Dharma Talk Subtitling Guidelines

Here are guidelines to help you create high quality subtitles that will be easy to read.

Please use these guidelines in conjunction with our page Contributing Subtitles for Plum Village (which covers how to get started and find a video to subtitle):

This subtitling guide was written by Bego Laka, a long-time subtitler of Plum Village Dharma Talks. Bego has also generously offered to answer any questions you have about creating subtitles. You may contact Bego by email: zikoinak@gmail.com

Key take-away

We should let subtitles flow with the speaker’s voice. The best subtitles are those which are subtle, light, and imperceptible. (See example here.)

Synchronization

The content of the transcript must be broken up into subtitle lines. These lines must be synchronized with the video:

  • Appearance. A subtitle line can appear 100 ms after the speaker begins the utterance following a pause, in order to cue the viewer that something is being said and that they need to look for subtitles at the bottom of the screen.
  • Speaker pauses. Respect the pauses. The subtitle should not lag after the utterance for more than 2 seconds. Usually such long lagging is not necessary. 
  • Continuations. A break of at least 25 ms should be inserted between consecutive subtitles whenever possible, in order to cue the viewer that a new line is going to appear and make it easier to follow the flow of the text.

Line duration and length

  • Duration. A single-line subtitle of any length should not stay on the screen for more than about 6 seconds because that would prompt the viewer to re-read it. A subtitle cannot stay on the screen for less than approximately 1.3 seconds, even if it only contains a single word, because subtitles with a shorter duration will just be a flash that most viewers will miss.
  • Length. In most cases one subtitle consists of up to two lines at up to 35-40 characters per each.

Tip: In Amara, pressing Enter adds a new subtitle.
To add a second line to the current subtitle, press Shift+Enter

Line breaks

  • Don’t cut wholes. No matter how long the single line may be (depending on on-screen duration and character-length considerations), the line breaks must not cut up syntactic (word-group) and semantic (meaningful) wholes. (See example below.)
  • You may want to make sure that you don’t cut up the speaker’s sentences into too many subtitles. It will be easier for translators later on to translate bigger chunks of one sentence than smaller ones, since not everything will divide up easily in the same way in the target language as it does in the original.

Example

Spoken sentence:

Good morning, dear friends. Today is April the 5th, 2013, and we are in the first day of the retreat "Happy Teachers will change the World".

Incorrect breaks:

Good morning, dear friends. Today is
April the 5th, 2013, and
we are in the first day of
the retreat "Happy Teachers will change the World".

Correct breaks:

Good morning, dear friends.
Today is April the 5th, 2013,

and we are in the first day of the retreat

"Happy Teachers will change the World".

Proportional line length

  • Ideally, the lines in the two-line subtitle should be more or less balanced in length. If this is not possible, it is better to make the second line longer.

Example

Spoken sentence:

When you are not happy, you cannot help other people to be happy.

Incorrect break:

When you are not happy, you cannot help other people
to be happy.

Correct break:

When you are not happy,
you cannot help other people to be happy.

Paragraph breaks

Amara allows you to add paragraph breaks. These do no affect the subtitles as usually shown in a video player, but they do allow clearer transcripts to be generated (example).

You can use the paragraph symbol () to start a new paragraph at natural breaks in the talk:

By selecting the paragraph symbol () a new paragraph break would be shown in the transcript before that line begins.

Sound information

Sound representation in a transcript is meant to enable deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers (as well as viewers watching the talk without the sound on) to understand all the non-spoken auditory information that is necessary to comprehend the talk to the same degree that a hearing audience potentially would.

It’s better not to make the sound representation stay on the screen for more than 3 seconds. It’s enough to indicate that the sound has started.

Sound information is enclosed in parentheses, with the first word starting with a capital letter. The most common sound representations can be:

  • (Bell). When the bell is invited, the sound representation could stay on the screen for 6 seconds.
  • (Laughter) – for laughter that fills any time in the talk where Thay is not saying anything
  • (Music) – for music that fills any time in the talk where Thay is not saying anything

If the talk contains part of a song or chant, it would be convenient to transcribe the lyrics.

Subtitling articles and guides

This guide should cover all the key points you need to create high quality subtitles for Plum Village videos. If you feel something is missing or unclear, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We provide a few external links below for those who wish to learn more about subtitling practices:

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