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Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing

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Andrew Petrov
Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing
on Mar 3, 2019 at 1:49:19 pm

Hi all,

Currently working on a film that was shot in a foreign language. The dialogue needs to be translated into English and all lines imported into Premiere and timed with the footage, so we can begin editing.

What's the best way to approach in Premiere to achieve this? Creating titles for each phrase/sentence looks very overwhelming and cumbersome.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing
on Mar 3, 2019 at 3:09:56 pm

Your logic is understandable, but subtitling every line of dialog would be totally inefficient. If you don’t understand the language you need to get a full time assistant who does.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles

David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.

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Bouke Vahl
Re: Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing
on Mar 8, 2019 at 7:45:45 am

Hi David,
'Your' logic is understandable, but it's an opinion.
In my opinion (and not mine alone, since I have a lot of customers who do exactly this) it does not pay off to have someone fly in to sit next to you for a week or so.
In a small country like mine, not all languages are represented.
Papua-New Guinea alone has an estimated 832 different languages...
It is very common to go to a country, find a local interpreter and shoot interviews.
Editing then is done back home, with totally incomprehensible footage.

I myself edited Kazakh without any help other than a word doc that had to be edited in the same way as the timeline. It was horrible. (That was some 20 years ago, I had a M100 that had only two video tracks and one title track.)
(And no, I did not work on Borat.)

On the bright side, no-one was able to check if the final subs (that was done after the piece was finished) were accurate. But over here we have a policy to be as correct as possible.

Besides Trevor (Hi Trevor!), there are at least a couple of companies and broadcasters who do exactly this because it is cost efficient.
Having said that, I recently had a conversation with a director on the subject. He does research journalism, and touches sensitive points. His broadcaster has had several lawsuits. To avoid as much mess as possible, they have to be utterly correct, no matter what it takes.
Getting a decent transcript is way easier / cheaper than finding someone who speaks the language.

My 2 cents...


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Trevor Asquerthian
Re: Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing
on Mar 4, 2019 at 10:19:04 pm

When we had to do this for hours of sourcefootage in multiple languages, we had timecoded translations and used an app that generated subtitles from the translations that were timed based on a word count from each timecode reference.

More timecodes in the translations increased accuracy of the subs

The app generated PNG files for us but could also export other formats to import as PPro or Avid subtitles.

Apps used: video toolsheds ‘make transcriber files’ (for BITC audio for transcription/translation and ‘Subbits’ for the subtitle generation.

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Mickey Power
Re: Adding subtitles to raw footage before editing
on Mar 8, 2019 at 6:36:33 am

You can work off the translated text in a document with timecode marking off two line segments. I usually have the translation done in a table with the foreign text in one column, then timecode in the next, and the English translation in the third column. So you do a paper edit and then grab only those clips you want and keep the subtitling to a minimum.

Also Youtube has a neat captioning option. If you upload the video files (low res to speed things up) with tc window, your translator can work directly in YT and then output an .srt file for importing into PPro. In Premiere I often throw all my separate clips into a sequence, insert the captions then use that as the source.


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