Heisui’s Thoughts: Subtitles Don’t Write Themselves
As a long-time drama fan, I’ve developed a pet peeve: people who demand fast subtitles and feel entitled to them! Especially people who feel entitled to free fan subtitles! Impatient comments on dramas are common. Usually the comments go something like this:
- Please sub.
- SUBS PLZZ
- Where are the subs?!?!?
- The subs are taking forever!
- Hurry up!
- The subs are so slow!
- I love this show, but the subbers are taking so long!
I understand the sentiment behind these kinds of comments. It’s hard to be patient when we can’t wait to see what happens next. We all want to see the next episode of our favorite drama as soon as possible. We all wish that subtitles would come out sooner. And almost everyone has resorted to watching a raw, unsubbed episode while waiting for subs. 😛
Here’s the thing: Subtitles don’t write themselves. And fan subbers are working for free, on their own time. Leaving comments asking for subs or complaining about how long it’s taking doesn’t make the subtitles get done any faster. And yes, you can wait.
I have seen some commenters try to justify their demands for subtitles. Arguments include the following:
- I paid, so I should get subtitles.
- If you are paying for subs done by paid employees, then that’s valid. But if the subbers are volunteers, then they’re paying too–in their time and work. The amount of time and labor they’re putting into the show is likely worth way more than the subscription fee. Say you’re paying around $9 per month for a subscription. This would probably cover the pay for about one hour’s worth of work for one person. Imagine how much it would cost to pay a whole team of subbers to do a drama that is 20+ episodes long.
- The subbing team picked up this project, so they have to finish it.
- Guess what, they have other priorities and commitments aside from subbing dramas! They cannot necessarily put everything else on hold to finish up a show.
- Subbers should either finish subtitling the entire show, or not subtitle at all.
- Since when was this an all or nothing ultimatum? If fan subbers are subbing on their own time, then it’s up to them to determine when and how much to sub.
Misconceptions about Subtitling
It seems to me that many people simply do not know how subbing works. There are a fair amount of misconceptions going around, which may influence people’s demands for subtitles.
- Subbing doesn’t take that long. A 45-minute episode shouldn’t take so long to complete.
- If you’ve ever tried subbing, you’d know otherwise. Translating is only one part of subtitling a show. It also includes uploading, splitting and encoding videos, subtitle timing, translating, editing & checking subtitles for consistency, creating a master list of common translations, coordinating with other subbers, AND MORE. And if the drama has a lot of complicated language such as historical or technical terms, translating may be even more difficult. On top of that, speed also depends on how many people are on the team, how much time people can commit, what skill level people are at, etc.
- My “subs please” comments will encourage subbers to sub faster because they’ll see that many people want more subs!
- If anything these comments can end up sounding discouraging, impatient, and ungrateful. Why not discuss the drama instead of how slow subtitles are?
- Finding people to sub is easy!
- Getting people to sub–and commit to sub a whole show–is difficult, especially for dramas that are not as popular. It is particularly harder to get volunteer Chinese subbers than Korean subbers.
- These are just little comments. They don’t really matter and won’t have a bad impact.
- All of these comments create a combined effect. It can be hard to stay motivated while working on a big subbing project. Would you feel more motivated to sub by comments saying “SUBS PLZ” or comments saying “Thanks for the hard work”?
- I can’t volunteer to help out with subbing teams.
- Two big arguments people make is that 1) They don’t have the time and 2) They don’t know the language. However, chances are, there are plenty of ways to help that do not involve translating. And even if you can’t do any of these things, or don’t have the time to, the least you can do is appreciate the subbers.
- All drama sites create the subtitles themselves.
- Many drama streaming sites rip subtitles from legal drama sites or from fan subbers. Not only are they taking subtitles from others, but they are also making ad revenues off of them.
How this affects you, the viewer
Most of my points sound oriented towards the subbing side of things. “Please understand what subbers go through!” is what I’m saying. But, let’s talk more about the viewer side of things. Here’s the bottom line: impatience, frustration, complaining, and the like, will not benefit subbers, nor will it benefit you. There is no point in spending your time feeling impatient, demanding subtitles, or refreshing the page 100 times. It’s not going to help you feel any better, nor is it going to help you get subtitles any faster.
To sum it up: a friendly reminder to viewers
I do not wish to point fingers at anyone. Instead, I hope that this post can clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding fan subbing for dramas. I hope that I have adequately expressed just how much work and effort goes into subbing. To sum it up, be patient. Remember that you can wait, and that your comments do have an effect. It’s up to you whether your comments have a positive or a negative impact both on yourself and on others.
Gee heisui, YOU aren’t out there subbing!
I rarely ever talk about it here on my blog, but I have been a volunteer on Viki for many years now. I am not fluent in Mandarin but I have still been able to contribute to many projects. I worked on titles that I really wanted to watch and bring to other people, such as Nirvana in Fire and even Legend of Zhen Huan. I have come across other drama bloggers who volunteer there too. I speak here from experience.
Tips for subbers
- Don’t expose yourself to negativity if you don’t have to. If possible, don’t read the comments.
- Politely request that viewers do not comment asking about when subtitles will be done, etc.
- Post updates on the front page.
- Post a FAQ (or a link to a FAQ) that explains the subbing process, upload schedule (if there is one), and any other important things. If you have a small subbing team, say so, so that viewers know what the circumstances are.
- Choose your battles wisely. You do not have to engage a negative commenter.
- If you are very much motivated by appreciation and encouragement, turn to your subbing team for a source of encouragement. Celebrate all the progress you make on your project and give yourself a pat on the back.
- Don’t take it personally.
Are you or have you been a fan subber before? What was your experience like? What would you want to tell drama fans who don’t have subtitling experience? What tips do you have for subbers?
(c) My Drama Tea