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Subtitle Template Timed Text Style Guide

A subtitle template serves as the basis for subtitling in other languages. A subtitle template is an edited, positioned, researched, annotated and checked subtitle file, timed to shot and audio, matching the source language of the associated content (unless it is a pivot file) which is intended to serve as a basis for downstream interlingual subtitling. Netflix does not expect subtitle templates to be verbatim.

Any timed text created specifically for Netflix - Originals or licensed content - must follow the Netflix timed text style guides, unless otherwise advised. 

Each language should accommodate timing for better reading speed as they see fit, following the Netflix timing guidelines.

If you are working on a pivot language template (e.g. an English pivot template for Spanish-language content), ensure you closely follow the pivot language template guidelines provided below.

Templates should always follow the guidelines featured in this document as well as the TTSG of the language of the template text, i.e. if it’s an English language template, follow this guide plus the English TTSG. If the content is in Spanish, follow these guidelines for template creation plus the Spanish TTSG.

1. Template Coverage

  • All plot-pertinent dialogue, regardless of the language.
    • A list of any foreign dialogue will be provided by Netflix via reference materials if available.
    • In the case where foreign dialogue is not provided by Netflix, report to Netflix with a list of time codes where foreign dialogue occurs, in order to procure the transcription.
    • Foreign dialogue should only be included in the template if the viewer was meant to understand it (i.e. if it was subtitled in the original version), following the guidelines mentioned in section 15.
    • Do not subtitle words or phrases repeated more than once by the same speaker.
    • If the repeated word or phrase is said twice in a row, time the subtitle event to the audio but translate only once.
  • All plot-pertinent events, regardless of the original language.
    • When working with subtitling tools with FN tagging functions, tag forced narratives events by following these instructions.
    • Include dedications such as: “Based on true events”, “In loving memory of Jane”, etc. 
    • When on-screen text and dialogue overlap, precedence should be given to the most plot pertinent message. Avoid over truncating or severely reducing reading speed in order to include both dialogue and on-screen text. 
    • Forced narratives that are covered in the dialogue must be deleted.
    • The duration of the FN subtitle should as much as possible mimic the duration of the on-screen text, except for cases where reading speed and/or surrounding dialogue takes precedence.
    • Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle box.
    • During the creation of the language templates, annotations should be made in order to provide additional context to translators. This should include notes for cultural references, idioms, jokes, etc. 
  • For documentaries and unscripted shows:
    • Include on-screen text identifying speakers (name, company, title, etc.) in the template when the speaker appears for the first time. This information is not redundant for languages that use different writing systems.
  • Dialogue in TV/movie clips should only be subtitled if plot-pertinent and if the rights have been granted.
  • News tickers/banners from archive clips do not require subtitles unless plot-pertinent.
  • If italicization is applicable, avoid going back and forth between italicized and non-italicized subtitles when the speaker is on and off screen. If the speaker is on-camera for at least part of the scene, do not italicize. Leave italics for off-screen narrators

2. Annotations

  • During the creation of the template, annotations should be added in English in order to provide additional context to translators.
  • Annotations should highlight and explain:
    • Cultural references
    • Slang
    • Idioms
    • Jokes
    • Complex grammar
    • Puns and plays on words
    • Sarcasm and irony
    • Register
    • Formality and class
    • Tone
    • Intent
    • Relationships between characters
    • Names or nicknames
    • Age
    • Spatial location and distance
    • Cultural nuance relating to race, religion, geo-political and political points, ethnicity, LGBT+
    • Highlight levels of offensiveness of the source language, especially if a translation choice has been made to avoid trigger words in the pivot translation
    • And any other context needed to set up translators for success
  • There is no need to add annotations for anything defined in the nominated dictionary.
  • These are not optional and should be considered during the creation of all templates, regardless of the source language.
  • Annotations should be included in files using the annotations function.

3. Brackets

  • In general, avoid using brackets unless a specific format (e.g. a phone number area code) requires it. Square brackets may be used in SDH files for sound labels and speaker identifiers.
  • When writing FNs for on-screen text where punctuation is present, the same brackets, slashes and other punctuation may be replicated.

4. Capitalization

  • Subtitles containing dialogue must always use sentence case.
  • FNs for dialogue must always use sentence case.
  • FNs for on-screen text should always use all caps except for long passages of on-screen text (e.g. prologue or epilogue), which should use sentence case to improve readability.
  • Ensure language specific guidelines around capitalization are always adhered to. Please follow all casing and capitalization rules which feature in the TTSG of the same language as the template/source audio.

5. Character Limitation

  • 42 characters per line for most Latin alphabet languages
  • Ensure you follow the characters per line limitations as specified in the language specific TTSG

6. Character Names

When creating templates:

  • Names should appear in the template as they are said in the audio.
  • Include annotations to highlight or explain the relevance of any nicknames or other forms of address.
  • Refer to language specific guidelines or KNP documentation for information on how to transcribe names and proper nouns, ensuring all irregular or stylized spellings are captured.

7. Consistency

  • KNPs must be created and used for translation to ensure consistency across episodes and seasons. Please discuss with your Netflix contact the most suitable KNP workflow for your project.

8. Contractions and abbreviations

  • Always follow the guidelines on contractions and abbreviations from the TTSG of the same language as the template.

9. Currency

  • Currency should not be converted in the template. Any mention of money amounts in dialogue should remain in the original currency.
  • Follow the treatment of numbers and currency as specified in the language-specific TTSG of the language of the template.

10. Documentaries/Unscripted

  • Always follow the audio when names, company names or speaker names are mentioned.
  • As with all content types, verify spellings using provided documentation or check with Netflix if in doubt
  • Always include FNs to mimic on-screen text, identifiers and locators and include the speaker’s name, company name and/or character name in addition to their title to the template, as these are not redundant for character-based languages. Languages using the Latin alphabet will remove redundancies as needed at the translation stage
  • If dialogue and a plot-pertinent FN appear at the same time, subtitle both if space and reading speed permit, otherwise dialogue takes precedence
  • Only include an FN for on-screen text which identifies a speaker the first time it appears
  • When ongoing dialogue is interrupted by a speaker’s title, use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence (without a space) in the subtitle that follows it.

                   Subtitle 1      I worked on this movie…

                   Subtitle 2 (FN)   DIRECTOR

                   Subtitle 3      …for a total of six months.

  • Dialogue in TV/movie clips within a piece of content should only be subtitled if plot-pertinent, if the rights have been granted and this is mentioned in the show guide
  • News tickers/banners from archive clips do not require FNs unless plot-pertinent.
  • Follow italicization rules closely and avoid switching between italics and non-italics unnecessarily when the speaker switches between on and off screen

11. Dual Speaker Subtitles

  • Use a hyphen without a space to indicate two speakers in one subtitle, with a maximum of one speaker per line.
                -Are you coming?
                -In a minute.
  • Text in each line in a dual speaker subtitle must be a contained sentence and should not carry into the preceding or subsequent subtitle. Creating shorter sentences and timing appropriately helps to accommodate this.
  • For example: 
    • Sub 1

-Has anybody delivered any artwork?

-I don’t think so, 

    • Sub 2

but let me check with Irene.

  • Should be reformatted as: 
    • Sub 1 

Has anybody delivered any artwork?

    • Sub 2

I don’t think so

but let me check with Irene.

12. Duration

  • Minimum duration: ⅚ (five-sixths) second per subtitle event (e.g. 20 frames for 24fps; 25 frames for 29.97fps)
  • Maximum duration: 7 seconds per subtitle event

13. File Format

  • Template files must be delivered in TTML (.dfxp, .xml, .ttml) format

14. Font Information

  • Font style: Arial as a generic placeholder for proportionalSansSerif
  • Font size: relative to video resolution and ability to fit 42 characters across the screen
  • Font color: White

15. Foreign Dialogue

  • Foreign dialogue should only be included in the template  if the viewer was meant to understand it (i.e. if it was subtitled in the original version or is stipulated in the show guide)
  • When transcribing foreign dialogue, always verify spelling, accents and punctuation, if applicable
  • Follow italicization rules closely
  • If in doubt, check with Netflix
  • If any kind of non-verbal communication appears in the content, e.g. sign language, semaphore or Morse code, check in the show guide or supplied documents to verify how it should be presented in the template

16. Glyph List

17. Line Treatment

  • 2 lines maximum
  • Always keep text on one line, unless it exceeds the character limitation. Only break a line when the characters exceed the limit per row.
  • Follow these basic principles when the text has to be broken into 2 lines:
  • The line should be broken:
    • after punctuation marks
    • before conjunctions
    • before prepositions
    • grammatically and syntactically
  • The line break should not separate:
    • a noun from an article
    • a noun from an adjective
    • a first name from a last name
    • a verb from a subject pronoun
    • a prepositional verb from its preposition
    • a phrasal verb from its prepositions
    • a verb from an auxiliary, reflexive pronoun or negation

Aim to favour bottom-heavy two-line subtitles where more than one option for the line break presents itself:

Avoid:

I might become the first lady

of this church.

Prefer:

I might become

the first lady of this church.

18. Netflix Credit Translations

  • Translations for Netflix Originals title cards must be included in full and forced subtitle streams. For this reason, the template must contain these instances. It is preferable if these are timed to match the exact duration and appearance on-screen.

19. Numbers

  • From 1 to 10, numbers should be written out: one, two, three, etc. (see below exceptions)
  • Above 10, numbers should be written numerically: 11, 12, 13, etc. (see below exceptions)
  • When a number between 0 and 99 begins a sentence, it should always be spelled out. Numbers over 100 which start a sentence can be written numerically
  • Good judgement may be applied where there are space limitations or reading speed concerns
  • Ensure consistency in sequences which feature numbers and counting
  • When writing percentages, always write in numerals and use the % symbol
  • When adding symbols for units of measurement, either metric or imperial, follow the appropriate SI style for the source language
  • For long sequences of numbers, e.g. phone numbers or social security numbers, always use numerals and follow the spacing and formatting appropriate to the region
  • Always use numerals when writing units of measurement
  • Always write out ordinal numbers as words when not used in reference to dates, e.g. “They came first in the race”, “This is the second time I have told you”. Write ordinal numbers numerically when in reference to date, e.g. “1st March” or when they need to be replicated in an FN for on-screen text

20. On-screen Text

  • Forced narrative titles for on-screen text should only be included if plot-pertinent and as specified in the show guide (where available)
  • When on-screen text and dialogue overlap, precedence should be given to the most plot-pertinent message.
  • Avoid over truncating or severely reducing reading speed in order to include both dialogue and on-screen text
  • Follow the guidelines for timings of FNs for on-screen text as found in the Netflix subtitle timing guidelines
  • Forced narratives for on-screen text should be in ALL CAPS, except for long passages of on-screen text (e.g. prologue or epilogue), which should use sentence case to improve readability
  • Do not end an FN for on-screen text with a period/full stop unless the FN represents long passages of on-screen text which needs to be punctuated
  • Do not use italics in an FN representing on-screen text, even if a title or foreign word is present
  • Never combine a forced narrative with dialogue in the same subtitle or dual speaker subtitle
  • When a plot-pertinent forced narrative interrupts dialogue, use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence in the subtitle that precedes it and at the beginning of the sentence (without a space) in the subtitle that follows it.

                     Subtitle 1      I don’t think we should…

                     Subtitle 2 (FN)   NO TRESPASSING

                     Subtitle 3      …go any further.

21. Positioning

  • Subtitles should be center justified, center aligned and placed at the bottom of the screen or raised to the top to avoid clashes in the lower third
  • Please ensure subtitles are positioned accordingly to avoid overlap with on-screen text, mouths, faces and important action happening in the lower third of the screen.
  • In cases where overlap is impossible to avoid (text at the top and bottom of screen), the subtitle should be placed at the bottom of the screen
  • Where opening credits require a sequence of subtitles to be raised, ensure that all subtitles in that sequence are raised (for example, raise all 10 subtitles over an opening credit sequence rather than raising some of them and creating a sequence where subtitles jump up and down and create a difficult viewing experience)

22. Punctuation

  • Always follow the punctuation guidelines in the chosen resources for the language of the template.
  • Avoid using complex punctuation which could be hard for viewers to follow. For example, in English, avoid using colons and semi-colons and instead use simple, clear sentence structures to aid comprehension.
  • Double spaces are not permitted.
  • Hash symbols may be used when someone mentions a hashtag. Spell out the word “hashtag” when used as a verb.
  • Ampersands may be used when part of an initialism such as R&B or B&B.

23. Reading Speed

English templates:

  • Adult programs: 17 characters per second limit
  • Children’s programs: 15 characters per second limit

Non-English language templates:

  • Match inter-lingual subtitle reading speed for the same language as specified in the language-specific TTSGs (i.e. 17 cps for adult content and 13 cps for kids’ content in Spanish)

24. Repetitions

  • Do not subtitle words or phrases repeated more than once by the same speaker unless the repetition is plot-pertinent
  • If the repeated word or phrase is said twice in a row, time subtitle to the audio but translate only once.

25. Segmentation

  • Segmentation relates to how sentences are split between subtitles when the sentence needs to be broken into two or more subtitles.
  • Ensure that subtitles are always segmented at a clause level and can be read easily in a logical and fluent way.

26. Songs

  • Opening and ending theme songs should only be included in the template if plot-pertinent (e.g. for children’s content when the lyrics tell a story), if rights have been granted or if instructed by Netflix. Normally, adult programs should not have the opening songs subtitled, except for SDH
  • Italicize lyrics
  • Following language specific guidelines about capitalization
  • Use an ellipsis when a song continues in the background but is no longer subtitled to give precedence to dialogue
  • Punctuation: only question marks and exclamation marks should be used at the end of a line – no commas or periods. Commas can be used within the lyric line, if necessary
  • Album titles should be in italics
  • Song titles should be in quotes
  • Refer to show guide for guidance on inclusion of lyrics where applicable

27. Special Instructions

  • Dialogue must never be censored and should always be transcribed true-to-audio within the reading speed parameters
  • If profanity has been dipped or bleeped, replace the letters in the word that have been masked in the audio with asterisks
  • Plot-pertinent dialogue always takes precedence over background dialogue
  • Intentional misspellings and mispronunciations should not be reproduced in the transcription unless plot-pertinent. Ensure any intentional errors are accompanied by an annotation highlighting their presence and they are within quotation marks

28. Title Cards/Dedications

  • Subtitle all plot pertinent and otherwise relevant on-screen text that is not covered in dialogue even if redundant, such as: “Based on true events”, “In loving memory of Jane”, etc.

29. Titles

  • Main titles: do not subtitle the on-screen main title card unless explicitly instructed
  • Episode titles: do not subtitle episode titles if they do not appear on screen/are not voiced-over
    • If on-screen (either as part of the principal photography or burned into video), please add an “EPISODE TITLE” forced narrative event
  • If voiced-over, please subtitle in sync with the audio but following the FN rules of capitalization.

30. Translator Credits

  • Please include a subtitle event placeholder for the translator credit as the last event of the English template:
            “Subtitle translation by:”
  • The translator credit should occur after the end of the main program during the copyright disclaimer card.
  • The credit should remain on-screen for a duration of 5 seconds if there is space.
  • The translator credit should not be on-screen at the same time as the Netflix Ident.

31. Treatment of brand names

  • Ensure all brand names are double checked and verified and are transcribed using the correct and official capitalization and stylizations

32. TTML Specifications

All TTML files created as templates must adhere to the following technical specifications:

  • Only use percentage values. Do not use pixel values.
  • Use tts:textAlign and tts:displayAlign for positioning along with static values for tts:extent and tts:origin.
  • tts:fontSize shall be defined as 100%. Do not use pixel values.

33. Pivot language template guidelines

A pivot template is a timed and edited subtitle template which is in a language other than the source language, intended to act as a bridge between the source language and target languages when unusual language pairs are in play. For example, to translate a Japanese show into Polish, we may have an English pivot file in the middle to bridge the gap. As this is an additional layer of language transfer, potentially via a language with different levels of detail and context, it is vital that the pivot file works in the same way that a direct source → target workflow would work.

Always follow the template TTSG, the language specific TTSG which pertains to the target language of the template being originated plus the following guidelines when working on a pivot template.

Always consider if context and meaning is lost when working into a pivot language and what annotations may help set the translator up for success in the subsequent target language; that is to say that when creating an English pivot file to work as a bridge between Japanese and Polish, for example, always ensure you add context and explain as much as possible about the source language file so that the Polish translation represents the Japanese in an equivalent way, not the English pivot file.

If in doubt, err on the side of over-explanation in the annotations and seek advice if needed.

The pivot language template should resemble a linguistically correct and fluent back translation which is not overly transcreated or localized.

  • Leave all measurements, currencies, dates and times as per the source audio, do not convert
  • Avoid localizing cultural references, names, locations, nationalities, titles, etc. Keep as per the source audio with annotations explaining cultural references and their relevance
  • If jokes, word play, puns etc. are lost during the back translation, please provide explanations and a literal translation in the annotations to allow the translators to work in line with the source audio as opposed to following only the pivot translation
  • Do not change any plot points
  • Provide a literal translation or explanation of any idioms or expressions which need to be included
  • Aim to keep the sentence length and structure as per the original audio
  • When editing down for reading speed, ensure annotations cover any context or meaning lost in the edited text
  • Add extensive annotations for information relating to the following which may be lost in translation when working via a pivot file:
    • Formality, class
    • Gender
    • Negation and affirmation
    • Any switches between definite or indefinite article which need consideration in the target language
    • Mood (indicative, subjunctive, general points around linguistic modality which provide context)
    • Grammatical case if of semantic importance
    • Terminology and legal terms
    • Explanations and citations for any known quotations or song lyrics
    • Cultural references
    • Names or nicknames
    • Slang
    • Idioms
    • Jokes
    • Complex grammar
    • Puns and plays on words
    • Sarcasm and irony
    • Register
    • Tone
    • Intent
    • Relationships between characters
    • Age
    • Spatial location and distance
    • Cultural nuance relating to race, religion, geo-political and political points, ethnicity, LGBT+
    • Highlight levels of offensiveness of the source language, especially if a translation choice has been made to avoid trigger words in the pivot translation
    • Clarity of what pronouns refer to
    • And any other context needed to set up translators for success
  • Avoid ambiguity in the text

34. Reference

For all language-related issues not covered in this document, please refer to the language specific dictionaries and grammar references for the language of the template.

 


Change Log:

2020-07-27

  • Article overhauled, made language agnostic, sections added, removed and re-ordered

2018-06-25

2018-06-04

2018-03-09

2016-05-23

 

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