know that these are understood and can be adhered to, unless you have your own specific guidelines to be followed.
So it pays to make sure that your chosen subtitling solution or service gives you the best of both worlds: linguistic and technical quality that you can be equally proud of.
Convenience and speed
It should be really easy for you to get your video content into the subtitling workflow. At the very least you want a solution that lets you drag-and-drop videos to a designated area or submit a URL. Even better if the workflow can integrate directly with your video publishing platform, ingesting your videos without any extra effort from you at all.
There should be equally convenient options to receive the final output at the end of the process, in whatever format you want.
In between, you want to know that transcription will happen smoothly, quickly, and to the highest quality – adhering to your terminology and brand requirements – and that review and approval will be easy for your team.
If translation is required, it’s better if it’s part of the same process without intervention from you, rather than relying on you to knit together separate translation and subtitling processes.
At no point should you need to resort to inefficient email trails to ensure that everything is properly tracked, reviewed and approved. The administrative overhead should be minimal for you.
All of this is easier said than done. But with the right combination of technologies and expertise, it’s more than possible to deliver an integrated, highly automated, human-friendly workflow covering both subtitling and translation. The results include much faster turnaround for subtitling with far less effort – a win-win in anyone’s book.
What about streaming?
Something else to consider, as online events continue to dominate, is how best to serve multiple language needs when you want to stream video live. You might want to caption – in translation – a Teams or Zoom call, or a webinar streamed from a video-on-demand platform such as Brightcove.
It takes a special combination of technology and services to provide live-stream captioning, supported by high-quality machine translation to deliver on these needs.
RWS offers subtitling as an integrated part of its localisation services. Learn more here, and complete the contact form to discuss your specific needs.
Mark Maguire is production director at RWS.