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The Curious Process of Subtitling your Favourite Netflix Shows

februarie 13, 2023

subtitrari netflix

341.000.000 viewing hours in the first week. Over 400.000.000 during the second week after launch. Even at the beginning of February, while creating this piece, it is still in second place by the number of viewing hours on the platform, according to Top 10 Netflix. Wednesday, the hit series made by the giant streaming platform, engaged the audiences like no other before.

As soon as the news broke about the production taking place in Romania, in the Buftea studios in Bucharest, the Cantacuzino Castle and other magical places, the web was bombarded with laudatory remarks for the series. Romania has gained a valuable brand boost with these series. The production is by far the most viewed on the platform in a very long time.

The series focuses on Wednesday, the only daughter of the Addams family, who is sent to Nevermore. This is a school for outsiders, of course. She ends up there after releasing a few piranhas into the pool of her conventional school, as an act of revenge. Once at Nevermore, Wednesday starts to unravel the mysteries surrounding some strange, monstrous apparitions.

How do you end up working for Netflix?

Even though Romania, as the host country for the production, as well as the entire team that made the series got credit for it, most people don’t know about those who make the series available to the masses. We’re talking about translators, those who are subtitling the lines of these beloved characters in all languages of the world. Mihaela is one of those translators.

Her work at Netflix started about 4 years ago. Back then, Mihaela was working at a translation agency in Moldova. Her company stumbled upon a few work opportunities at the famous streaming platform. She started as an English-to-Romanian translator at first, and after a few months, she got promoted to the role of quality control operator for English-to-Russian.

What productions have you subtitled?

“I worked on Pieles, I Called Him Morgan, Much Ado About Nothing, Love Me As I Am (series), Bebe Bears (animated show), A-List Lifestyle (TV show), Brothers Grimm (series), Parenthood (series), and a few Japanese series. I worked for Bollywood TV for an entire year, and the most amusing movie from that period was Terminator. Besides that, I subtitled news and series for Bollywood TV, so much so that I was aware of every piece of gossip from the Indian cinema, who gets married to who and who divorces from who. I worked on adapting Suits and many other series”, Mihaela told us.

How do you create subtitles for a movie or series on Netflix?

The process of creating the subtitles for a Netflix show is like the one we implement at the agency for any new translation we have to solve. There is a project manager who’s in charge of sending out the work, making sure the translators stay on top of things, as well as ensuring the outline is followed carefully. A feedback system is in place as well, for maximum performance.

“The project manager sends you the script in a Word document, as well as the video of the respective series or movie. You start by analyzing the entire thing from top to bottom just to get a better idea of the subject and style, and then you just go for it. I worked with software such as EzTitles and Aegisub so far. You need to be careful with every phrase and character, as there are 42 per subtitle and you have to stay within the limits. Punctuation is also important and needs to be replicated perfectly, besides formulating your translations in an enjoyable, easy-to-grasp way. After you’re done, you forward everything to proofreading, a team I joined for a little while myself”, our colleague confessed.

What is the most demanding part of the subtitling job?

Every new translator who gets to work on a Netflix production is chosen by the project manager. Experience and speed are crucial for the selection process. When a giant such as Netflix, Disney+ or HBO Max is getting ready to launch a new series, time is the most important resource. Subtitling can surely be demanding, especially with a short deadline.

“Honestly there are more demanding parts to it but the most demanding, I can’t point that one out. I love everything that’s going on when I work for a subtitle, it’s magical”, Mihaela told us.

How long do you need to translate and subtitle a “Wednesday” episode?

Wednesday broke all records Netflix shows have previously set. It is without a doubt one of the best series of the past decade. The mix of comedy with the macabre, tragedy and ridicule is simply irresistible. It’s got all the elements of a successful story, and the numbers around it alone are telling that truth. How much do you need to translate a 45-minute episode?

“I am not sure about a Wednesday episode precisely as I’ve never worked on that production but for a Parenthood episode, which is 40 pages and around 45 minutes long, I would do that in a day. For a two-and-a-half-hour movie, that’s doable within 2-3 days. It depends on mood, really. If I’m all good and excited about the series, I work faster and better. If I’m not really feeling it on a particular day, I need more time to focus and get in the zone”, Mihaela concluded.

We deliver plenty of subtitles and voiceovers at the agency on a daily basis, including for series, movies, TV shows and even podcasts. The work is sorted by both our in-house team as well as our collaborators, with plenty of experience in subtitles and who’ve worked in the entertainment industry for years. Send us an email at any time if you’re looking for subtitles for your video.

–click here for the Romanian version of the article–