Netflix is a trailblazer when it comes to pushing the quality of subtitles, dubbing and closed caption in different languages. In the past, the subtitle quality has been hit or miss in the Over the Top (OTT) streaming industry. Netflix has raised the bar and dared competitors to keep up. The company doesn’t always get it right, but the fact that it offers subtitles and dubbed content in so many languages besides English already puts it well ahead of the pack.
Find out how Netflix has become the standard in subtitling and dubbing for streaming services and take a peek at a few of its guidelines for translators.
Netflix Has Raised the Bar on Subtitling and Dubbing in the OTT Space
Mega-streamers Disney+ and Netflix offer subtitles and audio tracks in multiple languages for large percentages of their titles, even the obscure ones. Sometimes you can get dubbing or subtitles only but there are plenty of options for every language. For example, you can find Spanish films subtitled in French and Norwegian films dubbed in Dutch.
In contrast, Hulu has Spanish dubbing for a small percentage of its movies and TV shows and all its original content. AppleTV+ has audio and subtitling in German, Spanish and other languages. However, its restricted library is made up of acquired or original titles that dwarf in comparison to Hulu or Netflix.
So, how has Netflix managed to offer such a wide array of languages for its translation options?
What Netflix Brings to the Industry
Global demand for online media has taken off in recent years. Streaming services have seen an influx of international audiences. Contracting with third party companies for dubbing and subtitle translation for films, series and specials can increase the appeal of Netflix and other streaming services, which can improve their revenue stream by concentrating on localized content.
More Languages Equals More Subscribers
For Netflix, adding global original content and additional languages led to a surge in membership. So, the streaming service kept investing in localized content — today, you can enjoy Netflix in 27 languages and counting. This led to a 50% increase in subscribers within two years.
Subtitling often starts with an English script. The translator uses this as a guide to creating localized content. This is different from a word-for-word translation. Translators attempt to put a regional spin on content, making it easier for global audiences to digest. However, the priority is always on maintaining the creative vision of the original content.
What Netflix Quality Standards Make Its Subtitles So Precise?
Netflix maintains strict procedures when it comes to governing subtitles, dubbing and closed caption translations. The company is also looking into using AI and NPL solutions that give translators a better base to begin with.
Note that Netflix typically accepts the subtitles provided by the content provider, when available.
Here are some high-level guidelines that Netflix distributes to those creating subtitles for original and non-original content.
The full timed text style guide can be found here:
Netflix lays out the minimum and maximum duration of subtitle events. The minimum duration is five-sixths of a second or 20 frames for 24fps filming. The maximum duration is 7 seconds.
The company accepts subtitle files in TTML1 format (.xml or .ttml) for most languages. Japanese translations have to be saved and delivered in IMSC1.1 format (.xml).
Glyphs refer to nonstandard characters such as punctuation, numbers and currency symbols. They also include accented vowels and language-specific characters. You can see accepted glyphs on the NETFLIX Glyph List.
Anyone who has turned on subtitling in Netflix knows that no more than 2 lines of text appear at one time. Netflix specifies that one line is preferred. Here are some of the guidelines for breaking up subtitles into 2 lines:
- Break the line after punctuation marks, before prepositions or before conjunctions.
- Do not separate a noun from an adjective or article and keep first and last names together.
- Do not separate a subject pronoun and verb and keep a prepositional verb with its preposition.
- Keep verbs with their corresponding auxiliary verb, negation and reflexive pronouns.
All subtitles should be at the top or bottom of the screen and centered. (Japanese translations can be positioned vertically.)
Netflix Originals Credit Translations
Translations for title cards have to incorporate full and forced subtitle streams. To learn more, refer to the Originals Credit translation guide.
Title cards and dedications are also subtitled. Examples of this text include: “Based on True Events” or “In Loving Memory of John Doe.”
Currency and Brand Names
Subtitlers should not change the currency for localized viewers. For instance, if the characters are talking about euros, you wouldn’t convert this to USD for American viewers.
Use English-language brands that are well-known or use a generic term for the product discussed. Is there another name for the brand in the region you’re translating for? If so, use that.
Paraphrase quotes to avoid copyright infringement. If the translation is in the public domain or you have documented permission from the copyright holder, you can use the translation verbatim.
Include translator credit in the subtitle as specified in the Original Credits translation document. Netflix credits translators not companies.
Andovar Provides Translations for Dubbing, Subtitles and Captions
Andovar provides localization services to clients in many industries. We can assist you in meeting the guidelines of streaming platforms such as Netflix. Our localization experts have worked on thousands of localization projects, and they are adept at using a variety of platforms for subtitling and captions. We also implement translation automation technologies that efficiently translate content to 80 languages.
From our main office in Singapore, we manage 3,000 translators and have offices in India, the United States, Thailand, Hungary, and Columbia.
Contact Andovar today to meet your company’s localization needs.