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Poor subtitling on DVDs

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Showing 1-23 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Apr 2012 13:56:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2013 11:25:39 GMT
John Gammon says:
Has anyone noticed how poor subtitles can be, even when you get them? The worst I've found are in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer boxset, where the subtitlers have taken it upon themselves to strip out every joke and vivid expression so that every line is as dull as can be.

I've been noticing that a lot of BBC DVDs carry bad subtitles, and this often lets a very good product down. Often it's because the subtitler can't be bothered to check a name that's mentioned, or even listen carefully to what's being said. The Face to Face boxset, an otherwise fascinating collection of archive television interviews, is an example of this.

Has anyone found other examples of poor subtitling?

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Apr 2012 16:42:18 BDT
pb752 says:
I have a dvd of the excellent WW2 film Operation Daybreak, which is about the assasination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague. My copy was made in Korea I think and some of the subtitles on it are really bizarre.
Adolf is Adolph, The Third Reich is either The Third Right or The Third Life, The Fuhrer is The Fearer etc etc.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Apr 2012 09:14:38 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Apr 2012 09:15:01 BDT
Sou'Wester says:
Worse still, there are still DVDs out there with no subtitles at all, which for TV titles is unbelievable. I've bought DVDs of "The Mayor of Casterbridge" and the film "Gosford Park", both without subtitles, and the only way I can watch them is with headphones on at full blast.
The other problem I sometimes find is that you can only get subtitles if you use the "wrong" size picture; thus you can only use the subtitles if you're prepared to put up with a distorted image.

Posted on 10 Apr 2012 10:03:27 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Apr 2012 10:08:45 BDT
Most subtitles on DVDs are nowadays mass produced by a handful of unscrupulous low-budget American-owned subtitling companies, and most of their English subtitled for the hard of hearing are made extremely fast in India, by people with very little training and hardly any pay.
This includes, unfortunately, many of the BBC labelled DVDs; especially American series previously shown by the BBC and thus sold in the UK with a BBC logo, although the American owners control the DVD production. But it may also happen with BBC productions, as the DVD production of those is handled by the company BBC Worldwide, which tend to use the same low-budget subtitling companies.
Unfortunately, there is no legal requirements for HoH subtitles on DVDs in the UK - neither an obligation to always have subtitles on DVDs, and definitely no minimum quality requirements.
Complain, complain, complain, because that's the only way to improve the situation.

Posted on 14 Apr 2012 19:47:42 BDT
suggest you nice folks join our little club. Go to:

Subtitles for deaf or hard of hearing.
We ave tons of info subtitles and have been helping each other out for years now.
Have a good week

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Apr 2012 11:15:39 BDT
sistermoon says:
On 'I'm Alan Partridge', the scene where he does a Q & A in a hotel has the electronic organ playing 'Portsmouth' credited as playing Monty Python's 'Lumberjack Song'!

Posted on 11 Nov 2012 22:49:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2013 11:21:01 GMT
John Gammon says:
I'm seeing a lot of crappy examples on live TV recently, and have just seen the word yarmulke (skull cap worn by orthodox jewish men) spelled wrongly on the Channel Four TV show Friday Night Dinner, which is in fact about a jewish family. If the subtitlers have never heard of the word why don't they blo**dy well look it up?

Mind you, Channel Four has form in this regard. Earlier today I watched an episode of Hill Street Blues on 4 On Demand and saw the word "back ups" subtitled as "buttercups"...

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2012 14:39:47 GMT
sistermoon says:
Maybe the subtitling team should be careful out there! I notice Red Bee, who do a lot of subtitling for BBC programmes, do some on Everybody Loves Raymond on Channel 4.

Posted on 18 Dec 2012 16:30:57 GMT
nk99 says:
The very DVDs I was going to mention when I saw the title of this thread were Buffy and Angel, as I've been watching Angel Season 3 just in the last week. They're some of the best-written TV shows around, with such witty and precise phrasing in the scripts, and yet the subtitles seem determined to strip each line down to bare bones. That said, the Buffy and Angel DVDs seem to be cheaply produced in general (the blurbs on the backs of the cases tend to read as though they've been translated from another language by someone who's never watched the shows) so I guess we should be glad there are any subtitles at all.

Posted on 18 Dec 2012 20:14:12 GMT
C. G. Mercer says:
I can understand how translated subtitles can get mucked up. The art of translating and getting the nuances correct from one language to another can be difficult. Therefore, (if you're lucky!) you'll get the gist, but not the subtleties.

But when preparing subs for the HOH community in the same language as the dialogue, there should be very little excuse for not doing it verbatim. The prepper may not have the written script, but it ought to be easy enough to hit the reverse button a time or two to get it down completely and accurately.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2012 20:38:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Dec 2012 20:39:27 GMT
gille liath says:
I think it's pretty obvious they edit it as they go, just to save time typing. I watch things on subtitles sometimes if for whatever reason I can't have the sound up, and I do find it irritating.

Posted on 19 Dec 2012 01:38:31 GMT
I always watched House m.d on sky Atlantic every day, shame no subtitles! Been once off on subtitles two weeks ago only one day! It waste time! Hope get on subtitles on please! DVD is stranger it is no subtitles on Season 1-5 then got subtitles on seasonn6-8! It waste money for box set it half way of the subtitles. I not buy it. I got season 6,7 & 8 DVD. I still wait for season 1-5! Hope so House will on telly with subtitles for the future!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Dec 2012 20:33:54 GMT
J. Robb says:
If you want to watch House Seasons 1-5 with subtitles, then either buy the Region 1 DVDs which have English/Spanish audio and subtitles or the German Region 2 DVDs (from which have English/German audio and subtitles. This is how I watched these episodes as I too was annoyed by the lack of subtitling on the UK DVDs and on Sky Atlantic.

Posted on 24 Dec 2012 11:35:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 24 Dec 2012 11:39:53 GMT
What annoys me is what I call lazy subtitles. It's well known that dubbing a foreign language film (or TV series) into English has to be a compromise between reproducing the original dialogue and making the words fit the lip movement. This means that what you hear is not necessarily the actual dialogue on the original language dub. Decent companies will endeavour to ensure that the English subtitle is an accurate rendition of the original - for example Hong Kong Legends' DVD of Way Of The Dragon. If you watch this with the Cantonese dub selected, and switch on the English subtitle, you will find a world of differences between the two. However, on MIA's DVD of the Hong Kong masterpiece A Better Tomorrow, the English subtitle just reproduces the English language dub. This is what I call a lazy subtitle and it irritates me, because the whole POINT of having a subtitle track is to give us the ACTUAL dialogue, instead of that unwanted compromise.

Posted on 25 Dec 2012 11:12:17 GMT
The thing with subtitling that annoys me most is when the subtitles are not highleted and disappear into the picture, ie white on white or black on black! A lot of my friends won't watch a movie with subtitles, I'm getting a little hard of hearing but what makes it worse is actors who do not annunciate clearly, mumbling, hate it, so supliment many programmes with the subtitles just to catch what they are saying. Furthermore the loudness of background music drowns out the actors speech, so to compensate you wind the volume up only to be deafened by the ads!

Posted on 25 Dec 2012 11:25:35 GMT
A Happy Christmas to one and all.

I have about twenty items on my wish list and several of them have no subtitle info. If any one can help me out then great.

The Spoils of War
The Fear
The Sweeny
Homeland season two
Everyday with John Simm release date April 2013

All for now and take it easy with Christmas pudding


Posted on 2 Jan 2013 18:32:26 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Feb 2013 10:07:35 GMT
John Gammon says:
I've been watching the great show Hill Street Blues on 4 on Demand and the subtitling, done by a specialist company that subtitles a lot of programmes on UK TV, is incredibly poor. It's possible that the amount of time given for the job is not enough, but there's no excuse for characters' names being got wrong, or the subtitler simply having an inadequate degree of general knowledge to understand what is being said. In one episode, the subtitler simply put bursts of question marks in - not acceptable. I did complain to Channel Four but got no explanation. I've carried on watching the series and found that several episodes have, inexplicably, no subtitles at all.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2013 10:42:44 GMT
sistermoon says:
Kensingtonian, I noticed that Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive was originally broadcast on BBC-3, and yet its first release on DVD was through ITV.

The current release is on Universal as part of the 'Rob Brydon Experience' box set, and it's got no subtitles.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2013 11:23:39 GMT
John Gammon says:
I totally agree about the Buffy and Angel boxsets - such vivid dialogue reduced to nothing. Deaf people who don't lip read must think a lot of writing on TV is poor.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2013 12:06:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2013 12:07:09 GMT
Reply to sistermoon: That's not surprising. The series was produced by Rob's company "Jones the Film", and the agreement with BBC was probably limited to broadcast, allowing Rob to sell the DVD distribution rights to ITV. And when it was time for the box set, that required another distribution contract. As Universal was about to distribute the standalone "Rob Brydon: Live" (which is the other part of that box set) in November 2009, it's not surprising that he signed a deal with them to also distribute the box set at the same time.

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 07:45:55 GMT
Likewise I too have trouble with subtitles. I hear fine but I often buy products for my dad who has a lot of trouble hearing women speak or if there is background music playing as happens in a lot of documentaries. I am now at the point of No Subtitles = No purchase. I can download the article (illegal I know) and get a subtitle file or in a worst case scenario create my own subtitles which I can't apply to a DVD. But heck, I own 1000's of DVDs so only resort to downloads when the DVD producers are too lazy to include subtitles. By the way, what is the difference between subtitles for deaf and subtitles for HOH? I have seen both on one DVD. Thanx

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2013 14:07:47 GMT
C. G. Mercer says:
I believe subs for the deaf/HOH are the same thing. They contain additional descriptors to identify who is speaking when the speaker is off-camera; for referencing the fact that the words are used in a song, not dialog; and descriptors for significant sounds that would not be obvious to a HOH or deaf person. "Regular" subtitles just contain the dialog.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2013 14:12:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Feb 2013 14:12:52 GMT
Response to David S, Graham: Subtitles for deaf and subtitles for HoH are the same thing. HoH stands for Hard of Hearing, which is an umbrella term which covers both those who are totally deaf and those with hearing difficulties.
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Total posts:  23
Initial post:  6 Apr 2012
Latest post:  14 Feb 2013

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